I have baggage. Lots of it.
While some people like to clean out their clutter in the spring, January is my time to toss out anything unnecessary. When I start going through manila folders of paperwork and organizing my taxes, I’m also motivated to declutter.
If you notice the store ads after Christmas and through January, there are a plethora of organizational tools for sale. Shelving, storage boxes, and office supplies tempt us to get our life in order.
While going through home office files and closets this month, I faced more clutter than usual. I’d accumulated tax records going back to 2005. Why had I waited so long to dispose of them? I checked online to see how many years’ worth I really needed to keep. My records were way overdue for shredding.
“…a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away”— Ecclesiastes 3:6 (NIV).
Why Do We Wait So Long?
While sifting through folders and boxes, I came across newspaper articles, greeting cards, photos, my earlier writings, and letters from family and friends. I was hesitant to toss any of these memories but some were four or five decades old.
I’m not a hoarder but confess to being sentimental about some things, like a letter my youngest son wrote when he was in his late twenties. I couldn’t part with the sentiments he’d expressed to me. When I reread his words from 10 years ago, tears flowed as if a dam had been breached.
Tears are cleansing. Still, I knew it was past time to let go of things no one else would value after I’m gone—but not the letter from my son. Sorting through greeting cards, newspaper articles, and other things I’d clung to, I tossed some and shredded others.
Life is Like a Roll of Toilet Paper
We know time goes by fast, especially as we grow older. American radio and television writer Andy Rooney once said, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.”
Why does time go by faster as we age? If we think back to our younger years, we recall anticipating certain rites of passage: becoming a teenager, getting our driver’s license, being old enough to vote, high school graduation, and moving out on our own. During those years, time moves as slow as a snail crossing a sidewalk.
While time may fly by faster as we age, the baggage we drag with us from the past can hold us back. The emotional, mental, and spiritual baggage we cling to can separate us from God’s best.
Time for a Baggage Check
With over 65 years of living under my belt, I confess to having baggage. When I was in my mid-40s, life as I knew it changed. My 28-year marriage ended and my nest was empty. Both of my sons were in college and one had married.
In my early 50s, I retired from education, became a grandmother, and lost both of my parents. All life-changing events with baggage attached to some of them.
Peace didn’t come without gradually letting go of my baggage. But not without the help of God who helped me to overcome past hurts, some going all the way back to my childhood.
Only God Can Help Us Heal
Walking around with failures, mistakes, disappointments, and hurts from the past shackled around our ankles weighs us down with unnecessary baggage. Toting baggage only leads to a life of unhappiness when we can’t forgive—whether it’s ourselves or someone who has hurt us.
One of God’s greatest gifts was demonstrated by Jesus’ death on the cross. Yet, we sometimes struggle to forgive ourselves, our family or friends, and especially our enemies.
If Jesus can forgive those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34), we need to lean on God, asking for forgiveness and His help with unpacking our baggage.