Since moving to Alaska, we ended up with two sort of posh Eddie Bauer backpacks, a green one that I justified buying with all the travel because of living in bush Alaska and a black that I won (thanks for entering me, Jim!).
Not long after sporting my new green backpack, I noticed something strange. The moment I put anything in, it felt heavier than what I would expect. I’ve at times even checked and double checked to make sure I wasn’t going crazy that there was something hidden in the pockets (like a hand weight I forgot about? Seriously!!) If my Bible and a notebook make it feel like I’m carrying three large textbooks, then I’m definitely not going to be using that handy laptop compartment, thank you very much. I’ve concluded the design is horrible, Eddie Bauer.
Emotional baggage is like a heavy backpack. Think high school when, if you were unorganized like me, you didn’t even know what was in the bottom of the bag until you took time to clean it out at the end of the year.
Or like the time in high school my friend Noah’s mom brought him a Wendy’s cheeseburger as an after school treat and Noah stuffed the wadded up remainder of his burger into the outside pocket of my backpack. You know, the pocket I never had a reason to open. This led to much confusion and multiple locker searches by me and the people in surrounding lockers trying to figure out WHERE IS THAT SMELL COMING FROM?? It was a few weeks before I stumbled upon that lovely little treasure. Be glad reading isn’t a 4D experience.
Maybe your emotional baggage is like that. You realize that something is really beginning to stink. It comes out in weird ways, like explosive anger at your kids or spouse, leaving you thinking the problem is the circumstances or people around you rather than in you.
With a bad neck, the first thing I do once I exit an airplane is look for a way to put my carry on backpack down because my shoulders are screaming until I do. Now, imagine what a fuss my shoulders would give if I happened to ignore their screaming and continued to wear the bag around the house and during my daily activities? Ridiculous, right?
What if every pain you ever experienced is something you are literally carrying? You have collected all those hurts and they are a jumbled mess in your emotional backpack.
Some of the hurts you have forgotten, but your heart hasn’t.
Some of them you remember in too vivid detail.
Some are ones you wish you could forget.
Some memories you might be surprised to see, not realizing why they have control over you. It wasn’t that bad, was it?
Here’s a litmus test. If you can recall a memory and it makes you feel an emotion other than peace, it is most likely still controlling you in some way.
What ways is your baggage causing your heart to scream for attention but instead you ignore the pain and turn to your coping behavior for relief? Maybe you don’t even realize you are coping, you just know that the thought of those oreos keeps compulsively popping in your head and it is a whole lot easier to go in the kitchen and devour them than sort through a bag of messy, raw emotions you would rather not think about.
The weight you are carrying will not be released until you open that bag and face what is inside. This is scary. This is threatening. It takes a brave heart and trust that Jesus can help you face whatever is inside.
Depression is something I have struggled with a lot since high school. More times than I can count, actually.
I read something that blew my mind this past year–Chip Dodd’s book Voice of the Heart described depression as “depression isn’t a feeling,instead it is not feeling.”
It’s like carrying around a too heavy backpack and telling yourself that it isn’t full and you’re not uncomfortable.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized just how much pain I was unknowingly carrying around. I mean I knew I was depressed. I just didn’t realize that I was trying so hard to NOT feel anything because the pain inside was too great. But the relief that came from sorting through that heavy bag and no longer being burdened by stuff from my past is like nothing else I have ever experienced.