Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The thing about unpacking

My oldest son came home from winter camp a week ago Monday. After getting snowed in for an extra day, I picked him up at the church tired and hungry. When we got home, he didn't even bring his suitcase in the house. At my directive, he dropped it in the garage near the washing machine. Nine days later, it's still sitting there. It looks like perhaps he has been to it, maybe rooted for a single necessary item, but he has not unpacked by any stretch of the imagination, and he certainly hasn't done in anything significant to deal with the items inside the suitcase.

Oddly enough, instead of wanting to wring Jake's neck, I am able to appreciate the irony on the unpacked suitcase I keep passing every time I head to the laundry. As I shared in my last post, as I was leaving church on Sunday, the Lord spoke to me about some unpacking of my own that I need to do.

My bag is a backpack though, and it's one the the Lord gave me revelation about as I was walking out of church. Unlike the traditional parable of the backpack of sin, the Lord was speaking to me about different baggage I have been carrying, a bag full of offense. This particular backpack is between me and one person in my life, who for a very long time I have felt wounded and offended by. And I have come to the point that I have realized, I just can't carry this weight around with me anymore.

I have tried many times over the years to lay the backpack down. I have heaved it off my shoulder and said to the Lord, "here you go, it's all yours" and tried to walk away. But what I have come to realize, is that the backpack is mine to keep, but the weights that are inside are what need to be removed, and the only way to do it is by pulling them out and laying them down, one stone at a time.

I don't know what it is about these "rocks," maybe they're more aptly referred to as coals, because even when I take them out and look at them, they still burn. It's like it brings the wound right back to the surface. But the Lord has asked me to unpack them, and trusting in his patience, I have asked Him if we could do it slowly. That way, when I lay down the stone, I can really leave it behind. Once I leave it at His feet, the deal is, I can never even mention it again.

So the Lord and I sat down together and I pulled open my sack. There on the top was a large offense, once I have been carrying for a long time. I looked at it and said, "It's not fair, if I give you that one, they're getting away with something that is really wrong." And I pushed it down deeper in the bag. I rooted around and found a different stone, it was littler, and if I looked deep enough, I knew there was another one very similar to it. This wound had been a "repeat offense." So I handed it to Him. "There," I said, "I won't ever bring that one up again. And then I closed my pack.

I sat there holding on to my pack, and I could feel the Lord watching me. And He asked me, "Do you know what I require of you?" The verse played immediately in my mind, it was fresh.

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

"Yes Lord," I said, "I know, You told me this before."

I am loving justice, and in that decision, I am not walking humbly before Him. Maybe I'm not even really walking at all, at best I am lumbering behind Him, at worst, I am completely stuck right where I'm at.

But I wasn't ready to move further. One rock at a time was what I had agreed to, and I had given Him the only rock I was willing to let go of.

Later that day, there was a new rock. "See!" I said, "How am I EVER supposed to unpack this when every time I give you something, they give me another rock to replace it?"

This rock wasn't really mine though, it had been handed to my husband. If I am honest, a lot of the rocks I am carrying may have been put in there from his hand to mine. As I looked at this one though, the Lord asked, "Are you sure that's an offense?"

It's offensive, but it's not really an offense against me. Truth be told, it's probably not even an offense against Neal. The Lord said, "You've become quite the collector of those rocks. You have come to the point that you wouldn't miss one that even resembles the real thing. And the problem is, you have been pointing them out to others too. Neal might have just walked past this one, but he's been listening to you for a long time." And it isn't just Neal.

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, "Offended people are easily offended." And some of us even like to spread the wealth.

I flipped open my bag, "But look Lord, some of these rocks, they're are legitimately wrong, personal and offensive." He just looked, and nodded.

And I moved them around inside the bag, "And look at all these, these little ones, all the times I have confronted the issue, or tried only to be belittled based on their power and position. I've been put in my place. And do You see the justifications???" And I flipped the top back closed.

Monday morning at our house ensued with a slight panic. My daughter couldn't find her glasses. Using them only for distance, she doesn't wear them all the time, for the most part they are in her backpack or in her desk at school. When she couldn't find them, she panicked with accusation about the carelessness of her brother. I grabbed her backpack and started to rustle through it.

