Seattle to Dallas/Fort Worth to Gulfport, Mississippi by plane….renting a car to drive to somewhere in Louisiana…hotel, rehearsal dinner, photographing a wedding….driving back to Gulfport, flight to Dallas, dinner with a friend, a few hours of sleep, flight to Phoenix….attend a memorial service, share tears, connect with a few old friends….sleep…back on a plane to Seattle.  THAT is what the last five days have held for me!

Moments of joy, moments of deep conversation, moments of creativity and moments of grief.  And the one constant in these tumultuous few days?  The baggage I carried.

Now, I try to travel light but my backpack – fully stocked with all my camera equipment and laptop – makes me look a little like a turtle with a massive shell on her back.  But it is easy enough to get around with.  I pull out what I need from it, use it and then put it back.  It stays behind me and allows me to have my hands free.

My little red bag however, is a bit of a different story.  Though not very big, I can pack a lot into it so it tends to get heavy.  I continuously need to switch arms as I carry it.  It rubs along my leg and creates a raw patch of skin or it stays in front of me, needing to be carried by both arms at the crux of my elbows.  It is cumbersome for me to carry (perhaps because I am vertically challenged) and almost impossible to run with (which I know firsthand from the airport in Mississippi!).  The worst part is when I am alone on a trip and don’t have anyone to “watch my bags for a moment”.  I have to take it with me wherever I go.  Even when I just want to grab a bite to eat, it turns into a master juggling act as I try to hold a cup of hot coffee in one hand while precariouly balancing a bowl of oatmeal on top of the cup (can you tell where I went for breakfast?) all while clinging tightly to the baggage in the other hand.

Yes, in the last five days I have lifted, shoved, opened, closed, heaved, crammed, balanced and lived with my little red bag.

Then, on Monday night, as I sat at a memorial service….God spoke.  His words were from Hebrews 12.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”

And I got the picture of me walking down the aisle of that church with my little red bag and leaving it on the front platform/alter area.

It was at that moment I realized I have been carrying around “stuff” that hindered me from running the race that God has set before me.  Even though my bag was small and I could still function in everyday life, it was taking up space and using up energy and God wanted me to be done with it.  In my mind’s eye, as I pictured turning and leaving my baggage there, I heard Him explicitly say, “That is done.  DO NOT pick it back up!”

As the memorial service ended, we were invited to stand and sing.  As I rose to my feet, I realized that because I had laid aside that encumbrance, my hands were free.  There was no weighty bag to shift and juggle and keep balanced.  My hands were free to raise in worship to the glory of the God who had taken my baggage!  My hands were free to say (along with my heart), “Yes, Lord.  I will lay it all aside and RUN the race with endurance.”  It was good to finally release that load!!

And…just as a side note:  as a symblolic act of obedience, on my way home from Phoenix to Seattle….I checked my little bag.  I handed it over to the airline and let them carry it home for me!

Lord, Thank You – for Your word, for the little red bag and for Your call to lay it aside and RUN the race.  Help me to leave it there.  But when I am tempted to pick it back up, help to remember its cumbersome heaviness and also the freedom of lifting empty hands in worship to You!