There is nothing quite as embarrassing as finding out that your suitcase is the largest on your team, the largest on your row at the airport, the largest in the car transporting the group, or worst of all – you can’t lift it. Sitting on your suitcase in an effort to close it with your heels pressing into the floor for more leverage, and then having the thought is this zipper going to die on me!? is a sure sign that you packed too much stuff. I speak from experience.
The more you travel, the more you learn about how to pack effectively. You learn what you need, and what you don’t need. Most of the things that you think you need, you don’t touch. Somehow, the things you need the most still get forgotten. Oh, the terrifying discovery on the road of finding out that you are without your toothpaste, clippers, or a phone charger – yet again. And that all the more exasperated when you are headed straight for a stage, as I often am.
My packing skills grew immensely in recent years through a lot of travel. My suitcases are finally small. I own the most important things for trips in double, they remain packed. It’s a game to me now to only bring what I need, and negative points to carry home things unused. I can race through the airport without baggage now. My bags are light. This is a far stretch from where I started, studying abroad over ten years ago with two enormous suitcases bursting at the seams. Those bags held a queen-sized sentimental quilt and a full-sized keyboard that I simply “could not live without.” The zippers on both of those bags actually did break before I made it to my destination! Duct tape!
Our souls can act like a suitcase at times, carrying things that we need. Our souls also carry things that we don’t need. At times, our souls carry way too much, weighing down our entire being to exhaustion. The soul has a tendency to absorb and preserve more than it needs to, gripping experiences like an administrator who loves filing more than life. It often requires a directive from us to let things go, simplify, forgive - re-pack. Otherwise it becomes the historian we would be better off without, always reminding us of what hurt, when, why, and how.
Some people are carrying oversized soul baggage all the time. Others embrace repeated seasons of cleansing in order to travel light. Can you tell the difference when you look at someone? The heavy-packer has a heavy-heart. They tend to be intensely focused on self-protection, and unable to see passed their own needs. Most of their efforts are self-serving, and they live in fear of not having enough – thus the emotional hoarding. Those who travel light in their souls tend to be more joyful, able to engage in things outside of themselves, found giving to and serving others, largely judgement and negativity free. The light packer has a dependence on God, a firm trust in His provision for their needs. A person’s countenance often reveals the condition of their soul – how much is packed into it, if they have been able to forgive, if their passed is largely behind them or still with them.
I feel God challenging me to re-pack in my soul these days, to clean out and get rid of old baggage. In that process, I am reminded that you and I are unlikely to let baggage go until we know for certain that it matters to someone outside of ourselves. Friend, it matters to Jesus. Our burdens and pains matter so much to Jesus that He absorbed them, carried them, paid for them – with His own life.
This is an invitation to re-pack, to let go of old offenses, fears, anxieties, cycles of questioning, baselines of distrust, shadows of disappointments, and learn how to travel light again. Our souls were not made to carry too much. No one is forcing us to carry insecurity, no one is policing our baggage for heaviness and painful histories. It’s our choice what we are carrying in life. And, it's possible to get a skip back into our steps if can leave some things behind. Let's let go of what we would rather live without.
You and I can go so much further,
And with so much more joy –
if we are carrying less on board.
And, it is a journey.
Grab a Pen: Is there something you are carrying that you need to let go of? Is there someone you need to forgive? What do you need to release to Jesus in order to be traveling light in your soul again?
p.s. Sometimes it is helpful to have someone else assist us in the process of letting things go. We have a prayer ministry that focuses on helping people connect with God, and a wonderful team of people doing sessions for people online weekly. To sign up or for more information visit, www.iconnectup.net.
First written 12/14/15, Revised 10/14/20
Two years ago we lost our daughter to a terminal disease. I’m a Mom. I live with loss. Early in my grief journey a trusted friend looked me straight in the eye and said, “I am so sorry, Katie, but you cannot run from this, you must go through it.” I knew she was right and I have chosen to embrace the grief process. Weird idea. Who wants to embrace pain? No one. But when you discover that the deepest love, most profound comfort, and invaluable teaching happen in the crux of pain … you stop fearing it.
