Posted by: mmreflections | August 11, 2010

High Cost of Excess Baggage: August, 2010

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  My yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

Recently as I stood in line to check my baggage at the airline counter in preparation for a flight back East, I noticed a passenger ahead of me at the counter feverishly unpacking some of the articles in his luggage.  It appeared his luggage was seriously over the weight limit and the additional cost for all he was about to check was staggering.  He was totally frustrated and was tossing various items into a plastic bag which he would have had to carry on the plane.  Noticeably anxious and nervous because he was holding up other travelers who needed to check luggage, he seemed to be ready to throw most of his stuff away just to complete his check-in.  I felt sorry for him and his dilemma as I recalled the times I was traveling with more baggage than I needed.  I have since learned how much more pleasant and relaxed a trip can be by traveling with less baggage.  Airline travel today has become much more expensive and excess baggage increases the cost.

As I was sitting on the plane preparing for departure and observing other passengers boarding, I became aware of expressions of annoyance and frustration on the faces of people trying to find space for their carry-on bags in the overhead compartments and under their seats.  As the overhead bins were getting filled up, tension seemed to mount as the last passengers boarded and could find no place to store their excess baggage.  I almost felt a little guilty with the small carry-on bag fitting easily under the seat in front of me, allowing me comfortable leg room, while some passengers were left with little space to even move their legs or relax.

Smiling at myself for becoming such a savy traveler after all these years, I leaned back in my seat resting as best I could for the long flight ahead of me.  But then I realized I   was carrying a load of excess baggage myself.  The excess baggage I was carrying was of a different kind but even more expensive.  This excessive baggage was causing me a great deal of unnecessary frustration, anxiety and stress.  The cost to me is hard to determine but I realized the price was high and I have had to pay it many times over.

 As a child of God and a person of faith, I often wondered why the fruits of the Holy Spirit were not more genuinely, faithfully and generously manifested in my life.  The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Upon closer examination it had become more apparent that it was the burden of excessive emotional and other baggage preventing the natural flow of these beautiful fruits of the Spirit.  Sitting quietly in the presence of God and praying for the Lord to heal my inner blindness that I might become aware of the excessive baggage unconsciously loaded upon my shoulders, I slowly began to see.  A life time of fears, shame, guilt, doubts, worry, negative thoughts, failures, sins, prejudices, judgments, wounds, resentments have been piling up and weighing me down.  Most of this “stuff” had accumulated as a result of all the experiences, good and seemingly bad, heaped upon us by our families, our teachers, our religions and normal life situations.  In the process of growing up many of us have not shaken off the burdens placed upon us by others who thought they were helping us but were actually hurting us because they did not really know us.

There are those of us who have given up on our dreams because of the influences of others; we have not been true to ourselves.  The thought of coming to the end of our life and discovering we have not fulfilled our purpose for being here can be disheartening.  What happens to us with all this stuff on our shoulders is that we open ourselves in our frustrations to actions that pull us down:  anger,  hatred, rivalry, jealousy, selfishness, dissensions, factions, envy, addictions, greed, judgments, prejudices and a multitude of other shadows.   We are unable to experience the love of God in our lives when we get caught up in this darkness.  It is not that we have been abandoned by God but that we have become blinded to God’s presence in our lives.

The Psalmist describes very well the state we may find ourselves in as a result of the excessive baggage and the ensuing burdens weighing upon us.  Forgetting the truth of God’s unconditional love for us we cry out:

Lord, punish me no more in your anger; in your wrath do not chastise me!  Your arrows have sunk deep in me; your hand has come down upon me…..  my frame aches because of my sin.  My iniquities overwhelm me, a burden beyond my strength.  I am stooped and deeply bowed; all day I go about mourning.  Lord, my deepest yearning is before you; my groaning is not hidden from you.  My strength forsakes me; the very light of my eyes has failed.  Lord, I wait for you; O Lord, my God, answer me.  For I fear they will gloat, exult over me if I stumble.  I am very near to falling; my pain is with me always.  Forsake me not, O Lord; my God, be not far from me.  Come quickly to help me.  (Confer Psalm 38:1-23)

I wonder how many of us have felt this way on many occasions.  We may have forgotten that this is not the life God has planned for us.  Nevertheless, we find ourselves feeling defeated and weighed down.  Each day the news brings us tragic stories of people whose lives have been destroyed in various ways.  We hear about powerful people and celebrities who have everything they want and more than they need but are still unhappy and burdened by baggage of which the public is unaware.  The great numbers of youthful suicides and tragedies should cause us to pay more close attention to the sadness and depression in those nearest to us.  We witness every day the terrible price being paid for the excessive burdens so many of us are carrying.

When reflecting on my own journey I realize how deceived I was in believing life was supposed to be like this.  It seemed natural to be going through daily life with a load on my shoulders.  Life seemed to be filled with anxieties and concerns about what was going on in the world, in our nation, in our families, in our personal lives.  It seems the burdens of the whole world were on our shoulders.  Added to this were all the other fears heaped upon us by those in authority.  It is almost like the powers around us are trying to control us by bombarding us with all kind of doomsday scenarios.  What a terrible burden to carry on our shoulders; this baggage that makes it difficult to live in peace and joy in our frenzied world.  The business and burdens of life steal the joy we could be experiencing.

In the midst of it all I hear a gentle, still, quiet voice deep within me saying, “He’s got the whole wide world in his hands; he’s got you and me, brother, in his hands; he’s got you and me, sister, in his hands; he’s got the whole world in His hands.”  I don’t need to weigh myself down with matters over which I have no control.  Smiling at myself with the peaceful realization that I need not carry all this excessive baggage on my shoulders anymore, I lean back in my seat peacefully relaxing in arms of the Lord.  No extra charge! The price for our peace has already been paid!

“Maltreated and oppressed, we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil and our burdens.  He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders…..”  (Deuteronomy 26:7-8)

 

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Responses

  1. Dear Fr. Mike,
    How you touch the depths of our hearts with your thoughts. We all desperately cry out to God to take our burdens from our shoulders. I have even remembered when an elderly neighbor of mine long ago told me to just ‘ask not for burdens taken off, but to just ask for broader shoulders on which to carry them’. I always thought that was one way of looking at it, but I wish she were still alive to share theses thoughts of your’s with her. How wise you are, God has given you the gift of showing us ways of confronting burdens. I have struggled with burdens for so long, often punishing myself inwardly for something I didn’t understand. You put it all in one reflection today for me. Thank you.
    Every reflection you write, guides me to a better way of handling things. I can never thank you enough for all the help you give me and many, many others.
    God Bless you
    Kitty

  2. Such powerful insights, Father Mike. Thanks. Charlie K.

  3. Wonderful Father Mike… as always.. Love to you and Jan
    T

  4. Hi Father Mike,

    I especially liked this reflection. I think we all seem to carry that excess baggage around, and your words give us some solace knowing that God does truly hold all of us in His hands.
    Thank you and God bless you.
    Andrea

  5. Fr. Mike
    Once again your writings stir our souls.
    From our early lives we add more and more baggage that we think will help us down our path, because we really don’t know better, when in reality it only complicates our lives in a very complicated world. Your writings are a way for us to dispose of some excess baggage and better understand our path and place in life, that Our Lord has given us. AJ

  6. Dear Fr. Mike,
    You are gifted in your writing. I’m working hard to learn the way to keep a balance in my spiritual life.
    Your reflections have become an important part of my reading.
    Thank you for sharing your gift.
    Love,
    Bunny


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