This last weekend, our ladies ministry at church hosted a luncheon entitled "What's in Your Bag?" It consisted of ladies bringing salads and lots of desserts, and a gently used purse for a purse exchange. Ladies picked numbers from a box, and then about 1 out of every 5 ladies answered a random question about the contents of their purse. It was a fun time of getting to know new people and attach some names to those that I'd never known personally.
After the purse exchange, I shared a devotional that God had layed on my heart. Several ladies told me they couldn't come and wanted me to blog about the devotional, so here's what I shared, plus a little more.
There's a lot of different kinds of bags. You've got your over-the-shoulder bag. Your clutch. Your "dump" bag - you know the kind...big enough to dump everything you will need plus some extra "just in case". We've got beach bags. I personally have some bags under my eyes, and definitely, we can't forget the ever-hated saddlebags.
So as I prepared for the devotional, I thought, how can I relate this "bag" theme to our life? I looked up the definition of a bag on dictionary.com. This is what it said: "A container or receptacle, capable of being closed at the mouth."
Hmmm. Now that's an interesting definition, isn't it? Especially when comparing it to our life! At times, perhaps, my life could be considered a "bag." (Depending on who you talk to!) What about you?
But as I prayed more about God wanted me to share in relation to this theme, I felt He was asking me to dig a little deeper into this "bag of life" idea. Down to the bottom of the bag. You see, just like some of those purses that are weighted down with those big items that make your purse too heavy to carry around, sometimes we allow things into our life to do the same - weigh us down. And when those things sink down to the bottom of our "bag of life", things you don't want to deal with or things that they're too painful to deal with, what are they called? Baggage.
Baggage is defined as "things that encumber one's freedom, progress, development, or adaptability." In other words, "Baggage" is the things in your life that keep you from being all that God wants you to be. And a lot of time, that baggage has its roots in anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, hurt feelings, and years of built up emotional pain.
Bingo. Finally, I knew this is what God really wanted me to focus on. You see, probably like you, I have had plenty of experience with baggage in my life. But about 24 years ago, I learned and started to put into practice nine words - words when joined together bring extreme power and healing, with God's help.
Let me back up. I grew up the youngest of four children. I had three older brothers, and yes, I was the baby in the family in every sense of the word. I was pretty close to my middle brother, but I had a mouth on me, and I used it to try to destroy my other two brothers at every chance I could get. They did the same to me, mind you. It was a hate-hate relationship. Like many siblings, we just simply didn't get along. There were countless times when my brother and I would get in a screaming match, and we'd get sent to our rooms. We'd yell across the hall in a whisper at each other and continue the fight, whenever possible. When my mom decided we'd had enough punishment, she'd line us up and say, "Tell your brother you're sorry." "Tell your sister you're sorry." And we'd turn to each other, "Sorry."
And that was that.
The situation was swept under the rug until the next day, when it would start all over again.
But the truth is that with every fight, I would put that little boulder into my "bag of life" and despise my brother a little more. And he did the same with me.
Fast forward to when my husband and I started dating. With our first big fight, my temper raged, and my mouth started spewing the only way I knew how to deal with things - in anger. Then he started to speak to me in a foreign language, and truthfully, although he's studied Greek, Hebrew, and Spanish, he didn't really know a foreign language. But it was foreign to me, for sure. He said to me these nine words: "I'm sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?"
I think that was the first time I'd ever heard those words strung together in that order, and I didn't really know what they meant, nor did I understand how to receive them. I looked at him, spewed a little more, but then I could see he was waiting for a response from me. Trying to end the awkward moment, I said, "Sure."
The next fight we had, I had my ammo ready to start letting him have it for everything I could think of to attack him with. It was one of those "shoot first and ask questions later" kind of deals. But mid-way through my rant, he stopped me and said, "But I asked you to forgive me for that, and you said you did."
To stay I was stopped dead in my tracks is an understatment. I knew I didn't have a leg to stand on, and I was going to lose that fight. Also, for the first time in my life, aside from understanding God's forgiveness, my eyes were opened to what it means to really, truly forgive someone. Personally forgive.
I was only about twenty years old, but even then, I already had a lot of heavy items in my bag of life. But from that point on, I was determined to not add more, if I could help it. Even in the last few years, God has started to remove some of those really heavy ones, placed there from years of unresolved issues with my brothers.
This concept of forgiveness is really something foreign in today's society. Think about it. When was the last time someone asked you to forgive them? And how awkward was it when it took place? Sometimes I've asked people to forgive me, and their response to me was, "It's ok." But what does an "it's ok" response do? It validates the situation. It allows the person to put the item back in their bag of life, with the possibility of it weighing them down in the future.
Now I have to be honest, here. We are human. In my twenty-two plus years of marriage, there have been plenty of times that we've had a big fight, and Frank has asked me to forgive him. At times, I have been just so angry that I decide I can't do it. Sometimes I've told him, "No." Sometimes I've told him "Not yet." But it usually doesn't take too long for the Holy Spirit to convict me of my unforgiveness, and within a short period of time, with God's help, I've been able to make the choice to forgive.
Galatians 5:22-23 says the fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance." When we fill our life with all this baggage of unforgiveness, bitterness, unresolved anger and emotional pain for years and years, how much room in our life is there for these character qualities that God actually wants us to have? Not much, really. And on top of that, what happens to you when you add that "one more thing" into your bag of life? You know the one, the "straw that broke the camel's back" incident. Was it really the "straw" that made you get so mad and explode at that person? No, it was all the other things in your bag of life building up, and it was the weight of that one light straw that put you over the edge.
On a side note, this concept is one of the most powerful things you can practice with your children. There have been countless times I've been "pushed over the edge" and lost my temper with my children. Stress at work, financial pressure, things I can't control, plus "one more thing" has resulted in me exploding and taking it all out on one or both of my kids. But do you know how powerful it is to say to your son, "Jacob, I'm sorry for losing my temper with you. It was wrong of me to do that. Will you forgive me?" Powerful is an understatement, really, and it models for your children the right way to deal with things, instead of sweeping them under the rug.
Ephesians 4:32 says "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ sake has forgiven you." If Jesus can save a mess of a life called Beth Banfill, then who am I to choose to not forgive someone else?
So, think about it. Is there someone in your life that you've wronged and you need to go to and forgiveness? Maybe its the other way around. Maybe someone hurt your feelings and they don't even know it, but you're carrying around that emotional pain that is weighing you down. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to stew and just decide you don't want to deal with them anymore? Avoid them? Leave the church so you don't have to see them? Or maybe your revenge plan is to unfriend them from facebook.
Life happens, and we are human. We probably offend people every day without knowing it. Sometimes people get offended just because they're really sensitive people. But as Christians, we need to be sensitive to how we are perceived, and we need to be taking personal inventory of our emotions. God wants us to deal with those things that weigh down our bag of life. He doesn't want us to allow them to sink to the bottom and let them determine our future actions.
Do you and God need to do some emotional healing and cleaning? Forgiveness is not easy, and just because we forgive, doesn't mean we forget. But the bag of life can definitely not weigh us down so much when we practice Godly forgiveness.
So I ask you, "What's in your bag?"
-- Beth Banfill