I’ve had some wonderful conversations this week, with some inspirational people who happen to be going through some particularly tough times. Words of comfort – especially for those who are usually the comfort-givers – are hard to discern sometimes… but I’m going to try. This blog is for you….
When it comes to life, you need to take the right ticket and leave your bags at the station. Problem is, that when your bags have finally gotten so heavy that you can’t travel with them anymore, it knocks you to your knees, and you realize that maybe it’s time to travel lightly and to let go of what has been weighing you down and putting a burden on your heart. My sweet husband has been trying to gently and lovingly tell me this for years, in one way or another.
I wonder if the reason this has finally registered in my brain is that I didn’t always carry so much stuff with me or that, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve just become less tolerant or more aware of the weight. My occasional affair with luggage has, perhaps, been at least a consistently inconsistent one; I was probably shaped by being the youngest child who was always eager to please, who was always concerned about aging parents and, more than not, a fairly deep thinker. Moreover, my belief system has always drawn me to the suitcases labeled “Kindness”, “Loyalty”, “Generosity” and “Care”, without always realizing that those were exactly the ones that also carried the highest degrees of risk. Heaped inside those same suitcases, were surprising amounts of equal and opposite kinds of toxic stuff: stuff such as betrayal, hurt, mean-spiritedness and resentment. If only Isaac Newton could have applied his theory of paradoxical phenomena to matters of the heart we would have each been forewarned…and the fallout to well-intentioned, chronic care-a-holics like me would have been averted. Along life’s way, in a strange combination of masochism and optimism, instead of letting go of my tight grip on my suitcases, and despite the hurt or disloyalty I was semi-conscious of carrying, my fingers hung on. Perhaps I also bought into an illusion that my suitcases doubled as protective gear – being kind would enable me to ignore feeling hurt, that being loyal would allow me to pretend that those I loved would never betray me, and that caring about and caring for others would inspire others in kind. This is, in a word, dumb. Sooner or later, carrying negative stuff around makes daily life too painful to to navigate. In addition, the sad reality is that many times, other people simply don’t care enough to come walk alongside you to hear about the weight of your burden, nor will they acknowledge their toxic contribution to it. Dr. Laura Schlesinger, in her book entitled, Surviving a Shark Attack (on Land), explains that most people seek only ways to justify the stuff they’ve handed you to carry along the way. In Dr. Laura’s perspective (unlike Isaac Newton’s perspective), in the world of real people, the universe does not have a way of equalizing things. According to her, most people just don’t really feel remorse, take responsibility, make sincere efforts to repair brokenness or avoid repeating the hurtful things they do and say to others. She calls these the four “r”s.
Now, we can adopt a simple Christian perspective for the chronic luggage aficionado like me: it is a metaphor of God as the engineer, with sin and pain as the bags we carry and Jesus as the guy we hand them to at the platform.
The story unfolds. The Lord sees you holding on tightly to all of your bags with both hands and, without even opening your luggage, he knows what you’re carrying. Your ticket is clenched (and now mangled) between your teeth. But, just before the train pulls away, you finally let go of your grip, put down the luggage and turn around. Jesus offers a different ticket to you and takes the now-gummy one from the clutches of your pearly whites. In deciding to take his fresh ticket, however, you need the use of your hands, so you lay down your bags and you just leave them there, on the station deck.
New ticket in hand, you board.
There is, of course, an epilogue to the “Leave Your Luggage at the Platform” story and, in it, you learn not to pick up more baggage once you’re on the train. You learn from your past. You don’t allow others to disrespect you or put you down. You don’t confuse being kind and polite to others with allowing people to treat you harshly or try to diminish your sense of self worth.
You continue to embrace your kindness. You continue to be exceedingly generous. You keep your integrity intact and you remain humble. You do “good” – in every way you can, with as many people as you can, as long as you can. But you also don’t pick up the stuff that weighs you down along the way, and you don’t continue to place yourself in hurtful environments. This is particularly important for many of my women friends who are helper-giver-pleaser types, as I am. Oh…and once you’re riding on those new rails, you find a seat in the “Dignity” car. That’s where you’ll have the healthiest view of the landscape, of life and of others for the remainder of your ride. You cannot ride the freight train anymore because the hurt and the baggage you carried are in His grip now, not yours.
Don’t miss the important journey you’re meant to enjoy… and don’t miss the train you truly want to take.