Don’t Wait for the Storm, Toss the Baggage Now

Posted on August 14, 2012. Filed under: Culture, Relationships, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , , , , , |

Our church is currently studying the book of Jonah, which is actually one of my favorite books. It’s not just because like every child of the 90s, I have a soft spot in my heart for whales (if that kid could train a killer whale, anyone can). The book of Jonah is great because it’s short, easy to understand and full of satire (obviously my favorite literary technique).

As I was reading through the first chapter, this verse stood out to me:

“Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship” (Jonah 1:5).

Just to refresh your memory, the book begins with the prophet Jonah running from God.  Jonah was commanded by God to warn the Assyrians living in Nineveh to repent or be destroyed. Historically speaking, the Assyrians were pagans; and not your tree-hugging, Green Peace types; they were the skinning people alive and washing them down with a nice Chianti. Naturally, Jonah was worried he would become man-stew or man-jerky, so hopped on a boat, and went as far as he could in the opposite direction (Tarshish is in modern-day Spain). Unfortunately, disobeying a direct order from God may induce hurricane force winds as a side effect. While the storm was raging, the non-Hebrew sailors began tossing things over board to lighten the load and avoid sinking.

Why do we wait until we’re in the middle of a storm to toss out our extra baggage? Though the sailors may have thrown over some valuable belongings, they would have kept the items that they needed for the trip, the things that were irreplaceable. Only those items that were needlessly occupying space and weight would have been abandoned (thus, Jonah had to go).

I think we’re all guilty of carrying around too much baggage. For some of us, the baggage is extraordinarily heavy and burdensome, possibly past mistakes, relationships, or life choices that are still weighing us down.

But baggage doesn’t always have to be one heavy load, it could just be a bunch of small stuff that adds up. I realized my ship had a few too many fillers in it, like endlessly scanning status updates on Facebook and being too interested in the news cycle. Neither of these are bad by themselves, but they aren’t exactly life-enhancing either.

Psalm 90:12 reads, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Extra baggage demands time and energy that we too often take for granted. It keeps us from living life and loving others to the fullest. Life doesn’t employ the TSA to inappropriately grope you or screen your luggage to ensure you aren’t carrying something you shouldn’t be. Sadly, it usually takes a storm in our life for us to realize we’ve been hauling around too much.

What nonessential cargo are you guilty of storing? Is anything keeping you from connecting with others or connecting with God? Perhaps you just need to play a little baggage Tetris by setting priorities. But you might also realize there are few things you should probably toss overboard before a storm forces you to do so. But I’ll bet after a little time, you’ll find you don’t really miss that extra baggage anyways.

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