“The first thing in all progress is to leave something behind.” – George Macdonald
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” – C.S. Lewis
“That of which we are not aware, owns us.” – James Hollis
“Therefore, let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,” – Hebrews 12:1 WEB
If you were a business associate of mine a few years ago, there is one thing you could say about me: He never travels light. Although I have never been a boy scout, I certainly admire their “Always be prepared” methodology. When I traveled the country, I never packed light. If my carry-on luggage would have adequately held a kitchen sink, I would have been the happiest man alive 😊
Spill something on your shirt? Not a problem. I have several extras for such an emergency. Lost your toothbrush in the motel room? Have no fear. I have an extra one as I have already anticipated such a tragedy occurring. Raining? No worries. I packed a coat. Is it too hot outside? No reason to fret. My short sleeve shirts are packed neatly beside my long- sleeved ones.
Some of you can relate to this traveling trait of mine. You have that same chromosome in your genetic make-up that prompts you to pack everything in sight just in case it may come in handy.
Preparedness has its advantages, but it comes with a price. Have you ever scurried through Chicago O’Hare on a busy Friday night, dodging fellow travelers, running to make your connecting flight, and pulling what seemed like an “elephant on wheels” behind you? After a long, hard week, just dragging yourself along is a chore, say nothing about all the excess tonnage that comes with bags bulging with potential necessities for that unanticipated event or natural disaster.
The same can be said of traveling through life. Sometimes it is hard enough just to make it through the day, say nothing about carrying the additional baggage of burdens we all tend to lug around with us.
How can we make our journey a little easier – especially as we move into a new year? We need to learn how to leave things behind.
James Hollis suggests above that those things we are oblivious to have a way of possessing us – holding us captive to thought patterns and ways of doing things that are limiting, restrictive and burdensome.
As 2022 approaches, let’s become more aware of those things we need to leave behind us as 2021 comes to a close.
You might be thinking, “Other gods? What do you mean by other gods?”
Look a little deeper in your baggage of burdens my friend. Reach down to the bottom of the bag with your hand. Can you feel them? Chances are they are there. You’re just not aware of their presence and the unneeded weight they add to your life’s journey.
“Other gods” can take on many forms and dimensions. It could be that bank account you can’t do without or desire to have. Money has a way of comforting you with security, knowing it’s there when you need it. It may take the form of a relationship that would be unbearable to lose. Loneliness has a way of stealing one’s joy in this life. Is it your comfortable home, your new car, or that prestigious job that provide you with a sense of importance? Could it be the bottle of alcohol that always takes care of those uncomfortable feelings when they surface?
The reason these things are hard to find in your luggage is they seem to be necessities for your journey, not some additional weight that can be left behind. Valuable possessions, financial security, important relationships, and comforting vices can take on God-like characteristics – always there to provide us with what we need to make it through.
Here is the trouble with carrying around these kinds of gods in our lives: They aren’t indestructible, totally reliable, or as infallible as they seem. Relationships can be severed through divorce, unfaithfulness or even death. Bank accounts can be volatile – plentiful one day and empty the next. Vices are comforting, but rest assured they all come with a cost. The house and the car get old and lose their value with time. That important job can one day disappear.
Why do we carry these things around with us like we need them for our journey here? Why do we place such a high value on them and what they can provide for us?
Yes, we do need a job, money to buy food and clothing, a form of shelter and close relationships. They only weigh us down when we give them the stature of a god in our lives.
Truth is we only need to carry around one God in our lives. He doesn’t walk out on you, lose value, or come with a price tag. He is indestructible, infallible and can always be relied upon in the worst situations. His security and comfort are steadfast. He is a God that can provide for all of those things we have mistaken as gods.
In 2022, don’t waste needed energy or time carrying around gods that lose value, aren’t reliable or seem to hold the secrets to happy living.
Mistakes and Hurts
Have you made a mistake in your life that you can’t seem to get past? Has someone hurt you to a point that forgiveness seems out of the question?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are certainly not alone my friend. I think we all at one point in our lives carried the burden that comes with making poor decisions, the results of which are irreversible. I’m also quite sure we have each experienced the pain associated with poor treatment from others.
