Thursday, June 16, 2011


It's a great word, a provocative one. In ancient/olden times, the baggage was all the stuff we needed to drag along behind us when we traveled. Your baggage might be only a sandwich, some water and a few trinkets kept close in a bag tied to your belt. It might be a procession of carts and people in and of itself, moving on alongside a caravan, a processing monarch or an advancing army.

Nowadays, baggage has devolved into two simple concepts. The first relates to economic expense. Airlines place restrictions on the amount of baggage you can carry on board. Too much, and extra costs are assessed If your baggage exceeds specific space restrictions, you might lose easy access to it in the cabin and be required to relinquish it at the gate as you board your flight. In any event, baggage is now the stuff we hope we can carry with us as we travel...and even what goes into our baggage might restricted for security and safety reasons.

On the other side of the post-modern concept, baggage is that history we tote around as we explore how we are to relate to the people we encounter in this mortal lifetime. We get baggage from people who hurt, harm, harry or hamper us in our personal development. Usually, that baggage is exhibited when someone we encounter piques our memory and provokes us into dipping into that seemingly bottomless (yet weighty) bag of past issues that we insist accompany us wherever we go, and with whomever we meet.

I have had many moments in my personal life when my baggage, or someone else's, has impacted my comfort, my ease, my peace of mind. At the same time, I have also been the agent provocateur as other's baggage has wound up on my doorstep, with me kicking through it and setting off old scores or awakening old pain, or scratching old wounds open again. It's not something any of us are happy about doing, yet it is something we continually to each other...and to ourselves, if we are being honest.

A place I see baggage exhibited quite often is in the parish church community. Legitimately, dealing with our baggage and helping others to deal with their own lies at the heart's core of being a community fully vested and invested in living out the life of Christ as the one who redeems and heals us of our wounds. Realistically, that "dealing" with baggage too often degenerates for us as individuals, groups and communities. We get caught up in the stuff as we sort it out. We can't resist pushing our stuff into other people's collections. We make people responsible for stuff we would rather see done away with...but that we can't quite seem to let go of as it comes out into the light of day.

One of the promises in the Baptismal Covenant asks that we "seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves." Here's the thing about that: if I am willing to seek and serve Christ in all persons, then what am I doing by putting my stuff onto other people's stuff and then complaining when that stuff only seems to stir up more....stuff?

An old aikido sensei I had talked about how important it was to our personal safety-and to the well being of other people in the dojo-that we be willing to take off our "outside heads" at the door where we traditionally removed our shoes. "Bring nothing onto the mat except your true, honest self; and expect nothing less from your partners that they should do the same." Then, when it was time to go home, he would urge us to take out shoes, but leave our outside heads on the proverbial shelf. Take our true, trained and calm selves home. Leave the junk behind.

So, how much baggage are you dragging behind you right now? Would you be able to get onto a plane with the weight that is in those duffels of your cataloged and hidden past wounds, experiences and provocations? Are you willing to part with a few of those sharp-edged and even poison-tipped objects that are part of your personal arsenal of self-defense and self-abuse?

What does it look like for the church (and after church, for the world) if you are really willing to walk in and offer up to God's healing light the stuff we think God wouldn't want to see, much less receive as an offering?

Honestly, that is the stuff that I think God WANTS US TO GIVE UP. Once we do that, then our bags are ready to be packed for the pilgrimages that God is intending for us. With the past pain, remembrances and umbrages set aside, there is room enough for grace, for peace, for hope and for joy.

And I am sure, just as love "dont' cost a thing," I am sure it doesn't weigh much, at all.

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