Observe the photo accompanying this blog. I had a quote running through my head from Joe Versus the Volcano, so I googled “luggage.” After looking through a few pages of results, I happened upon this wonderful gem—instantly I had a connection! In one of the earliest sessions of Men’s Fraternity, we dealt with the concept of unpacking. That is, examining areas of your life where you’ve haphazardly compartmentalized emotions or memories, ultimately resulting in issues by the handful.
Some of the men realized they carried little luggage, while others that their suitcases were much like those nesting eggs you see around the holidays: multiple suitcases inside of suitcases. For me, it was an opportunity to reconsider things I thought I dealt with long ago, as well discover others I’d made myself forget.
The focus of this reflection was, I believe, not to condemn one’s luggage, but rather identify it, understand it, deal with it, and move on. We are nothing if not the sum of our experiences; they do not define us, but they do shape us. Where possible and appropriate, we ought to leave our luggage behind. This is easier said than done if multiple people know of your specific issues. Thus, discretion as well as tact (don’t confuse the two) is in order. Choose the words you share carefully.
Bearing that in mind, I’d like to share about an aspect of my life that applies. In December of ‘06, I recall wondering about the future. I didn’t like where I’d been, I didn’t like where I was headed (nowhere), and I didn’t have much desire to keep going. That’s not to say I courted the idea of putting flesh to razor, but I was genuinely depressed and unhappy.
I remember thinking to myself that 2007 was going to be different. I didn’t know how or what that meant, but deep down inside I knew things had to change. I wanted change. I feared it, but I needed it, and I had for a long time.
The kind of change I needed wasn’t necessarily the kind of change I wanted; I wanted change on my own terms. Success, a romantic relationship, direction, esteem, money, happiness—none of which are wrong, but all of which I wanted apart from Christ. I wanted the happy Sunday mornings without the conviction. I wanted the social popularity without any personal investment. I wanted to keep both feet planted in the world and occasionally pop my head into the church sanctuary, smiling innocently.
My creative endeavors were few and far between. They failed to bring any sense of accomplishment or meaning and merely exposed the fragile state of my emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I sought recognition in everything and found it in many things, but it profited me nothing.
The change I so desperately needed came slowly around the beginning of ‘07. In retrospect, God was working well beforehand and He knew then as He knows now my needs. I don’t mean to suggest that I thwarted the will of God, for who can? But I did resist His will for my life in respect to His glory. My will for my life was more important, even if I didn’t know what it was.
So I fought. It wasn’t a visible conflagration of waging wills. It was an inner, mental struggle that manifested itself through my interactions with other people. Socially, I’m not a terribly serious person, so it’s difficult to know me on any meaningful level. I did desire to have new friendships but was fearful of being hurt. As usual, the focus was on me.
Thankfully, God worked in my life through fellow believers (some more direct and physical than others) to wear away at the walls I’d cobbled together over the years. I could see change taking place around me in the lives of other people and I wanted that! I knew it was on the horizon. It was not quite how I imagined it, but it was coming nonetheless. I could fight or I could surrender.
I did fight, but my resolve weakened. You can only postpone God’s will and God’s timing for so long. Either I had to relinquish my will or God would see it “destroyed entirely.” I met with the death of visions, found that I lacked passion for anything, and acknowledged life apart from Christ as meaningless indeed. None of these things were new to me, but to have them flagrantly and independently thrown in my face by different people in different ways—it was too much too fast and I surrendered.
I can’t point to a single day or week it occurred because it’s been a gradual process, but the internal changes are beginning to manifest in tangible form. The most obvious change has been in my relationships. Certain aspects of my personality (for better or worse) will always remain, but I am indeed endeavoring to spend time with other people out of love. It’s new, it’s exciting, and it’s a little scary.
So, what’s the takeaway? It’s probably time to unpack if the following quote describes your life:
Very interesting… as a luggage problem.