When I first watched The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe I noticed the suitcases everyone was carrying in the train station. I wondered how in the world they fit their entire lives into those small suitcases. They had to carry these bags to the train station, to their seat, to the car after they got off the train, and then to their new home. While carrying those bags to the train station was temporary, the bags we all carry around each day are not.
Our bags may be invisible, the weight of a divorce, a difficult child, or decisions that we made that have hurt us or someone around us. The bags of trauma we carry from an abusive childhood, or an abusive relationship. These bags are heavier than the 50 pound limit at the airport aren’t they? Our bags may be visible, such as hair loss from chemo treatment, or bruises from a fight we got into with our spouse last night. All of us, one or the other carry our own bags.
We often hear the term baggage used to describe people’s crap they leave lingering in their lives, they react based on this baggage, or they shut down based on their baggage. Yet somehow, bags are different for me. I imagine myself, walking around with a backpack on. My backpack includes hurt from my parents divorce, the painful loss of loved ones, postpartum depression, and hurting my spouse with my words and actions. I could go on continuing to list the crap in my bag, but I will spare you.
While I wholeheartedly believe that these bags we carry around with us every day are direct result of our sinful world and our sinful nature, I also believe that we don’t have to live carrying those bags. For me, in high school I was in a very emotionally abusive relationship. While I couldn’t see at the time the toll it took on me, it ended up directly affecting all of my future relationships. As a kid, I was often intentionally left out of people’s plans and what felt like, always forgotten.
These bags have for the most part, shaped who I am today. But, I do not let them define me. That was never God’s plan. We walk around saying, “I’m a waste, he said I was a waste.” While that human may have said you were a waste, I promise you, God never for one day of your life has felt that you were a waste. The weight of our suitcases that we drag behind us can be excruciating. We let them grow around our ankles like a gigantic ball and chain, pulling us down with every step we take.
When we step into a conflict with someone, we strap on our backpack to react, speak, and fight according to what is in our bag. We decide that these things, our experiences and perspectives are the only important things. While everyone else around us has different experiences and perspectives. Carrying our bags alone can often feel very hopeless. I remember telling my younger self, “you have to figure this out on your own, you’ve got to strap on your boots and get it done Amanda.” Wow am I glad that, that is not the truth because fighting my battles alone, I’ve always lost.
About two years ago now I wrote about my struggles in my marriage, my temptations to step over where the “grass is greener” and how it impacted my relationship with my husband. To be completely honest, that is still a struggle. After having Judah, I slipped away from myself and didn’t recognize the woman I had become. It became easy to feel like no one cared about me, to cry about no one wanting to see me or hang out with me. It was easy to look at Aaron and say, “he doesn’t do enough around the house, I do everything.” I cried in the shower, in my bedroom, in the car, on my way to work, in the bathroom at work, anywhere where no one would see me. I packed this in my bag and took it with me wherever I went.
Now Judah is almost a year old (what?!?!?) and I’ve finally reached out to speak to a counselor, and I’ve finally began to face head on the way I’ve felt the last 11 months.
What is really most important to me when writing this blog is that others may come to understand that they are not alone. A huge part of my postpartum journey has been to let people back into my life, to share with them, to let them wash my dishes, or let them babysit Judah. I’ve learned the hard way that self care is not selfish. We run ourselves ragged trying to put on a show and take care of everyone else, and we ignore our own needs.
Moms of young children have an especially hard time realizing this. I work part time, go to school online, and still want to spend valuable time with my family. I rarely sleep the “appropriate” amount of hours a night, as at night all is silent, and no one needs me. If you are a mom of a young child and you have the resources, I would encourage you to spend some time each week, focusing on yourself. What small things used to bring you so much joy? Watching your favorite tv show? Or reading a blog online? Or baking cookies? We need to help each other unload our bags. We can’t continue to walk through the world carrying these on our backs anymore.
Our Easter campaign at church for 2017, is called Fully Alive. We want to feel fully alive in all aspects of our lives, this week we spoke about being physically alive. We learned about how much stress takes a literal physical toll on our body and can change the rate we are aging. While some aspects of being physically alive (eating better, drinking less soda, or exercising more) aren’t exactly appealing to me, I know the stress I have felt over the last year, a lot being self inflicted, has taken a toll on my body.
So I want to ask anyone who is reading this if you’ll unpack your bags with me? Whatever stress you’ve packed up, whatever hurt you have kept tucked away, will you start to work through letting that go? Trust me, I know it isn’t easy. I’m in the middle of it right now, and it is not very pleasant. But, I do know what it feels like to finally be free of the baggage, and to feel like a new person. I’ll pray for you today as maybe you are struggling with the weight of your bag, and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. You are so loved, and so beautiful.