Claiming Your Baggage

Raise your right hand if you’ve never done anything regrettable.

Good. Now that we’ve established the liars in the group – let’s proceed.
No, but seriously – who hasn’t committed treason against common decency and self-worth at least once in their lifetime? I’m not talking about just sticking your foot in your mouth during an interview – I mean the type of incident that still makes your stomach roil and your mouth go dry with embarrassment. And regret. Maybe even a little bitterness. Time may heal all things, but it doesn’t always allow us to forget. And if we’re fortunate enough to put it out of our minds for a while, there will always be someone in our lives to remind us of just how foolish we were, you mark that down. They might not remember your name but they’ll be sure to remember your mistakes. They’ll want to pile them up high on your head, mostly to make their own heap of troubles look smaller.

But other humans aren’t the main offenders in regards to forgiving and forgetting. The worst person you’ll most likely ever have to contend with on that front is yourself. You would think with all the ambient discouragement we have to wade through daily we’d be nicer to ourselves. But I can attest to the fact that we do not treat ourselves kindly, especially when we’ve fallen short of the standards we’ve set for our lives. Somehow it makes perfect sense to hate ourselves and remind ourselves of our shortcomings. Our survival instincts may kick in automatically when we hit rock bottom and have no other way to go other than up. But once back on solid ground, it’s the days, and weeks, and months…sometimes years that follow that are the hardest to overcome. We’ve climbed back from the valley but now face the mountain of regret and what ifs. And it affects our decision making too. We settle for second best since we’ve now fallen away from who we were before. We rob our moments of joy and wonder because we have convinced ourselves were not worthy anymore. We exist, but little else.

Don’t raise your eyebrows – I am not dramatizing the situation. You know it’s true. Guilt is one of the worst feelings. It traps you into believing your past is now the commander of your future. Regret is always present – constantly reminding you that things will never, ever be the same as they were. YOU will never be the same.

But this is what it doesn’t tell you.

It doesn’t tell you that Someone decided to love you long before you ever made your first mistake. He loved you so much He let His Son die on a ragged, filthy cross so you could someday have hope, knowing full well just how many wouldn’t even accept His offering. If a perfect and holy God can forgive AND forget what I’ve done, how can I do any less for myself? The sins being removed from His mind as far as the east is from the west thing? Yeah, that applies to you too. There are no addendums to the literal words of God Almighty. You won’t find any clauses in the back by the reference section listing certain people exempt from God’s overflowing grace. It’s just not there.

It doesn’t tell you that you don’t get back the time you are handing over to the greedy hands of bitterness. These days are non-refundable ; you don’t use them, you lose them. There are people to love and places to experience and children to laugh with – life’s just not long enough to be a part of all these things and still have time to waste feeling sorry for the past. Stop looking back to re-enact every single detail of what went wrong and what you could have done, should have done. You’re facing the wrong direction. There’s nothing for you back there. Everything is just ahead.

All regret has to offer is a display of your worst hours on earth. The times you ran when you should have stayed. The time you gave all and gained nothing in return. The hurtful words you said, the people you forgot about when you wanted it your own way…and those images that you still see in HD when you close your eyes to sleep at night – those are the ones that make you feel an ache all the way to your core. That’s what regret does. But it fails to remind you that as long as you draw breath, there will be another chance. Not to right the wrongs you’ve dealt or been dealt, that’s not always possible. No, the chance at making today so much better than yesterday is what we’re promised.

You know what else? It doesn’t tell you how strong you have become. Baggage is heavy. Especially if you’ve been carrying it around for a long time. The person you were before wouldn’t have had the strength to bear this. And they certainly wouldn’t have known how to help another carrying the same burden. And let’s face it; very few of us can leave it all behind for good. So I say get a firm grip and bring it along. Slough off the bitterness with tears and claim it as yours. Because it is yours. It’s a part of your story that you alone can tell. Someone someday will hear it and think twice before toeing the same line you crossed. The only thing it should remind you of now is just how far you’ve come. Besides, if you stack it up high and climb up, you can see out far beyond that mountain of yours. Dawn’s breaking. It’d be a shame to miss out on something so beautiful.


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