All That You Can’t Leave Behind

In my business I sometimes get called in to advise during the disposition of an estate. It’s usually the same story – the heirs want to know what to do to get the home ready for sale. I walk around with them, in what was often their childhood home, and stare almost in disbelief at the aging “stuff” everywhere. The houses are usually museums to an era – mostly the 1970s – not only in décor but in the pop-culture prevalent then. There is rarely anything of monetary value. Quite frankly, it’s mostly junk and is disposed of accordingly. Everyone, to some degree, is a hoarder, clinging to the things that once made them feel good. Or maybe they just couldn’t let go of things they had invested time and money in. Or maybe they were just lazy…

Seeing this, time and again, I have brought home the idea that I do not want that for my kids. We make an effort to keep our “stuff” (junk!) to a minimum and always offer things to the kids or a neighbor before it goes to the thrift store or, as likely, to the curb on Wednesday for the pickers. Part of that is thanks to my mom who, when I or the kids visited her, always offered this or that to take home. You can’t take it with you and there is satisfaction in seeing someone else enjoy your treasures while alive.

But it goes much deeper than material possessions. We all carry baggage from the past, sometimes willingly, sometimes because we don’t know how to let it go, sometimes because it clings to us despite our best efforts. And just maybe because we are too lazy to do anything with it. The loves we’ve had, pain we have endured, abuse, poverty, sickness all leave their mark, and all add to the weight we carry. Sometimes the small slights from others build up and become a millstone around our necks and sometimes it’s a huge event or loss that just can’t be shaken loose. Many of us will go to our graves carrying an enormous emotional burden – if only it were as easy as giving it away or setting it on the curb come Wednesday!

Really, all we are is the baggage we carry, all we are is what we can’t leave behind.

When my wife and I started to travel a bit we always tended to over pack. The checked bag(s) would weigh a ton and, of course, we each had a carryon too, loaded with a change of clothes, prescriptions, books, and other essentials. Plus we had our jacket pockets full of electronic gear, kind of like the Scottie Vest advertised on TV. Everything seemed to be important, nothing could be left behind. And, really, we did need a lot of it. But as we refined our travel we managed to reduce the load to a simple bag, sometimes even sharing a suitcase. Because what you really need is surprisingly small and it was a revelation to travel light. So not all baggage is bad – you need those things that support your journey, you need the love and kindnesses and joys you have experienced. Those are the things the pickers don’t get and those are the things you can pass on to your kids.

The good baggage from your life, all that you shouldn’t leave behind, is much easier to carry.

A man ran up to Jesus one day and asked what he needed to inherit eternal life. Jesus gave him the standard answer consistent with the Jewish man’s beliefs. The man was pleased because he had done all this, his whole life. But then Jesus dropped this bombshell:

Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Mark 10:21

Ouch. The guy didn’t see that coming and his response proved it:

But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:22

That’s what stuff will do to us. We do not want to let it go, even if it slows us down, even if it is a burden, even if it keeps us from leaving this world behind and experiencing the best life imaginable. It is our tendency to choose to carry all our emotional burdens forward when, if we would let them go, if we could let them go, we would live life to its fullest.

I know it’s not that simple. It is hard to unpack our baggage, to choose what will occupy our journey with us, to lay down our burdens and move forward. But at some point, if we would know real life, we have to start. Stuff needs to go, it’s time to clean out the garage, drag it to the curb, make room for what is important. The Apostle Paul said it well:

No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us. Philippians 3:13-14 The Living Bible

I wish you peace with your past, love over hate, joy over pain, healing over sickness, abundance over lack. Whatever is keeping you from your best future I pray you can leave it behind, forgetting the things that are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.

Be more than all that you can’t leave behind.

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