As you look at the luggage you are about to carry into 2022, are their past mistakes or hurts in there? Do you know why you are holding on to them?
Many of us hold on to our past mistakes, carrying them through life as if they might add value to our journey down the road. After all, if we keep replaying those poor past choices we made over and over again in our minds, maybe it will prevent us from making similar blunders in the future.
Some of us continue to carry past mistakes around as a form of penance. Certainly, someone needs to pay the price tag that comes with making a huge mistake! Those of us who think like this tend to take out the “whooping stick” on our self-image – constantly beating ourselves up for past errors.
Many of us carry around our past hurts as a means of inflicting our self-imposed justice on others. Holding on to the hurt ensures that we can play the role of both judge and jury, forever condemning the person who hurt us by giving them a life sentence in the prison of our mind.
Can you relate to any of these feelings? Do you see yourself in the same difficult position?
My friend, God wants us to release ourselves and others from past mistakes, realizing that if the God of the universe has done so, why do we place such value in holding on to them?
Take time to stop right now, especially before the New Year, and reach deep inside your overpacked bag. Do you feel those hurts in there? Pretty heavy, aren’t they?
As you place both hands inside to lift them out (mine were so heavy I needed both hands!), don’t look down at them but look up to the Lord. As you leave them behind, keep your eyes focused on Christ. Praise God that He freely forgives us. Praise God that He is a God of justice and righteousness, ready and able to forgive our past mistakes and carry our hurts for us!
Anxieties and Fears
“An anxious heart weighs a man down….” – Proverbs 12:25 NIV
One of the heaviest things we can carry around with us on our journey is anxiety.
How do I know? Most of my life has been spent in a worried state of mind. In a twisted sort of way, I embraced my fear as a behavioral strength. Being a “worry wart” has its earthly rewards.
In the business world, you are rewarded for accurate, split-second decision-making skills. The only way this could be accomplished was by thinking through all potential mishaps and developing possible solutions in the event they occurred. I used this form of twisted thinking to convince myself that I would always have all the bases covered if I thought about every worse case scenario out there. That way, I was prepared for every disaster that could possibly develop.
This warped thinking permeated my entire life. I was in a constant state of “what if” thinking. What if my future retirement plans fell through? What if something terrible happened to my health? What if my wife found someone she loved better than me? What if I wasn’t a good father for my children?
In some cases, this “what if” thinking created some of the scenarios I feared most in my life. I began to behave and act in a way that supported my worst fears and worries.
The problem with “what if” thinking is that generally the “what ifs” never end up materializing. One loses out on truly living life, experiencing each step, each precious moment of our journey by dwelling on potential future outcomes.
Are you currently carrying around the heavy luggage of fear as you journey into 2022? Are you turning to “other gods” like drugs, alcohol, or unhealthy relationships to ease the anxiety, to mask the pain associated with fear?
Let me tell you my friend the tragedy behind this behavior and how it will destroy your ability to fulfill your created purpose if you choose to let it.
Earlier I shared how futile it is to carry around our past mistakes and hurts, allowing them to distort our vision, making it more difficult to see where we are right now in our journey.
The same can be said of fear and anxiety. Both thrive on “what ifs” – things that might occur in our future, once again clouding our ability to clearly see our current position along our pathway.
You see my friend, if evil can get us focusing on our murky past or unpredictable future, it distracts us from what is happening right now in our lives. We truly loose out by looking too far backward or too far ahead of ourselves as we make our journey through this life.
The secret to fulfilling our created purpose is connected to where we are right now. Can you see how the steps you take today, the choices you make, the interactions you have with others right now will have a greater impact on your journey than the fear and anxiety associated with “what if” thinking?
As 2022 fast approaches, let’s make a commitment to traveling light 😊 Let’s release our mistakes and hurts, let go of our fears and anxieties, and hold on to the only God who can see us into the New Year!
There are far, far better things ahead of us my friend! May 2022 be your best year yet 😊