‘Europe’, I exclaimed. ‘That will be totally fantastic’. Then came the question that pops first in every woman’s mind, ‘What shall I wear?’ Followed closely by, ‘Which suitcase will I take?’
Travelling through life is exhilarating at times. We walk with lightness, there’s a spring in our step, joy in our heart and a smile on our face. At other times travelling through life is excruciatingly difficult. We walk as if carrying a heavy weight, our steps drag, pain in our heart and a frown on our face.
There are times when Jesus will come along side and say, ‘Let Me carry that heavy weight for you’, and there are times when Jesus will say, ‘Will you please unload and leave behind some of that excess weight you are carrying?’
1. Let me carry the weight for you.
We recently travelled through parts of Europe. Because a section of the trip was ministry before holiday it was necessary for me to pack both ministry and casual clothes. Hence my case was full, though one always leaves a little room for shopping!
A portion of our travel in Rome was by train. After arriving at our designated station, we found the exit and were horrified to be met with two flights of downward stairs. I thought, ‘Really, Rome, I am in the heart of a tourist area and you give me stairs!’ I looked at John and he looked at me, then he carried both his and my case down the stairs.
Along a passage we went and then there before us were two flights of stairs leading up. I won’t repeat what I thought this time! John looked at me and I looked at him, then he carried both his and my case up the stairs.
There are times in life and ministry when the load we find ourselves being required to carry is excruciatingly back breaking heavy. The load can be beyond our control or simply just be standing there staring us down when we lift our eyes. When the weight is this heavy we need someone to come alongside to carry it for us for a time. That person is Jesus.
As John looked at me and I looked at him, we both knew my case was too heavy for me to carry down and up those stairs by myself. Jesus knows the weight we can carry and He is right there to help us as needed.
1 Peter 5:7 says ‘Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you’.
Jesus has carried me during various personal heavy load times. When church has been the last place I want to be and His people the last people I want to see; He has carried me with His grace, an emotional buoyancy, a smiling mask and His strength in my weakness.
2. Will you please unload the weight?
Unless we learn to travel through life lightly off loading and leaving behind excess luggage there is a strong possibility we will not make it all the way through to successfully fulfil all that God has planned for us.
I arrived at the airport luggage counter with a friend who was an itinerate minister departing to continue to the next leg of her journey. Having already made a few stops before Perth my friend’s case was bulging with all those ‘little things’ one picks up along the way, so much so that her case stitching had begun to split. My suggestion to leave some of the excess behind was stubbornly rejected.
When my friend placed her case on the scales it registered as being overweight. She was then given the choice to remove the excess or pay for each additional kilo it was overweight. My friend opened her purse and presented her card while her case was being tagged ‘heavy’.
Every kilogram of excess weight we carry in the luggage of our life will bring with it immense ramifications and personal cost to self.
Are you like my friend, travelling the journey of life and accumulating, rather than off-loading, items of excess along the way? These items might be: holding a grudge, disappointment, a harmful habit, unforgiveness, guilt, unresolved contention, revenge; or possibly Holy Spirit is speaking to you about a different item of excess you are carrying.
When we consistently carry excess, it isn’t long before we become stressed and exhausted. Our shoulders droop, our head drops, we naval gaze, become focused on self and grizzle about the hardness of the way.
My friend arrived at the airport knowing full well that her case was overweight. She had prayed that God would cause the attendant to turn a blind eye to this fact and let her case go through without consequence. God desires for us to take responsibility for and use our initiative to off load excess weight we carry in our lives. Scripture is full of ‘If you will, then I will’.
Here are five guidelines that I action for living life lightly:
First one is to keep short accounts with God. Deal with issues that arise between you and God quickly. When you have done something contrary to what you know God wants or when your life isn’t matching up with the Word of God, take the initiative as soon as possible to put the matter right with Him.
Eg. ‘Lord, I’m sorry I’ve been ignoring You’; ‘My attitude today was lousy and I ran off at the mouth, please forgive me’.
A scripture to commit to memory is: ‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from every wrong doing’ (1 John 1:9). The emphasis being on us confessing and then God forgiving.
Second one is to process offenses and hurts quickly. To not hold on to offenses, disappointments, hurts, and the like. Work diligently to not let your thoughts dwell on or stew on these issues or allow them to keep rerunning repeatedly consuming your thinking. This is draining on both emotional and physical energy.
Eg. I could have stewed for days, rerun a conversation over and over in my mind and thought many nasty thoughts toward certain people. Like the woman who criticized the way I parent my child; the man who told me it was about time my husband bought me a new dress; or the woman who ran her finger along the cabinet in my home then held up her finger to show me the dust on it.
It is essential to ‘bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ’
(2 Cor 10:5). Capture your first thought. The first time you think a thought, grab it and control it. Deal with the matter and have the conversation with the offending person if necessary.
Third one is to develop forgiveness as a life-style rather than an event which happens occasionally. Forgiveness as part of your life-style is hugely beneficial in releasing all those daily niggles out of your mind and emotions.
Eg. I was in a mad rush and just had time to dash into the shopping centre to purchase what I needed. The car park was full. I spied an empty spot. I was just about to pull in when another driver zapped in before me. I took a deep breath, followed by verbalizing to myself, ‘I forgive you’.
Eg. Family night was all planned. The fun was about to start. And, you guessed it. The phone rang. Someone had a pastoral care crisis which needed my husband in attendance. I gave a deep sigh of understanding, kissed him as he went out the door and verbalized to myself, ‘I forgive you for having to go’, also ‘I forgive you for having a crisis and messing up our family night when we wanted him home with us.’
Forgive and release. If I hadn’t learnt to have forgiveness as my first response it is more than likely these incidents, or similar, would ruin my day, my week, or I could hold a grudge against someone which would only result in adding additional weight to my life case.
Forgiveness is a choice you make rather than something you feel like doing. Once you have chosen to forgive and continue with an attitude of forgiveness, the feelings related to that decision will eventually catch up. Remember, if you forgive people for their wrong doing this enables God to forgive you for yours. (Matt 6:14,15)
Fourth is to maintain an attitude of thankfulness, gratitude and praise to your God. ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks’ (1 Thess 5:16-18, Ps 22:3). Your thankfulness, gratitude and praise will attract the presence of God to you, enabling you to become more God focused and more aware of His involvement in your world.
God awareness brings a life-changing priority shift resulting in you turning your attention to God first, before focusing on any issue you may face.
Fifth is to have a friend. A woman friend with whom you can share your ups and downs, hopes and dreams with. Someone who will hold your confidence.
Women tend to feel lighter after they have talked things through, I know I do. We don’t necessarily need someone to fix our problem, as much as we need someone to listen as we talk it through.
Friendship can be a rather tricky happening for a pastor’s wife. Owing to previous hurts and confidences being broken some don’t take the risk to build friendships with women in their church.
Eg. A pastor’s wife I coach told me she had shared in confidence with an elder’s wife, who she considered a friend, a difficulty she was facing. The elder’s wife told her husband who then discussed the matter with the pastor. She felt betrayed by her friend and embarrassed that the elder now knew her personal information and she has shut down talking to anyone.
I tend to share various parts of my life with different women. I have peer ministry friends, both in and outside of my church stream, who have insight and understanding of life in ministry. I also have church women friends with whom I regularly have coffee as we journey life together.
The less weight you carry in your life case means the more easily you will travel on this journey God has called you to travel. You will be able to tip toe through the tulips with lightness in your heart and a song of praise on your lips.