Have you ever moved house?
I have, many times and each time I move, I resolve not to accumulate so much unnecessary “stuff” again. We humans love our stuff, don’t we? Only when we have to pack and move it, and then find place for it in our new location do we realise how much unnecessary paraphernalia we collect to clutter our shelves and cupboards, most of which we never use. Our excuse – we might need it some day!
I have a friend who is on the brink of moving from a 3-bedroomed house to a retirement centre. She grew up in poverty which, unfortunately seems to have spawned a “hoard” mentality. Every drawer and cupboard in her house is filled with “stuff”, both family antiques from past generations and new things she just had to have, most of which she has never used. Now it’s time for her to pack up because her house is on the market. She looks around at her clutter and groans, “What must I do with all this stuff?”
Many of us have inner lives that are just as cluttered as my friend’s house. From early childhood, we have accumulated experiences that have spawned a “hoard” mentality. We hoard the emotional junk our memories have accumulated from the thoughtlessness or cruelty of others. Our emotional “cupboards” are full of anger, resentment, bitterness, and even feelings of worthless, uselessness and self-loathing because we have believed the lies their treatment of us has produced.
We know they are there and we are aware of the way those feelings influence our perception of ourselves and others, our interpretation of the circumstances life dishes up, and the way we relate to others. Every time someone says or does something that triggers an old memory, we react in ways far in excess of what the incident deserves. Husband or wife says something in innocence that causes the other to explode in anger or storm out in a huff, leaving the poor spouse bewildered and frustrated. An innocent comment or question inadvertently opens the cupboard and all the old stuff come tumbling out.
Like my friend, we hang on to our emotional clutter ‘because we might need it someday.’ “What if I run into the one who inflicted emotional pain on me twenty years ago?” We still hang onto the reason for getting our own back for what he or she did to us!
And so we carry our baggage with us, knowing that it is weighing us down but thinking that we can’t let it go because it is actually who we are. How often have you taken stock and thought, “What must I do with all this stuff.” We can’t pack it in boxes and get rid of it like my friend should do. Would that it was that easy! Must we carry it around in our hearts for the rest of our lives, weighing us down and creating barriers between ourselves and the people we love?
I have good news for you!
There is a way to get rid of your emotional junk and live free of your accumulated pain – the pain that weighs you down and cripples your relationships with others. The way is simple but not easy. To deal with your baggage demands honesty and humility.
The first step is to take responsibility for your pain. Instead of saying in a fit of rage, “You make me angry!” the right response would be, “I am angry.” To acknowledge whatever the situation has triggered is to own your responsibility for your responses.
The next step is to acknowledge that you cannot fix anything. No matter how much you try to “work through” your emotional baggage, it will not go away. Denying it, ignoring it, working through it, or burying it under a load of activity or addictions or even medication will not make you pain go away. You must face and own what you are feeling.
I have discovered on my journey through life that there is only one person who can take away my baggage and set me free from my painful past. Jesus does not take away the memories. He empties them of the false notions I accumulated about myself and God which produced the pain. Isaiah wrote about His mission long before He came to this earth.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He sent me to bind up the brokn-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn and to provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendour. (Isa. 61:1-3)
I discovered this solution quite by chance – if there is such a thing as “chance”. I had a love/hate friendship with someone who carried a great deal of baggage of her own and used me as a dumpsite for her stuff. One morning, after a particularly traumatic encounter the day before, I poured out my anger, frustration and – yes, I named it – hatred for her to God. I “spilt my guts” at my bedside, got up and forgot about it.
Later that day, as I was busy at my kitchen stove, she appeared at my kitchen door – something she had never done before because she refused to come in without knocking and being invited in. To my great surprise, when I saw her, I felt nothing. All my resentment and anger was gone! It was as though it had never happened. Wow, God! Is that possible? Yes! I had actually, inadvertently cast my burden on the Lord, and He gave me His peace. And, what’s more, the baggage never returned.
I needed no psychiatrist, counsellor or medication to rid me of my stuff. Jesus took what I gave Him and replaced it with His indestructible peace. And He’s done it again and again. Brutal honesty with myself and Him is the key.
Since we are not permanent citizens of this world, just passing through because our citizenship is in heaven, why not travel light? Forgive the ones who damaged you. Jesus said they don’t know what they are doing. Give the burden of emotional pain to Him. You will be amazed at the relief you feel when you drop your baggage and walk free.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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