In all our lives, we carry a blend of treasures, baggage and garbage. Treasures can include gifts and talents, the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) or personality traits. In contrast, baggage is composed of the systems and practices required for a productive life (e.g., structures, commitments, investments in ourselves and others). Baggage is both necessary and neutral; we can’t abandon all our baggage, because they can provide structure to our lives. But baggage can become negative if we don’t put it in its proper place. If we misunderstand the purposes of our baggage or focus exclusively on baggage at the expense of our treasures, that baggage becomes garbage. And it has to go.
We can become hoarders in our hearts and minds, full of outdated opinions, bad habits or the residue of past hurts long ago settled. Garbage can masquerade as necessary baggage: Assumptions can default to conclusions that mislead us; we soak up gossip about someone we haven’t met or worked with. We carry around these kinds of garbage around with us, unwilling to let them go.
As churches and Christian organisations, we can allow our denominational or organisational identities to eclipse our identities as children of God. Not properly ordering our priorities, especially in terms of our identity, can result in not recognising the supremacy of God, so our necessary baggage becomes twisted to become garbage. Unless we daily self-examine ourselves, our good and necessary baggage—roles and responsibilities, for example—become twisted to become garbage: When we make good things ultimate things, we lose sight of the Father.
Every day is garbage day
Ultimately, it’s a matter of capacity: No-longer-needed baggage and worthless garbage consume precious space within us better devoted to productivity and, especially, to developing greater treasures. As Hebrews 12:1 tells us, “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” (NIV).
We cannot act on what we don’t know. In vulnerability, we have to ask our trusted friends, leaders or counsellors to walk us through the process of understanding what garbage I’m carrying around or what baggage needs to be abandoned. After praying through that feedback, I can discern in the Spirit how I might realign my priorities. David observed, “Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it” (Psalm 141:5, NIV). It takes humility to seek that kind of feedback and determination and courage to respond to what those trusted individuals tell us.
Asking for feedback doesn’t have to be all negative, though. These people can help us discover and accept that we already have treasures worth celebrating and developing. We might doubt that we have treasures, but accepting positive observations from others adds value to our lives.
Take a time-out
It’s a spiritual discipline to evaluate our relationships (e.g., in family, work, or church) and how they influence our effectiveness, helping to better identify that which will prove not only useless but also detrimental, diluting or diverting our energy and focus away from better baggage that will yield greater treasures over time. Twice daily, I close my eyes and meditate on these questions:
- What gives me life?
- What robs me of my joy?
- What have I been doing today or reading about or responding to that fills me with joy, even if it has been difficult?
- Why have I allowed a situation to rob my joy?
This daily discipline has helped me to retain a healthy perspective and deal with situations before they wrongly take root as garbage, displacing the development of better baggage and greater treasure in my life.
There is always a certain amount of baggage in the different roles you play in life. Those around us also have baggage. Loving each other as brothers and sisters in Christ includes helping each other assess and deal with their baggage, steward their treasures and abandon their garbage. Galatians 6:2 commands us to bear each other’s burdens. But we can’t do that unless others are helping us carry ours, as well. That’s what teams, coworkers, friends and families do. So, let us travel lightly and travel together, friends.