What Extra Crap Are You Carrying in Your Backpack?

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This poor little girl is so weighted down by her backpack that she looks like a Himalayan Sherpa! (courtesy of  spineuniverse.com)

This poor little girl is so weighted down by her backpack that she looks like a Himalayan Sherpa! (courtesy of spineuniverse.com)

“let us throw off everything that hinders. . . ” Hebrew 12:1a (NIV)

 My favorite Swiss Army backpack had seen better days. The zippers no longer remained zipped and I became fearful that as I walked I would start to leave a trail of debris behind me like some modern day Hansel and Gretel. Taking the suggestion of a colleague, I opted to order the free backpack available through my employer.  After all, I was lugging around a company furnished laptop in my old backpack anyway.

To say my new backpack was less spacious and luxurious than my old one was an understatement. I quickly realized that in order to use my new backpack, I was going to have to jettison some of the non- essential items I had been carrying around in my old backpack.  As I went through my old backpack I realized I was carrying around a bunch of extra “crap.”    Crap is not the word of choice to describe something that is valuable or necessary.  The extra stuff in my backpack did not start out as crap.  It was useful once.  However like bread at a thrift store bakery, that had started out fresh but had gone beyond its useful shelf life, it was time to throw it out it.  Although I do not care for my new backpack as much as I do my old one, it is certainly much lighter and easier to maneuver as I observed on a recent out of town business trip.

Ironically, that out of town business trip was to attend an executive mastery session hosted by consulting firm, Gap International.   During the session, the Gap consultants walked us participants through completing the year.  We reviewed our successes and accomplishments as well as our disappointment and regrets.  We discussed what we would need to do “get complete” for the year.  This might entail acknowledging the work of our staff, or having a difficult conversation with someone that we’d been putting off.   The idea was to “close the books” on the year, so that one could enter the new year with a fresh start.

After the session, I came to see that cleaning out the extra crap in my old backpack was a metaphor for other areas of my life.  Was there stuff I was carrying around that had outlived its purpose and was no longer useful?  Was there bitterness I had failed to release?  Were there grudges I was harboring? Was I carrying around regrets over failures in the past that were thwarting my current progress?  I was reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” A yoke is a device for joining a pair of oxen together.  It is meant to redistribute the load the oxen are carrying, making it easier to carry the burden.   When we “team up” with Jesus, he makes our load lighter.

While you’re making year-end preparations, why not “close the books” with Jesus?  Dump all of the hurt, pain bitterness and disappointment from your backpack into his.   Like releasing the ballast from a submarine, or sandbags from a hot-air balloon, you will be able to ascend to higher heights.     “The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights” – Habakkuk 3:19a.  I can’t think of a better way to close out 2012 and begin 2013.

Remaining Upright

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Crossing the finish line – courtesy of sfgate.com

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. Hebrews 12:1-2a (NLT)

In my last post entitled, Derailed, I wrote about how we can allow a sense of entitlement or blind ambition to cause us to be become deflected or derailed from achieving a goal, a purpose or even our life’s mission.  In this post I want to address how we successfully fight and win the battle against derailment and what to do if we find ourselves derailed.

Winning the fight

  • Realize you are not immune – Suppose you found yourself in an environment where your chances for contracting a contagious and deadly disease were high.  What precautions would you take?  You might don gloves, goggles and a protective mask at a minimum.  Perhaps you would seek protection from a biohazard suit.  News flash – we do indeed exist in such an environment and the highly communicable disease is sin.  In order to prevent infection, awareness is the first step.  1 Corinthians 10:12 offers this warning, ‘So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” – (NIV).
  • Build up your immune system – During cold and flu season we are encouraged to strengthen our immune systems by receiving flu vaccines and taking supplements such as vitamin C or echinacea.  Christians have a spiritual immune system.  Our first line of defense is God himself in the person of the Holy Spirit that takes up residence in the heart of every believer at the moment of conversion.  We must be proactive in nurturing our relationship with the Holy Spirit through the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study.
  • Take advantage of herd immunity – In the study of infectious diseases a term is used called “herd immunity.” Herd immunity is the resistance to the spread of infectious disease in a group because susceptible members are few, making transmission from an infected member unlikely.  God provides us with herd immunity through fellowship with other believers.  When we interact with fellow believers, we have the opportunity to strengthen and encourage one another.  Have you ever been sick and either ignored it or was unaware you were sick in the first place?  You needed someone to point out your condition and encourage (or nag) you to seek medical attention.  While not practiced as often as it should be, we have the responsibility to hold one another accountable.  Like King David, from time to time we all need a prophet Nathan telling us, “you are the man!” and confront us with our sinful practices.  We also need to be a Nathan for others.  It is for the sake of preserving herd immunity that the author of the book of Hebrews writes, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – (10:35 – NIV).

Becoming upright again

  •  Hit the attendant call button – Some years ago a TV commercial aired for a service called Life Call.  Life Call was designed to assist senior citizens desirous of independent living but also wanting the assurance of assistance in the event of a medical emergency.  The Life Call user  wore a pendant around his or her neck. If a medical emergency did arise the person in distress simply pressed a button on the pendant and spoke about their condition to a dispatcher who had been automatically notified.  While not intended to be humorous, viewers, including me, found the commercial hilarious for the now infamous line, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”  If we ignore all of God’s road sign and careen into a ditch or over an embankment, he will not leave us there.  We simply need to cry out to God, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”  Psalm 18:6a states, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice.”
  • Go through rehab – We may have to suffer the consequences of our derailment.   A physical derailment may result in bodily injuries requiring therapeutic rehabilitation.  So to, may a spiritual derailment do injury to our souls.   But take heart. We have the confident assurance that God will be with us throughout the rehab process.   God answered David’s prayer to restore to him the joy of his salvation and he will answer your prayer to do the same if you but simply ask.