Ever ridden on a train?
I have, and I love it!
Once when I was growing up, my family went to visit my dad's aunt in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. She owned a home with several acres right on the lake.
It was a wonderful time – perhaps as close to living like Huck Finn as I'll ever get! Days full of fishing and boating and waterskiing and Frisbee-tossing and walking and reading and joy.
But, the best part was the ride home.
We took the train!!
The distance from Illinois to California meant that we stayed overnight in a cabin on the train. Goodness, what an adventure! I loved eating in the dining car, and walking around while we were moving. I loved looking out the window at miles and miles of scenery passing by.
I spent most of the night on my mom's lower bunk – (she has terrible claustrophobia!) – and there was something magical about the steady motion of the train and the reassuring clack-clack of the wheels on the rails.
Years later, I took my own boys on a long 10-hour excursion to Northern California. I'm happy to say that they loved the experience as much as I did.
There's an interesting *pace* that occurs while traveling on a train. Things slow down, and we are more apt to join in conversation with fellow travelers. And, of course, we get to see some beautiful things that cannot be seen from the interstate.
Trains are wonderful.
I got to thinking about trains when I read a recent post by a dear friend. You can check it out here.
She got me thinking about trains, yes. But she got me thinking even more about baggage.
The emotional, spiritual, mental kind.
The kind of baggage that we tote around – sometimes every day, sometimes for years.
About how we can become weighed down by this unnecessary baggage.
I know I've got some Samsonite that I've lugged around on my life's journey.
Here's some of what I'm talking about:
1) The Trunk of Bitterness
You know what those old-fashioned trunks looked like. They were big and ungainly, and were used for storage. And they were most often made of very, very hard materials so they stood the test of time.
Which made them great if you used a literal trunk for traveling.
But the trunk of bitterness is never a good thing to bring along for the ride.
I'm not a person with a short temper, nor do I think that anger is a particular sin tendency in me. But, bitterness? Oh boy, I am capable of holding a grudge – for a long, long time.
If I've been hurt or betrayed or disappointed or rejected, I might not even let you know. But believe me, I'll take those feelings and stuff them into my trunk, thinking they'll never see the light of day.
I'll store them for years sometimes, hidden deep in that hardy ol' trunk. Bigger and bigger they grow in the darkness. I might even forget what I've put in there. But, it doesn't matter. For bitterness stands the test of time.
And you know what else happens?
Let me tell you, if you've ever opened one of those old trunks at an antique store, you'll know what I'm talking about.
The awful smell of mustiness, and mildew, and rotting things.
That's what happens to bitterness inside of us.
It just makes us stinky.
2) The Suitcase of Guilt
I don't travel often, but when I do, I try not to check in any baggage. It just makes it so much easier. A long time ago, I made the mistake of packing some very important things in my suitcase when I went to Hawaii. You know what's coming next, don't you? Yup, the suitcase was lost for several days. Fortunately, it did arrive finally – but that doesn't always happen. And in the meantime, I had to re-stock many necessities – (as if the trip wasn't expensive enough!!)
So, call me Mrs. Carry-On now.
But, here's the problem. When you try to travel with only one carry-on suitcase, you end up trying to stuff EVERY thing into it. I have been known to sit on my suitcase while "The Hub" valiantly tries to close the zipper.
Then I lug it through the terminal, making my arms and shoulders ache. I have to stop a bunch and catch my breath. Then I try to lift it over my head to stuff it into the overhead compartment. Then I have to *rinse and repeat* the whole routine when I land.
Opening my suitcase is often an exercise in avoiding the eruption that explodes upon releasing the zipper-contained pressure-packed pile of clothing and shoes and toiletries.
Guilt is like that.
It's an emotion that we like to stuff. For it is truly painful to deal with guilt. It makes our hearts ache. It makes it near impossible to lift our heads. It slows us down, and it cramps our forward movement. We are often doomed to repeat the same old cycle of re-dredging past circumstances and mistakes and sins – until they often explode in our face.
Guilt is a barely zippered up, over-stuffed burden.
3) The Garment Bag of Pride
Mostly "The Hub" is the one who uses a garment bag. Although, to be fair, my stuff usually hops a ride!
The thing with garment bags is that we use them to keep things looking nice and fresh and unwrinkled.
We use them for our really *good* stuff.
