By Susan Nash
“Have you packed?”
This inevitable question raises my anxiety level each time I leave on a trip. My anxiety stems from last minute packing (which has improved) and the fact that my success rate in packing everything I need is not high. I’m always curious as to what I have forgotten-jewelry, make-up, exercise clothes, even lingerie-and surprised by other items I’ve included. The new regulations about liquids, carry-ons and checked bags have only heightened my awareness of what I’m carrying in my own bag.
I took my first flight when I was two weeks old; the thrill of traveling has never left me. I love new places, new people, new histories and new cultures. I love to explore and to learn. But I have had to get more intentional about what I’m taking and what I’m leaving behind.
I have found the same to be true in my life. Our lives are actually the most significant and adventurous journey we will ever take. Have we packed well? If we belong to Jesus and are headed home, we must get much more intentional about what we are taking and what we are leaving behind. We can only handle so much baggage.
Two things that have been packed in my bag almost my entire life are guilt and shame. The fact that I was a Christian leader and teacher with theological training did not automatically ensure the exclusion of these items from my bag. I carried them with me everywhere. Knowing the Greek and Hebrew words, passionately teaching the truth of the atonement and deeply believing in Jesus did not take away the anxiety of packing or the cost of checking the bag. I could not get what was in my head to stay in my heart. The weight became an enormous hindrance that cost me more than I had to give.
I found this to be true of many other Christian travelers. They thought they packed forgiveness and freedom, but inevitably discovered guilt and shame instead. The journey was made more taxing because of this unintentional glitch.
My “plane crashing” is what finally caused me to learn to pack intentionally. I experienced ministry burnout, which is really a spiritual malady that shuts down all systems. Under God’s patient care, I began to understand the reasons I continued to pack guilt and shame instead of forgiveness and freedom. As I learned let go of my pride and my accomplishments, I began to unpack guilt and shame - literally. I learned a cognitive commitment to the gospel was no good until the gospel became the conscious core of my very being. I had to give up packing the thoughts that had become an automatic grid through which to view and respond to life. My crash had begun a transformation.
So, what’s in your bag? Are you packed and ready for the journey?
Susan C. Nash, a writer, speaker and graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, has served in church ministry since 1986 on staff in numerous positions and now as a church consultant.