Monday, January 16, 2006

Unpacking the Baggage

This article originally appeared in 1/12/06 edition of The Grapevine, the e-newsletter of NewLife Community Church.

As many of you know, we've been traveling a lot for the past couple of months. One of the great hassles of traveling for us is the unpacking. That's right - after you've played a 3-D version of Tetris trying to fit all your clothes & sundries into a suitcase (not to mention the odds & ends which traveling with a 8 month old require), you've got to take all of them out and put them where they belong. As my mom will be the first to volunteer, putting things where they belong is not one of my "gifts." (My gift is more along the line of "scattering things about in random piles of which only I truly understand the organizational structure." You can probably guess that this didn't endear me to my mother - nor does it score me any brownie points with my wife.)

So, I do not enjoy unpacking.


I don't know what Shari said to me on Tuesday morning... or what set me off. (Really... I've sat here trying to remember what it was. My brain can't call it back up - nothing, nada, zilch, zero.) Whatever it was, I do clearly recall standing next to our kitchen table, grumbling under my breath, then kicking one of Collin's toys across the room in an obvious bid to gain attention. (You'd think that a 41 year old man would have figured out better ways to gain his wife's attention - simple stuff like, "Honey, I need to talk about this" - but no, I have to see if I have any future as a punter and let the resounding clatter/crash act as my "signal" that she should pay attention to me.)

When she responded with a "what the heck was that about?" tone in her voice, I sort of apologized and then headed out to work through the garage, still grumbling. When the mop bucket and one of Braeden's bikes was blocking the door, I popped a gasket again, kicking them both out of the way.

Of course, Tuesday morning was the day I was supposed to go into the office and spend extended time with Aaron (our worship/youth pastor) planning & dreaming about the upcoming year in ministry here at NewLife - and about our respective roles as husbands & dads. I walked in and told him that I wasn't in spiritual shape to meet yet - "I need an hour."

Actually, God needed the hour.


I've been reading an excellent book,
[re]Understanding Prayer (by Kyle Lake). In it, he talks about struggling with anger & prayer. And, of course, it's that book I picked up when I stormed into my office, shut the door & cranked up the stereo.

Rather than dismissing this anger episode as "an obstacle to real prayer," I listen to the rhythm of my soul. Its hard, rapid, pulsating beat. If my mind keeps going back to these things, then maybe I have some issues that need tending to - issues around forgiveness, anger, or significance. Rather than dismissing these thoughts, I open myself up to God's presence and sit with them for a few minutes. And through a combination of prayer, meditation, Scripture reading, and silence, I become compassionate toward the person I was... angry with.

Very funny, God. I'm wanting to throw a pity party in here - "My wife doesn't understand me or my needs!" or "I'm the worst husband ever... unable to control my temper - I don't deserve to be a pastor" or "See, I've blown the day. No way can anything spiritual happen now when you've choked like that" - and all You want to do is mess with my heart & make me more like You.

In fact, Jesus, you aren't looking for me to stuff my feelings... or to turtle up & go into defensive mode with Shari Jo. You aren't interested in me sulking, Ahab-like (1 Kings 21) because I didn't live the Christ-life perfectly. What you want is for me to unpack my baggage.

"Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, "God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'"

Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself." Luke 18:13-14 (The Message)


You knew I'd eventually connect the dots, right? Unpacking is no fun when it's a Samsonite... it's even less fun when it's your own soul. But as good as it feels to finally get every piece of clothing back where it belongs, it feels even better to finally let God into the middle of every part of our lives.

So, in that God-filled hour, Jesus drug my petty anger out into the open, into the light of day, into the light of Truth. And it became clear that my frustration was rooted not in Shari's tone of voice or Braeden's genetically inherited inability to put away his toys but in my personal need to get everything right - to have everyone in my world roll over & play dead at my command. It was one of those mornings that I wanted to be God.

Thank you, Jesus, for your willingness to stick in there with me even when I'm a complete knucklehead. Thank you for unpacking with me - more than I ever will, you know the perfect place for each thing in my life. And you know what I need to crumple up and toss into the trash can.

This won't be the last time I have to unpack my baggage... and it won't be the last time Jesus does it with me. In fact, there won't ever be a time I deal with the junk in my life that He isn't standing right there beside me.

This is a sure thing: If we die with him, we'll live with him; If we stick it out with him, we'll rule with him; If we turn our backs on him, he'll turn his back on us; If we give up on him, he does not give up-- for there's no way he can be false to himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13 (The Message)

And that makes unpacking easier.

I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. Philippians 1:6 (Amplified)

1 comment:

Friendless said...

And here was me thinking this post would be about your Essen haul!

When I'm in one of those moods, I listen to angry punk music. It calms me down and cheers me up. I don't know why. Many of the titles would be unsuitable to even mention on your blog, but I do recommend "Break Stuff" by Limp Bizkit. Just don't sing along while you're at work.