Let’s look back for a moment. Remember when you knew, deep down in your heart, that you were going to go and serve the people in a different culture? You experienced a whole range of feelings: fear, faith, joy, sadness – a little of everything.
Then came all the steps of preparation: training, raising support, learning about the field you were going to. You packed so much into every day, not wanting to miss anything that might be important to know.
Spiritually, you prepared. You read and studied everything you could get your hands on that would prepare you to grow in your personal relationship with God. You knew you should pack in all you would need to witness, to teach, to lead others in their walk.
Finally, you packed your belongings. You looked carefully at every little thing. Should you take it, store it, or give it away? How would it fare in the shipping? Would it stand up to the climate change? Would you need it there?
Now, you’re there. You’re on the field- just settling in, or maybe there for a very long time. And you discover that you brought a few attitudes and ideas that you didn’t need.
Maybe you brought some expectations about who you would be. You thought you’d always be eager to witness or teach or serve in some way. Since you were God’s servant to these people, you would be ready any day, all the time.
This week I had a woman call and ask to meet me. I had trouble understanding her on the phone. She said her problems included an unfaithful husband, trouble with her grown son, and more. I made the appointment to see her, but was irritable about it. How could I help her with so many deep needs? I probably would have trouble understanding her speech. She’d probably be late and use up a lot of time or maybe not even show up. You get the idea, right? I didn’t want that assignment.
My expectations for myself are not always reasonable. I’m not always eager to serve. I’m not always the best one for the job. But my time is the Lord’s and what God wants from me is my obedience. He doesn’t expect me to be able to do everything all the time. But He does expect me to be available and let Him work through this clay jar.
As it turned out, he brought a lovely woman to meet me. We had a cup of tea and chatted for an hour. She told me her story. I asked her questions. I confirmed for her that she was on the right track and looking to the right Source for the strength and wisdom she needs. We prayed together. We both went away knowing we had been in His presence.
This stuff creeps into our lives like bedbugs in a mattress. You’re not sure how they got there, but they sure do make you uncomfortable. So, are you packing some toxic shame? Are you being paralyzed by shame for something in your past? I’m not talking about guilt for sins unconfessed. You know how to get free from those. I’m talking about the shame we may carry from the way we were raised. Maybe your mom loaded you with shame if you didn’t get all As. Or maybe your child did something that you feel taints your image.
We can get rid of shame by knowing the truth. You may not have been the best student, but you did your best. Or perhaps you know you were fooling around back then, but you are no longer the same person, and you don’t deserve to have a shame cloak draped on your shoulders any more. Our children can and often do make choices that we don’t want them to make. They may have to bear the consequences of those choices, but we don’t have to bear their shame.
Regrets can come from missed opportunities or from things we did with bad results. Perhaps you regret not finishing your degree. Maybe you have said harsh words and never had the opportunity to make amends. Either way, Paul gave us an answer for this in Philippians 3:13-14- ‘. . . Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’
Regrets are heavy burdens to carry around with us. We can learn from the past, but we cannot change it. Past mistakes or missed opportunities may help us learn to persevere. Yet there is a more long lasting effect of ‘forgetting’ our regrets. That is the hope and drive to press on in our calling. God turns the heavy weight of regret to the buoyant hope for the future.
Finally, did you pack some ideas about God or about some Bible passage from your home that keep you from being as effective as you could be on your field? Maybe your home church thought the gifts of the Spirit were no longer needed today. However, as you live among the tribes, you discover those gifts would be very helpful here. We may need to lay down some of our long-held ideas and stay open to see from a different perspective. God will continue to teach and provide all we need.
It’s time to check our baggage, ladies. Did you pack something that is weighing you down? This is a good time to look at our excess baggage. With the writer of Hebrews, ‘let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. . .’
Yours, with Prayer for a Lighter Life,