Sunday morning at church, my children had a difficult time leaving Oink and Ducky alone. Oink and Ducky are the puppets who sometimes live in my purse. Each week, a puppet or two makes an appearance in the kindergarten Sunday School. Oink has a British accent. Ducky talks really fast.
I realized that if I were to zip my purse and walk into the lobby, no one would ever guess that I was carrying around two puppets, a bag of used crayons, a Bible, a million receipts (okay, that might get guessed), and a toy airplane. The lip gloss and keys are guessable, but it’s not the entirety of my baggage.
In the same way, when we meet someone, we might be able to guess a bit about their baggage. They might have to do laundry or cook meals or help with homework because they are a mom whose kid is in our kids’ class. They might seem to be a friendly type, the kind that uses lots of fun emojis when they text people. But unless someone is close enough to open up the whole suitcase and let us see the fullness of what she deals with every day, we don’t know the totality of her baggage, and it’s important to remember that. Even in my own family, each of us goes our separate way each day. Each child deals with different teachers, classes, social encounters and academic challenges. I don’t always know physically if they are hurt or aching unless they tell me. My husband walks through buildings, jogs in and out of meetings, sifts through endless emails, puts out all kinds of fires at work. And then he comes home to five people who need him to know them and engage with them, too. I can’t always be sure of what he’s bringing home with him in his work bag.
It’s easy to judge people when you don’t know everything that’s going on in their life. It’s easy to pass judgement on people when we do know some stuff, thinking of how we might have handled something better differently. It’s easy to judge on both ends so it’s no wonder we all keep our suitcases fairly shut most of the time. And since I don’t like being on the other end of being judged by people who don’t really know, and since I’m convicted of all the times I’ve passed judgment on others without really knowing all the stuff, I’m going to write out a few things I need to remember.
- Treat people with kindness whenever possible. Extend generous grace if for no other reason than because I might need them to extend generous grace to me one day. But mostly, we can never out-give the grace of God.
- Withhold judgement. Sometimes we judge others without being aware of our judgment, so discernment and self-awareness is also important here.
- Pray. Without a doubt, every person I’ll ever meet could benefit from a little prayer to God, so hemming my conversations in prayer, submitting my thoughts to God, asking God to show me how to love people well…these should be prayers that are continually in my thoughts and on my lips. With the people I love and the ones I barely know, I am always capable of extending the love of Christ, but I can’t do it in my own strength.
So have a blessed day, all you friends with baggage. Whether puppets or crayons, delight or depression, chaos or order, abundance or not-enough, sin or redemption, whatever is in your bag, may the Lord Jesus meet you there and help you sort through it all, purging what doesn’t give life, bearing for you that burden which you can no longer bear, giving you a bag of His own that you can carry humbly and joyfully into the next moment. I pray we all invite Jesus to know the fullness of our baggage. He’s safe, and He’s the only one who knows it all already anyway.
And may we extend grace to those who have suitcases full of stuff we cannot see. Even someone extending a kindness may be having a hard day. As for me, I’m going to go clean my purse out a bit. I think Froggy and Butter are hoping to make an appearance with the kinder kids next Sunday. And there’s probably also a little mess I’m not sure anyone even cares to see!
“I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3