Recently I have really been meditating on Hebrews 12. I shared some thoughts and had some great discussion with a women’s life group last week.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)
Contemporary English Version says “…we must get rid of everything that slows us down…” English Standard version says “…let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely…” These statements are followed by “let us run with perseverance (endurance) the race…fixing our eyes on (looking to) Jesus.”
We chatted about not being weighed down by the baggage of our past, by opinions of others or by religion. And we discussed the importance being determined in our perseverance, surrounding ourselves with the right people and keeping our focus.
As we talked about this, I was reminded of a skit I wrote and performed at a retreat a couple years ago. In the beginning of the skit, I entered the room wearing lots of bags. I apologized for being late, “I’m sorry I’m late. I had to get all my stuff together.” Each bag had a label which signified the type of baggage. The baggage included offenses, imperfection, failure, anger, hurt, guilt, shame, secrets, pride, habits, resentment, and rejection. Anyone else have any of these? This the junk that weighs us down and hinders growth.
One sister-friend approached me. She attempted to hug me and invited me to attend a life group or Bible study with her. I responded, “I would, but I am really tired. I wouldn’t want to be seen looking this tired.”
Another sister-friend approached me. She wanted to talk to me about something she was going through. As I turn to respond to her, I nearly knock her down with all the baggage. I said, “Sorry. I seem to always be knocking others down with all this stuff.”
Yet another sister-friend approached me. She asks me if she can walk with me and offers to take a couple of my bags. “Sure, why not? The bags are heavy and I guess I could use some help.” As we walk together, she offers to take more bags and shows me a place called “The Prayer Place”. My friend lays the bags she’s carrying for me at “The Prayer Place” and invites me to kneel and pray. As my friend and I pray together, the bags still attached to me begin to fall off. My prayer starts, “Lord, you see what I’m carrying. I’m not sure you can still love me with all this stuff. What, Lord? You will take my offenses? You will take my imperfections? You will take my failure? Really, Lord? How can I praise you with all this shame and all these secrets? All this anger, hurt and guilt? I’m not worthy.” My friend looks at me and says, “The Lord says you are worthy. The Lord says your value is great through Jesus Christ. Lay this all down. You were never meant to carry it. He wants you just as you are.” I continue to pray, “Thank you, Lord, for the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness! Thank you, Lord, for the great exchange! Thank you, Lord, that I don’t have to carry the baggage of my past. You have freed me! Walk with me, Lord, as I take one step at a time on this journey where you call me.”
When I pulled up my outline from that retreat, the very first scripture was Hebrews 12. I can’t help but think, “Hmmm…God must want me to re-visit this.” In my notes, I referenced Hebrews 12:1-2 (ERV) which says, “…remove from our lives anything that would slow us down and the sin that so often makes us fall.” This provokes a lot of thought.
So often in life we carry the baggage of our past. Our lives have season changes often. We should never carry the baggage of a previous season into the next season. No doubt our experiences will develop in us the character we reflect in the seasons to come, but these experiences should not be used as excuses which ultimately becomes the baggage that slows us down, hinders, and entangles us. The baggage of our past gets in the way of moving forward. Everything we do to move forward is counteracted with the weight of the baggage. We see from the skit that the weight was slowing me down and wearing me out. Carrying the baggage was a constant struggle.
When my first sister-friend approached me to invite me to something positive, I had to decline because I had no energy due to spending all my energy maintaining my baggage. I was too tired from carrying the weight and I was looking burdened. I didn’t want to be seen or “exposed”. The baggage prevented me from building relationship and having connection. Maintaining baggage isolates, prevents relationship, and connection.
My second sister-friend wanted to connect with me. She needed me to be there for her, but I couldn’t. The baggage created a barrier, and although it was unintentional, I knocked her down and hurt her because of my baggage. Staying attached to our baggage causes us to hurt others, knock them down, and push them away.
