Bag lady you gone hurt your back, draggin all them bags like that (lyric from Bag Lady performed by, Erykah Badu)
We have come to nickname our three year old the bag lady. In short, she loves bags. Well, this may be a bit of an understatement, so let me say it again. She looooovvvvveeeessss bags!!!
She is indiscriminate in her love for bags. She loves big bags and little bags alike. She loves bags of all shapes and colors. She loves backpacks and purses and canvas bags. Basically, if it’s a bag she loves it.
Not only that, she loves to carry multiple bags at a time. She has been known to have four to five bags, wrapped around her arms, shoulders and in her hands at a time. And these are not empty bags either. They are all stuffed with stuff. There have been many times she has a bag so full, she can’t squeeze a single other item into it.
It’s funny to watch, but it does seem to be approaching something of an obsession. It seems to be moving more away from a cute idiosyncrasy to a full-blown compulsion. The last thing on her mind at night is where her bag of the day is. (We try to make her last thought her nightly prayers, but we are often unsuccessful in this endeavor.) The first thing she thinks of when she awakes in the morning: her bag from the night before.
There have even been occasions when she has come into our bedroom at night with bag in hand. It gets pretty crowded with a dad, mom, two girls and a tote bag in the bed!
It is quite comical to watch her fussing over her bag or bags at any given time. She takes great pride in them and wants everyone to know it is her bag. (This is something her younger sister has not yet learned to acknowledge or fully appreciate!)
As I have watched our little bag lady, God has taught me an important spiritual lesson or two. First, we like to carry around our proverbial bags of stuff too. Bags that are cumbersome and weighty. Bags that slow our progress and ache our joints. Bags that have stuff in them we would never possibly use or benefit from in the least. Bags that are old and tattered and at the breaking point.
We have our baggage. We, like Marley, have our chains fettered to our ankles and wrists that we struggle to lift and carry. We groan against our chains. Our flesh is sore against the strain of their iron. Yet, we carry them. And as believers in Christ, we carry them voluntarily.
In other words, our baggage, our chains are not necessary. We can, at any time, release them and in return, we will be released from them. We can be free.
Jesus gave us this wonderful, life-changing promise:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Mt. 11.28-29)
We need not carry them any longer. Unfortunately, we are so busy carrying things we have no need to carry, we neglect the one thing Christ commanded us to carry: our cross. The cross is far weightier than any of our old baggage. It is far more demanding than any shackle could ever be.
Does this sound odd? Why advocate giving up baggage and chains only to become ensnared by the pain of a daily cross? Well, first, because as a disciple of Christ I am commanded to do so. Secondly, the cross, while heavy and demanding (demanding my very self-life) is also liberating and rewarding.
It is one of the many paradoxes we find in Christ. Life comes to us via our daily cross. After all, resurrection can only occur when a person is a corpse, not before. It is through the daily walk, the staggering under the weight of our daily cross that we find the peace and mind of Christ. It is only through dying to ourselves that we find the life of Christ manifested in and through us.
So, weary soul, lay down your heavy load. Take up the call of Christ and find in him the arduous and wonderful journey that all his disciples know and cherish. It is a high calling. It calls for everything and nothing less. But, he has given us his all already. And by his strength, by his Holy Spirit we can follow humbly and joyously in his footsteps.
May we, as believers in Christ, be not defined as bag-toters, but as cross carriers.