Every day I write notes on the bottoms of my kids' sack lunches, and Victoria, my future hoarder and sentimental child doesn't throw them away. Sweet sentiment, but as I rooted through, I found one of the bags had exploded with a cup of yogurt that should have been thrown away. It's been a good couple of weeks since I even had yogurt in the house, so clearly, this was not a good sign. I had to get a trash bag and towels and had to throw away all the notes and bags, including the one with the week old banana.

The word picture wasn't lost on me. That's the thing about these old offenses in my bag too, they're messy and rotten, and if you get close enough, the stench of them will stick on you. I know down deep inside of this backpack of mine, some of these offenses have exploded into an even bigger mess than they started, and the only one dealing with the mess and the stink of it, is me.

I am still holding the bag. "It isn't fair," I keep repeating. "I want justice!" Because the truth is, I love justice, or my interpretation of it anyway.

"But I want you to love mercy," the Lord says, "and to do justly."

Oh how hard it is to know that what is hindering you is the very thing you are holding on to. I know I have to unpack. The backpack has a purpose, and I believe if I empty it out of the things I put in there that I shouldn't have, the Lord has better things for me to carry.

But it's hard. But I am determined. I do not care for the kink in my walk that this undo weight has created. As much as I would like to throw the stones back to where they came from, the only thing that will create is pain in new places, like a sore pitching arm.

There is only one place to lay down the weights, and it's at the foot of His cross. A place I am familiar with, a place where mercy flows. I know, because buried there are my own offenses, offenses not only against others, but most especially, against God, Himself. I love that mercy, but that mercy doesn't exist by itself, I can not hog it to myself. If it is good for me, it has to be good for those who have hurt me, even the one who has hurt me repeatedly. Because if it's no good for them, then it's no good for me either.

“For if you forgive men their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
But if you do not forgive men their trespasses,
neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:14-15

Sigh. I'm going to be honest with you. I don't know if I have the strength to do it. But I am more concerned with not being able to walk out the consequences if I don't. For now I am sitting here, at the foot of the cross, me and my backpack. It may take a while, but I'm not moving from this place until I finally get it unpacked, once and for all.

“Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Luke 6:37-38

As much as my bent is to love justice, I love the Lord more, and I am determined to do things His way, doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly before Him, in Jesus name.


angela said...

I stumbled upon your blog after seeing a link on a women of faith blog. It really touched my heart and hit home! Unpacking my 'offenses' is something I've struggled so hard with this past year myself. It literally took months to clean out that largest boulder. You see, it was an offense that anyone would have felt justified in feeling. It was an offense that cut through the most delicate yet strongest part of my being- it regarded my child. But then, it seems, this boulder kept growing larger, like an ice rather than stone. My wound soon became wounds (also by a'repeat offender') and soon they offended my motherhood and simply the woman I felt God created me to be. I was left with an iceberg in my sack. And it took me months to chip away at it. I struggled at the thought of even starting the chipping. I felt justified in my offense. But, God also told me otherwise. When I finally started widdling away, I found the floodgates of God's love and wisdom flowing down. He taught be SO much in the hard work of chipping away at my offenses. I learned to take complete and total responsibility for this offense. (Something I never imagined I'd be able to do! I mean, I was truly justified in my offense.) How freeing! You see, I would have never been offended in the first place had I set some boundaries in my life to prevent myself and my family from ever even being in the position to be offended. I learned to take responsibility in my 'reactions' as well. In no time, the warmth of His love simply melted that iceberg. I looked at my offender with new eyes, the eyes of Him who created all things. And, now God has restored and renewed my relationship with this person in amazing ways. It was one of the most trying times I've ever faced with a friend, but I wouldn't take it back. I've been blessed with wisdom, and a richer friendship because of them. It's hard, and it may take time- but unpack that backpack and you'll find it filled back up with wisdom, grace and love that can only be found in the One who makes all things new!

Thanks for sharing your story. I am always amazed how God speaks to me... simply in stumbling upon your blog is a wonderful confirmation of what He wants for my life. =D


angela said...

Great site, by the way! I feel it's written as if you are a 'friend' sharing your stories, struggles and wisdom learned. =D It was nice to find. I will be bookmarking it and checking back often. (I've been recovering from illness and unable to work for a month now, or do much at all for that matter. I've been spending a lot of time online while I lay in bed- so it's a blessing to find inspirational nuggets from Him to brighten my days.) thanks! =D