A Samsonite Past

Shortly after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I began planning a trip to Europe with a friend of mine. I never had any of the typical high school or college experiences, so I had these ideas of grandeur to make good on one cliche – backpacking through Europe: a 20something girl, traveling through a half-dozen European countries, hopping trains, and making memories. Dad quickly put the kibosh on that one when he explained that I’d never be able to pack all I wanted or needed into a backpack and traveling the ancient, cobblestone streets, with a rolling suitcase behind me, just wouldn’t have the same appeal.

So in October of 2007, complete with a great traveling companion and more bags than any one person would ever need, two single girls set out on the trip of a lifetime. I remember dad telling me, as he was trying to fit all of my suitcases into the trunk on our way to the airport, how I would never be able to handle all of my own bags and that I was taking way too much stuff with me. Of course my independent, I-Can-Do-Anything-I-Want, self said I’d have no problem finding a guy on the airplane or at the baggage claim to help. And I didn’t. Chivalry isn’t dead; you just have to know where to look for it. I had all the assistance I needed to put my bags in the overhead bins or to pull them off of the baggage carousel. But what I hadn’t planned on was a cranky, middle-aged, taxi driver in Madrid, Spain.

Armed with my traveling expertise and what little broken Spanish I still knew, I negotiated a flat fee taxi fare before we ever put a bag in the trunk. After our 45 minute ride to our hotel had turned into an 1.5hr tour of every back road and alleyway there was to downtown Madrid (unknown to us or our taxi driver, the main streets had been closed due to a bicycle race) I felt really good about negotiating that fare up front that now would have been double had we been paying off of the meter. Good that was until he abruptly pulled over on a side street, dumped all of our bags on to the curb, insisted we get out of the taxi, and pointed in a general direction saying in broken English “Your hotel! Your hotel!”. The moment he drove off, leaving us stranded and dumbfounded, I turned to my friend and plainly said, “that’s NOT our hotel”. suitcases

After 7+ blocks, walking the busy Gran Via (uphill), lugging behind me two full-size suitcases, two carry on bags, and a personal bag, I could do nothing more than stop and begin laughing hysterically thinking “if dad could see me now he’d be saying ‘I told you so'”. Those words haunted me the rest of the trip, included as I was flying back and missed our connecting flight in Chicago and I found myself running barefoot (no time to put my shoes back on after security) through the terminal, trying futilely to catch another connecting flight, only to arrive at the gate, bags in hand, as the connecting flight was pulling away. I had never hated baggage so much in my life as I did at that exact moment.

These memories are what have come to mind each day this week as I woke up every morning with a song on my heart, Suitcases by Dara Maclean.

How can you move when they’re weighing you down? What can you do when you’re tied to the ground…You carry your burdens heavy like gravity. Just let them go now, there’s freedom in release. You can’t run when you’re holding suitcases. It’s a new day, throw away your mistakes and open up your heart, lay down your guard, you don’t have to be afraid.

Have you ever tried running with a bunch of suitcases? As you can see above, I literally have, and it isn’t easy; it’s downright exhausting. Now think of those suitcases as your past and give them a name:

  • Shame
  • Fearluggage
  • Abuse
  • Hurt
  • Bitterness
  • Anger
  • Blame
  • Failure
  • Worthlessness
  • Betrayal
  • Offense
  • Unmet Expectations
  • Broken Hearts

Can you imagine running, or even just walking, through life carrying all of that baggage around? People do it every day. Now think of your relationships – every one of those bags that you hold on to gets carried in to that relationship. Add to that, the baggage your partner brings, and before you know it you’ll be so weighed down by the past, you won’t be progressing forward any more.

You can probably guess what I’m going to say next – my one reoccurring theme: this isn’t God’s best for you! Carrying around your hurts, your brokenness, your baggage isn’t what God wants for you. It’s just like the new series my church has started, Found in You. In Him, in Christ, we have been redeemed, we have been washed clean of our past, and we have been made righteous in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Ephesians 1:7
In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. 

When we were redeemed and made righteous in Him, our past was wiped clean. Every bag we once held on to was thrown away. God keeps no account of our past we have been forgiven of. It’s only us, and our human nature, that continues to bring it back into the present. His word very plainly tells us that over and over again:

Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.

1 Peter 5:7
Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. 

Favim.com-12254Micah 7:19
Once again You will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under Your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!

Those cares and sins are the bags we hold on to. The baggage of our past. God has a plan for every one of us (Jeremiah 29:11). When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the plan (or flight) we had for ourselves got replaced (rerouted) with the plan (flight) God has for us. But the more baggage you hold on to, the more you’ll get held back, and the more likely you are to miss the next flight and have to be rerouted to another one.

God’s mercy on us will always bring us back to our final destination in Him when we repent and seek Him, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to be the person standing at the gate, holding all of your bags, as you watch your plane pull away and wait for the next one. No, God’s standing at the ticket counter saying “Give ME all of your bags. You don’t have to worry. You don’t have to care. I’ll take your cares and lose them over the Atlantic ocean and make sure you have everything you need when you arrive at your destination and I’ll exceed any expectation you might have.” Trust me, it’ll be one flight where you won’t mind having your bags lost.