Last week I spent time grieving. I was at a meeting and sat on the floor crying for a long time. Deep expression tumbled out of my broken heart. I let the tears fall and fall hard. I wept and didn’t try to stop it. I held Holy Spirit’s hand and poured out my heart without reservation. I was a mess on the floor in a public space and did not care because I have learned that my heart honestly expressed is of value to the Father. Hear me. Three hours later a series of events occurred that caused me to feel a height of joy that I’ve not known in a long time. It was so encouraging it took me off guard. It wasn’t long before I realized that the joy I was experiencing was connected to my tears that had just hit the floor. It was coming as a response. And then I remembered …
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning.
To those who grieve in Zion, I will bestow beauty for ashes …
Have you ever noticed that Isaiah 61 (beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, praise for despair) is allocated specifically to those who grieve? What if weeping is a passageway to joy? What if mourning sets the stage for comfort? What if ashes are the prime materials needed to create beauty?
Friends, it is in the tears, the groans, the raw outpouring of our hearts before God that we encounter the God who heals. People get over stuff all the time without healing from it. I believe that healing happens when we courageously face the reality of our pain and encounter who God is for us in it.
There’s something about the freedom to weep, mourn, and grieve that sets the stage for joy, comfort and beauty. God attaches provision to grief, which is why it is not okay to deny each other access to it. Too often we fear what we cannot fix and therefore short-circuit each other’s process through not giving each other permission to grieve. In that resistance, we also resist the God-given provision to those who grieve.
Life events and transitions have a strange way of exposing our losses; big and small. What you feel in this season matters. It matters to God. Talk to Him about it. He’s not tired of hearing from you. You don’t have to shove it down. He cares. You are free to grieve. There’s a love encounter waiting for you in the midst of what you fear to face. How do I know? Two and a half years of steady grief and I’ve learned to dive into Him without fear. He has only ever responded to me with love.
I can’t fix your hurt, but I can tell you that it matters to God. In that validation I hope your hands will be untied to face what you feel and pour your heart out to Him. You are free to grieve, and therein discover the beauty of who God wants to be for you in it. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him; for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:8)
Reflection: Is there an area of sorrow in your heart that keeps tugging at you? Can you bring that to Jesus today?
A white plastic clock sits on top of my bookshelf. The casing is cracked. It is balanced on the shelf like a gymnast, unsecured. It wants to roll to the right or to the left. It wants to crack again, apparently. A lamp gives it a boundary so that it does not roll off the edge. It needs assistance to stand still. It is on the go unless I tie it down, box it in, and force it to remain still. Even then, it is never really still. Its hands are always on the move, on their merry way to the next black tick. The hands that appear motionless are deceiving, the one that always moves is the most honest.
Behold, the personality of time.
This week I returned to work part-time after an extended maternity leave. My time management needs are changing, my use of time is changing, my need for time is changing. What even is time? I find myself digging in Ecclesiastes 3:2-8. It is a reflection on time. There is a time. There is a season. For every purpose under heaven …
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Stop. Read it again.
What one phrase stands out to you?
What time is it in your life?
Time is one of life’s greatest gifts. It is the thing that measures life from start to finish. It is a mold for valuable experiences. It makes room for us to sink deep or take flight in love. It stretches for relationships, and narrows for tasks. It is the wind at our back, when sinking would otherwise be inevitable. We chase it, and it chases us. It keeps us playing. Time is mysterious and determined, hard-nosed and quick. It can also be relentlessly slow, a master of the crawl! Time can race. Time can freeze. Time can breathe. Time can take our breath away.
Time cannot be controlled or bossed around. It must be embraced. The moment we begin to hate time, it will begin to hate us, and therein we will find ourselves in an unnecessary internal struggle, every single day. Time has no friends or enemies that do not first befriend or unfriend it. It waits to be utilized by the soul who dares to let it be what it is. Wisdom embraces the gift of time, and knows how to keep it acting as a gift.
Whatever your relationship to time in this season, I believe that the God who is outside of time is inviting you and I to get a washed perspective on what time is for. Some of you have been wasting time, watching it drain. Others are in an oppressive relationship with it, driven to exhaustion every day. No shame. It is not too late in your life for a fresh start with time. Imagine unwrapping the gift of time for the very first time. What do you notice about it? What excites you about it? What uses do you have for it?
To the Designer of Time, teach us how to receive time as a gift.
Write & Reflect: What are two beliefs you have about time? Do you want to keep them? Do you want to exchange them? The God who designed time is doing exchanges today on beliefs about time!
Katie Luse is a speaker and writer who is passionate about navigating life with eyes on a hunt for beauty.