Los Angeles International Airport, more commonly known as LAX, is one of the busiest airports in the world – a fact that’s unsurprising to anyone who has ever navigated an LAX terminal.

I don’t pretend to enjoy airports, or LAX in particular.

For one thing, there are lines… Everywhere. Lines to check baggage. Lines to go through security. Lines to use the bathroom. Lines to get food. Lines to get on the plane.

And speaking of food, airport vendors seem completely oblivious to product pricing everywhere else in the world!

But there is one very interesting thing about the LAX experience: There are all kinds of different people. In just a few minutes, you’ll see nearly every race, creed, color, and gender… Every height, weight, and body type.

Notably, however, there is also one, single, unavoidable commonality… Everyone has baggage.

 

Everyone has baggage

 “The worst issue a person can have is thinking he has no issues.”

– Tom Hughes, Lead Pastor, Christian Assembly Eagle Rock

I recently heard the story of a TSA agent interviewed about his job. He noted that, regardless of external appearances, people all carry pretty much the same things in their baggage.

At first, that may seem obvious – but stop and think about it for a moment… What a powerful metaphor for life!

Nobody goes through life unscathed, no matter what they look like on the outside. We all have baggage.

  • Baggage stemming from what others have said or not said, done or not done;
  • Baggage stemming from our own mistakes or misdeeds;
  • Baggage stemming from tragedy.

Whether it manifests as anger, insecurity, un-forgiveness, hopelessness, narcissism, hatred, self-neglect, pessimism, resentment, or anything else – people all carry much of the same baggage through life.

Accordingly, there is one crucial thing to remember about your baggage: No matter who you are, no matter what your story, your baggage does not have to define your life legacy in a negative way.

Instead, like manure on a farmer’s field, baggage can fertilize the development of a powerful legacy. The way we wrestle through adversity and disappointment can be an incredible encouragement to our friends and family, and even people we don’t know.

It all depends on how we choose to deal with our baggage.

Check your baggage

When I fly, I generally try to stuff everything I need for my trip into a carry-on. Frankly, I hate paying extra to check my baggage after I’ve already paid hundreds of dollars for my ticket. But I have several friends who take the opposite approach. They just check everything so that they don’t have to worry about finding space in the overhead compartment once they are on the plane.

People take different approaches to life’s baggage, as well. 

  • Some try to hold onto everything;
  • Some try to stuff it into an overhead of some sort;
  • Some try to deny that they have baggage;
  • Some try to drop it and walk away…

In any case, the baggage remains. And frankly, it’s too heavy, unwieldy, and obvious to deal with in any of these ways.

The only way to deal with our baggage effectively is to check it. In other words, we need to let other people ease the burden and help carry all that baggage for a while. It’s something anyone can do, but it requires intentionality.

Though the protocol may differ slightly depending on the baggage you’re carrying, there are four basic steps to checking your baggage:

1) Find Faith – First, you need to find the strength to get your baggage to the appropriate baggage check. This requires faith. Faith is the foundation of your life – no matter who you are or what you believe. The only question is where you place your faith. Faith simply involves a strongly held belief. Some people place their faith in a religious tradition, others in time and chance, etc… As a Christian, I do not believe that all of these options are equally worthy of my confidence. Nor are they equally as effective. In order to have the fortitude to get your baggage to the baggage check, place your faith in a source of hope – that mistakes, disappointments, and tragedies are not the final word on your life.

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. “

– Psalm 40:1-3

2) Seek Support – Next, accept that you cannot check your baggage on your own. Instead, you need help to objectify your baggage. This is where your friends, family, and mentors enter the picture. This is where pastors and professional counselors may be necessary. Though our culture champions self-sufficiency, we need each other. Nowhere is this more apparent than dealing with the baggage in our lives. Please don’t think you can weigh, measure, and tag your baggage all by yourself.

“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

– James A. Baldwin

3) Decide to Heal – Checking your baggage won’t happen by accident. It’s a decision. Even after you’ve gotten to the baggage check… Even after your supporters have helped you weigh and tag your baggage… You have to be willing to let it wind its way out of sight on the conveyor belt. This may seem counter-intuitive, but some people really struggle. Even though our baggage is heavy, it’s also part of our identity, and holding it close often provides a sort of security. In the end, nobody can force healing upon us – only we can decide to part with our baggage.

“Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

– Maya Angelou

4) Forgive – After you’ve let your baggage go, there’s one more decision left to make. Decide not to worry about it. This is where forgiveness comes in. You don’t have to forget about the baggage; that’s not how forgiveness necessarily works. Instead, you need to release the bitterness, anger, resentment, or other negative manifestation so that you can truly be freed from the weight of your baggage. As the old saying goes, refusing to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

Alchemy

“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”

– Oscar Wilde

Alchemy is real – when you check your baggage…

  • Addiction can become advocacy;
  • Failure can become fruitfulness;
  • Misery can become ministry;
  • Pain can become purpose.

We won’t necessarily forget about disappointment or tragedy, or that someone else caused it. But we’ll mitigate its negative effects and encourage those around us in the process.

That’s how our baggage becomes a powerfully positive and impacting part of our life legacy.

 

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