So don’t be someone who holds on to your past, to all of those bags. And don’t allow that baggage to define who you are. There should be only one thing in life that defines us – Christ. I don’t want my past to define me. I want who I am in Christ to define me and my future. The only piece of baggage I want to take into my future – into a relationship – into a marriage one day – is the suitcase labeled “Redeemed and Righteous in Him”. Let go of your Samsonite past, throw your suitcases into the ocean of forgetfulness, and look ahead to the future God has for you! He’s got a first class seat waiting for you, but checked bags aren’t allowed, so pack light.

Philippians 3:13
…BUT one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. 

Toss the List

GEN-checklist-for-you-vet-header

I began writing this blog several days ago, but then the lists of the holiday season took over. Ironic, I know. There were lists of what needed to bought. Lists of what needed to be wrapped. Lists of what needed to be made. Lists and lists of this and that.

I’d consider myself to be an avid list maker. Making lists is my own personal happy place – it can even give me a semblance of control over something or a situation by making lists. I can even think of countless nights over the years where I couldn’t go to sleep because my mind was in “list mode”. Maybe it’s just a woman thing, but I think in general women come by it naturally. Whether it’s a grocery list or a list of attributes and qualities of a future spouse, women start making lists in grade school. And we don’t just see Point A to Point Z, we see every other step in the alphabet in between, along with the bullet points and foot notes.

Now don’t get me wrong, lists can be a good thing. They can keep you on budget at the grocery store, they can help you remember things to do, but lists can go to the extreme too. So when does the list making go too far?

Like I said, girls start young with the lists. The grade school game of M.A.S.H. is all about lists. But as those young girls get older, and their hearts a little more broken, those lists start getting longer.

I had a pretty long list many years ago. And I justified those lists because of a word that had been spoken over me by a prophet to not settle for anything less than God’s best. I knew what I wanted and I wanted what I knew. But as my lists grew longer, my age older, and my self-esteem lower, God began dealing with me and my incessant list making.

It all started pretty simple, like most of my conversations with God do. “So tell me what is on your list?”, I heard Him say as I began rambling off everything from height and eye color to being a man like my father. I even spent time justifying each of those bullet points in great length with God. But then God really got my attention when I heard Him say, “Do you not trust Me?”.

Never, before that moment, had I looked at MY lists as being a way of not trusting God with my life and not living by faith.

That’s when He reminded me of what His word says: “I knew YOU before I formed YOU” (Jeremiah 1:5), “I know the END from the BEGINNING” (Isaiah 46:10), “My plans for you are good, not bad” (Jeremiah 29:11), so “Seek Me and I will gladly give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4), “If you know these things, and believe by faith that they are true, then why are you limiting what I have planned for your life with your lists?”. So I tossed MY list and began seeking God on what HIS list was for me.

Tossing my “husband list” all happened several years ago. And I thought I was done with the lists after receiving that correction from the Lord, until that is, I saw I had started using them in other areas of my life again.

Over a year ago I had heard from God to go and visit another church. But I didn’t want to – I was at my lowest (self-esteem) and heaviest (weight) point in my life. I didn’t even want to go to church and see people I’ve known for years, much less go somewhere different and meet new people.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my pastors and my personal relationship with them, but I wasn’t in love with my church. I had my list though! Foolishly, I shared it with God again (apparently I didn’t learn my lesson the first time). “God, if I can just have XYZ and ABC, even 123 if I really want to be real about what I want, I would have the perfect church!”. Let me add a little bit of advice here: there is no such thing as a perfect church. There is, however, such a thing as the right church for you – it might be for life, or it might just be for a season, but that is why it’s important to be led by God.

Not surprisingly, God didn’t answer me this time. I can see Him now smirking and shaking His head saying “Didn’t we have this SAME EXACT conversation a few years ago?”

So I went on. Running from what God had told me to do and holding tight to my list every Sunday morning. Pretty soon, I began to see things change at church and I began to see those things on my list get checked off. I actually got really excited….there was MY list, coming to life before my eyes! We were having these amazing moves of the Holy Spirit in our services, with praise and worship leaving behind the “production” aspect of it all and going back to the roots of my youth with tried and true (and anointed) hymns, but it still didn’t feel right.

How could it not feel right though if I was getting everything I had wanted?

That’s when I felt that urgency rise up again at what God had told me to do before. I guess that’s why it didn’t feel right because I was still looking for what I wanted for myself, not for what God wanted for me.

Even after my first Sunday visiting a new church, I still was holding things up to MY list of expectations. Which is exactly what most lists boil down to – expectations. So I sought God and heard Him say, “Do you not think I can be the same God there as I am at any other church, any other service?” And I heard again what His word says: “I knew YOU before I formed YOU” (Jeremiah 1:5), “I know the END from the BEGINNING” (Isaiah 46:10), “My plans for you are good, not bad” (Jeremiah 29:11), so “Seek Me and I will gladly give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4), “If you know these things, and believe by faith that they are true, then why are you limiting what I have planned for your life with your lists?”

I know God wants the best for me and that He knows better than I ever could of what I need. So I made the decision to allow peace to be my umpire (Colossians 3:15) and I tossed my lists along with all of my expectations. I don’t want to limit what God can do and what He wants for my life.

His word says says in Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Don’t put God in a box limited by your lists and don’t narrow Him to your own expectations and ideas for anything in your life: be it a spouse, a church, even a job. You might not know what the future holds, but that’s where you have to let faith take over. As I have started being led by peace and allowing faith to take over my expectations and lists, I’ve seen God show up big time in my life with a new excitement about church. When we toss our lists and stop limiting God in our lives, and we start walking by faith, we’ll see Him show up bigger than ever before!