My third sister-friend reached out to connect with me as well. She could see that I was encumbered. She also recognized that I would never be able to connect in a meaningful way without unloading the baggage. There was only one way for me to be free from the baggage. I had to lay it at Jesus’ feet. It sounds simple enough, but I needed help. We need each other, but ultimately it’s our personal responsibility to decide to drop the baggage once and for all.
How many times in life do we allow our rejection, labels, secrets, offenses, imperfections, failures, anger, hurt, guilt, pride, habits, or resentment hinder us from doing or being all that we could?
Sometimes we think we’re freed only to find out that we have packed all these smaller bags into a much larger bag called, shame. Our baggage is contained, but it still is a heavy weight to bear. It also still keeps up from running with endurance the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1).
Most of my shame baggage has been unpacked, but sometimes things will happen and I become that ashamed person I once was. The first big step in unpacking the shame baggage for me was forgiveness. I had to ask God to forgive me and I had to forgive others. That came relatively easy. I mean, working through forgiving others meant owning some things I didn’t want to own, but ultimately I recognized the healing that would come from just letting some things go. Dropping the past junk we hold onto also allows us to change our focus. We no longer will be so focused on ourselves and what is wrong with us. We can start focusing on all that is right with Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1 starts with “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” Surrounding ourselves with the right people makes all the difference. As we saw in the skit, when I had someone walk the journey with me I was empowered to start shedding some of my past junk. Not only did she help me carry some of it to the one place that could give me relief, but she also was willing to pour encouragement into me. Proverbs 24:6 says “…by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” This doesn’t mean we surround ourselves with lots of people just giving their opinions. Wise guidance is one or two people you trust to speak truth to you in all situations even when it’s not what you want to hear. These are people that reflect the authenticity and joy of Christ in their own day-to-day lives. Not everyone can fill this position in our lives. I have found that these people in my life are people that speak the truth in love to me always. They are willing to ask me the hard questions to make me think about the choices I make in life and the path I choose. Without dropping the baggage of our past, the wise counsel can’t get close enough to truly pour into our lives.
Hebrews 12 goes on to say “let us throw off everything that hinders” or “get rid of everything that slows us down” or “let us lay aside every weight”. This is such a great directive from God’s word! We’re directed to unload the things that keep us from advancing on the path God has laid out before us. As reflected in the skit, it was hard to move at all with the weight of all the baggage. Moving forward or advancing was an impossibility. God never intended us to be weighed down by the stuff of our past, the opinions of others or by religion. No doubt, we have to own our junk so we can deal with it, but we don’t have to continue to let that mess define us or hinder us. I like the imagery of throwing off the baggage. I envision being wrapped and entangled in chains and the power of Christ within us strengthens us to break the chains. Without the weight of the chains, baggage or junk, we can run forward with perseverance. Without the hindrance of these things, we can connect with those around us. We can have relationship not only with those in our lives, but also a relationship with Christ. We will not only receive love and support from others, but also we’re freed to support and love others.
Galatians 5:1 (NIV) says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Living baggage free is a choice. We must establish that how we feel and how we advance in our journey should not be contingent on the things of our past or the opinions of others. Once we make up our mind, we pray to the Lord for help, and find wise counsel in the Holy Spirit and in our closest companions, we can focus on peeling off those things that keep us from living a passionate, purposeful life. It’s a life of no longer being burdened or weighed down by the chains of our past. The passionate, purposeful life is a life of freedom and direction from the Holy Spirit.
Living this life and making this choice is an ongoing process, but we have everything we need to succeed in shedding the baggage and moving forward in freedom. Join me on the journey! Share your testimonies of overcoming in the comments.
Jesus, thank you that you offer us a life of light and freedom. Help us to drop the junk of our past, and to run the race you have for me. Lord, we trust you to reveal the place and purpose you have for us. We know that you have set a journey for each of us. Give us the guidance and clarity from Holy Spirit to know when and how to drop the baggage. Guide us on choosing wise counsel and surrounding ourselves with the people you would have in our lives to keep us moving forward in your will.
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