We are approaching a new milestone in the Cooper home. We’ve seen glimmers of it in days past, only to have it abruptly halted by a new addition. Our process of leaving the house is slowly but surely taking less and less time, as our need for excess baggage diminishes. This is a stage of parenting I’ve only witnessed from afar or fantasized about in my sleep-deprived state. A stage of parenting where we can go to Target without
the diaper bag,
the breast pump,
the baby bottles,
the little spoons and bowls,
the baby food,
the burp cloths,
the bouncy seat,
an extra outfit for each season,
and a flare.
You know, just in case.
I’m the absolute worst. All I need is one time stuck out of the house lacking some vital element of baby gear and I SWEAR I will NEVER leave the house without it again. (Have I mentioned, I struggle just a bit with perfectionism?) Thus, I become a walking freak show, as every trip out of the house looks like I’m headed out for a weekend camping excursion.
I stumble through life weighed down with loads of baby paraphernalia, unable to hug a dear friend, shake hands with the door greeter at church, or get to my table at a restaurant without whacking the person seated next to me in the head with my fifty pound diaper bag.
I know why God makes babies so stinkin cute. It’s so that after I’ve inflicted a stranger with a gaping head wound, he’ll turn and see the cute baby, which will then prohibit him from cussing me out as he tries to stop the blood flow. And that gives me time to reach into my handy dandy diaper bag and offer a band-aid and an apology.
It’s amazing how much our private baggage affects others.
Whether we intend for it to be so or not, it doesn’t matter. It just is. The weights we sling over our shoulders, under our arms, and around our necks inflict wounds—intentional or unintentional—on people. The unnecessary baggage we carry in our arms precludes us from reaching out and extending or receiving love—which, by the way, is the very reason God created us.
Early in our marriage, I was so bound by fear that I essentially forbid my husband to move forward in any direction that took me out of my comfort zone. Well, he could technically move any way he wanted, really, but not if he wanted to stay married to me. Can’t change churches, can’t change jobs, can’t change houses, can’t change family traditions, can’t change me. And I’m not kidding even a little bit. The first two years of our marriage were really, really rough largely because of my “weights.”
And it goes both ways. Others can hinder our freedom by the weights they carry too. Have you ever been a victim of someone else’s insecurity? I can be cruising along, walking in faith, hearing God’s voice, working for the kingdom…and BAM, someone will lash out in a fit of jealousy or anger by expressing something unkind to me or about me. No matter how hard I try, I have a terrible time letting a thing like that roll off my back. I allow it to suck out my emotional energy. I mull it over, wonder what I could have done to change the situation, have a million mental discussions with the person about the issue, and concoct a master plan to “fix” me so it won’t ever happen again. When in reality, “I” was never really the problem that needed fixing. It was another person’s excess baggage.
In the book of Matthew we read about a time Jesus went to His hometown to teach. As He was in the synagogue, moving in God’s perfect will for His life (as He always was), He was confronted head-on with people’s baggage. At first, the people were amazed at His wisdom and His miraculous powers. But soon, His lifelong acquaintances—people He grew up with, people who knew His parents and His siblings—began to question His authority, His ability and His identity. And in their questioning, they took offense at Him and refused to believe Him.
“And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” Matthew 13:58
Even Jesus—Jesus who carried absolutely no excess weights and walked in perfect FREEDOM—was hindered from doing the Father’s perfect will when He encountered someone else’s weights of offense and doubt.
Even as I type that, it blows my mind. Oh, how very, very powerful our weights can be. In a bad way.
The more deliberate I become about my journey toward complete freedom, the more I become increasingly aware of how my bondage and my freedom affects others in my life. Especially my children and their ability to hear God’s voice. When I respond to life from a position of fear, insecurity or *gulp* perfectionism, so do they. When I respond to life from a position of courage, confidence and grace, they do too. When I am free to run the race God has laid out specifically for me, I free up my brother or sister in Christ to do the same.
Freedom and bondage are contagious. Which one are you spreading?
For Part Three, click here.