Baggage

This is from my post on Going Deeper, a blog dedicated to reflections on our church’s weekly messages.

In Rudy’s message on Sunday on The Christian at Home, he spoke about the baggage we bring into our family life. If you will pardon the pun, I think this is a mixed bag! Baggage is what we carry with us when we go someplace, in this case on our life’s journey.

Often we think of baggage in negative terms, the dysfunctions and unhealthy tendencies we bring with us into any situation. You might think of it as that shirt that isn’t really your color, or those jeans that really are ready to be converted into rags or those smelly shoes. But I would hope that most of us also pack some decent looking stuff in our bags when we travel, kind of like the qualities of temperament, the talents, and gifts, and perspectives that make us attractive and interesting to others. As I said, for most of us, our baggage is a mix of good and not so good stuff. And that’s what can make marriage and family life hard–or good!

What makes it hard is when we resent others for a good quality that they have that we feel we lack, or when we criticize the faults of another that we don’t struggle with. I suspect there was some of this kind of history between Cain and Abel that we read about in 1 John 3:11-12. Both our good and our bad baggage can be a source of conflict with others in our family in these kinds of situations. And sometimes it really can get bad! If you are in what seems like an unsolvable conflict, don’t keep fighting. Call “time out” and get some help–a talk with a pastor, or counselor. It is a sign of strength and not weakness when you can admit you need help.

The baggage we bring can be good as well. If you are a husband or wife, there had to be some pretty good things in the baggage of the other–or else you are a lousy chooser!  In some coaching training I had, we learned to make five good comments for every critical comment. It is funny how we tend to get it the other way around. I wonder if in marriage and family life it would make sense to try to affirm five things we appreciate about the other person each day, and apologize for one shortcoming of our own and, on most days, skip the critique all together!

At the same time, we are not always aware of our negative baggage. It is God’s mercy that we have families! Seriously! You remember the first time you tried to go to school with mismatched clothes and mom told you to go back and change? Sometimes, we can really get in trouble when we take our dysfunctions into public. Usually, there is some member in our family, often our spouse if we are married, who is trying to help us see our negative baggage. I don’t always like it, but often times my wife will save me major grief by pointing out something I’m not seeing in a social situation, or warn me against my tendency to “sermonize” when it would be better to keep my mouth shut and listen!

What I think is going on is that God has given us all good baggage that can both complement (and compliment!) the good things of others in our family. Also, if we are willing to face that we have some stuff in our bags that really doesn’t look (or smell) good on us and let others help us see that, we can save ourselves from grief  and make life more pleasant for others. That’s the kind of home I want to live in.

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