It's the same with pride. Pride is something that we hold on to because it's all about making us look good. We like taking out the flashy stuff and parading it around in front of others – (after all, isn't that one of the temptations of social media??) We like to think that people will never know about the other luggage stuffed with wrinkly and balled-up clothing – (our true lives and selves).
Oh yes, look at my *fancy dress*. Beautiful.
My expensive *silk pants*. Yes, lovely.
That *pure white, crisply ironed blouse*. Not a flaw, never.
It's the *me* we so desperately want the world to see. But, the reality is that on the inside, we're really just a pair of dirty, threadbare, sinfully-smelly old sneakers.
Pride loves the garment bag. Reality is in the suitcase.
4) The Tote of Fear
I love totes. In fact, I just might have a tote addiction. I come by it honestly – my mom has always collected totes! I'm a sucker for those convenient little bags. They come in such a variety of colors and sizes. I never seem to have enough.
(Insert inner dialogue here):
"Oh, this one's perfect for my makeup. This one will carry my books to Bible Study. Gotta have that one for my writing supplies. Well, I could put my brushes and hair dryer and curling iron into that one, yes!"
Totes are especially tempting because they're everywhere now! The grocery store, the drugstore, the health food store, the bookstore, the mall. And believe me, they beckon me to keep adding…
Totes are harmless little bags, right?
But the tote of fear is no joke. Not harmless, not lightweight, not worth collecting.
The thing with fear is that it's everywhere. We can buy into it at a moment's notice. I don't watch the news or subscribe to a newspaper. But every time I log onto my computer, I am confronted with my homepage and thumbnails of what's happening in the world.
And it's scary.
But that's the world at large. Even in my own corner of the world, there's endless stuff that's scary. Relationships, finances, health. I find myself addicted to fear. Worry is the "harmless" little bag that I tote around.
But the thing with fear is that it's insidious. It's everywhere.
And it constantly beckons me to keep adding…
5) The Duffel Bag of Doubt
Duffel bags are the perfect baggage for camping. Flexible, stuffable, sturdy, and dirty-worthy. We've got a whole family in various colors and sizes. One for cooking supplies. One for important stuff like matches, lighter fluid, rope, flashlights, hatchet – you name it. One for the tent, tarp, rainfly, stakes, and rope. We've got more.
Duffel bags are handy.
But what about doubt?
Doubt is flexible – adapting our questioning to the spiritual season we might be in. It's stuffable – we can cram a lot of doubt deep in our souls. It's sturdy – doubts can become entrenched and able to withstand much-needed scrutiny. And doubt is dirty-worthy – muddying up our faith with needless dust and grime and soil.
You see, we might think that doubt is harmless.
We might think that the duffel bag of doubt is the perfect baggage for our faith journey. It's handy to have doubts, right? They help keep us from blind faith, right?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not questioning the value of questioning. For we are counseled to search the Scriptures and seek after God. But healthy doubt should always lead us to a closer walk with the Lord, to a greater insight into truth, to a firmer stance of faith.
The other kind of doubt comes from the devil.
After all, our first fall from grace came when he planted the seed of doubt into our souls.
"Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1, NASB)
Doubt begins here – with this thought. "Did God really say…?"
Mindless faith, no. Faith without intellect, of course not. Faith without reason and study, surely not.
But doubt without God is rotten fruit.
You know, on reflection, there is a lot of needless baggage that I lug around. Trunks, suitcases, and garment bags. Totes and duffel bags. You've got them, too. Maybe yours are full of other junk...
But God doesn't want that for us. He doesn't want us to hold on to stuff that slows us down, or hinders our walk, or dirties our souls, or poisons our minds.
He does not want us burdened.
So, let's leave those useless bags that weigh us down at the Station of God's Forgiveness and Grace.
Let's depart from the Depot of Bitterness, Guilt, Pride, Fear, and Doubt.
The choice is up to us.
The ticket is right there, waiting for us at Will Call. We just have to pick it up and use it to board the Glory Train to the life that only the Holy Spirit can bring!
"...I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us."
(Philippians 3:13-14, NLT)
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2, NLT)
"God has told his people, 'Here is a place of rest; let the weary rest here. This is a place of quiet rest.'"(Isaiah 28:12, NLT)
"'For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.'" (Jeremiah 31:25, NLT)
"Then Jesus said, 'Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.'"
(Matthew 11:28-30, NLT)
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1, NIV)
What baggage are you holding on to? Are you ready to leave it behind?!
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