The Parable of the Weary Traveler and Her Heavy Bag

“Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” ~ Acts 10:43

***

It seemed just like yesterday that Matt snagged up last-minute travel deal

own it. but for god's sake stop carrying it around.

I’m always at my best when packing light. One bag for on the fly is usually all I need. And it feels good, because it’s not HEAVY.

straight from his inbox. Four days and three nights in Cozumel for cheap. Now it was quickly coming to an end, and all that remained was the logistics of a two-hour international flight home.

Passports, customs, what to declare. So many rules after so much fun.

Always on the lookout to break the daily grind, Matt and his free-spirited wife Chase, were prone to such whimsical adventures simply because they loved the unexpected.

Airport veterans, they now stood in the baggage check line some  70 frequent flyers deep among the back and forth rows of weary, but tanned and rested travelers.

Chase took note of a prominent sign just ahead that read:

“Cell Phone Use is FORBIDDEN in this line.”

It is Forbidden!

They shared a quick laugh and a couple of Soup Nazi jokes, and moved three steps ahead.

***

own it but for god's sake stop carrying it aroundOne young traveler about 30 up in line somehow stood out and caught Matt and Chase’s attention. An early 20-something with long blonde hair and an athletic build, she was toting about all she could handle. Two standard carry-ons and two bags for check-in. One of the check-in bags was quite large.

The young traveler seemed anxious as she approached a scale midway through the line – a scale permitting passengers to weigh their bags in advance of the counter. If a bag exceeded a certain weight limit, she’d have to pay extra.

With each shuffle step forward the young traveler scooted her bags ever so closer to the scale – her Moment of Truth.

A few minutes later she stood before the scale, and the dread was evident in her eyes.

Sure enough, one particularly large bag exceeded the limit. It was packed way too heavy.

The young traveler obviously owned a lot of stuff, and moreover, she’d picked up some additional keepsakes in Cozumel. So she had to pack those things too, on top of everything she already owned just to get it all home safely.

Matt and Chase were now focused on the young traveler to see what she’d do next.

steven w watkins

Appropriately unfocused and blurry, that’s exactly how I feel when I carry around too much baggage. Bogged down, and heavy.

Most of what the young traveler owned appeared quite frivilous  and unnecessary to live life comfortably while traveling on the fly. But because she owned so many things, she felt obliged to carry them around. Everywhere. Everywhere she went. And the things she carried were heavy and most burdensome beyond any benefit they provided.

***

Flinging the overpacked bag off the scale, the young traveler went on a frenzy. Unzipping this bag and that, shuffling swim suits and curling irons from one bag to the next. To avoid the weight limit penalty she’d have to distribute all she owned more evenly amongst all the baggage.

With any degree of success she’d still have to carry it all, but to get past this checkpoint, this hurdle, this moment, she had to redistribute and better compartmentalize.

So she repacked the baggage and placed the big bag on the scale once again.

Still too heavy.  Try again. Repack once more.

People behind her are waiting, and now she’s become the focus of everyone’s attention. Everyone wonders if the young traveler can manipulate everything she owns to get past the checkpoint without penalty.

She repacks. Underwear and dirty laundry fly. Literally. Others are now telling her how to shift things around. Everyone’s pulling for the young traveler. Put this here, put that there, they say. She’s almost oblivious and inwardly focused now. At all costs, she does not want to pay that penalty.

Restuff, rezip. It’s all back in. Another faceoff with The Moment of Truth. The scale reads 47 pounds. Proceed and move on. You’ve done it. This time.

All the young traveler owns is now properly packed for the moment – more evenly distributed to get past the checkpoint. The Moment of  Truth permitted her to pass in this circumstance. This time.

Funny thing though. Properly redistributed as her belongings may now be … it’s all just as heavy as it was before. Everything still weighs exactly what it weighed before. And it’s still heavy.

***

Today, whatever you’ve done, whatever burdens you may carry, no matter how heavy they may be – own them. For all that you’ve done, own it.

But for God‘s Sake, stop carrying it all around.

Stop it. Don’t do it anymore.

It is FORBIDDEN!!!

-30-

Related posts:

Own It.

The Parable of the Enlightened Christian

Why Are You So Aggressive…

Why Are You So Aggressive Toward the Things You Believe are Wrong?

(BLOGGER‘S NOTE: For a writer (at least for me, I should say) there’s no higher honor than reader commentary – good, bad or indifferent – it’s my cocaine. Last night, I threw out a quick Facebook post about my dilemma for choosing today’s blog post, with low expectations for feedback, and was overwhelmed with the response. Allow me this moment to say “thank you” to each of you, and anyone who reads either regularly or sporadically. From my heart, thank you. So … discounting the lady who submitted votes on behalf of her three pets, here’s today’s winner.) ~ steve

***

There it was, tucked away in the in-box, about at subtle as an elephant walking into the room. It came during what was a nearly 24-hour social-media hiatus, and when I returned, it was waiting.

The private, in-box message was a reader response to this Sunday post, one that left me physically, spiritually and emotional drained. Depleted. Spent.

It was one of my anti-religion posts. If you’re a regular, or even occasional reader at this site and don’t have the faintest idea what I mean by anti-religion there’s probably no point in reader further, so go on and have a nice day.

***

The subconscious is an amazing thing, is it not? Hiding back there in the shadow, lurking just behind the soul, prodding a low-grade awareness of certain things we may or may not wish to recall, yet always there.

Know this. When a reader points to a writer the very same thing the subconscious reminds him/herself about – well, it’s revelation.

***

Seeing the name, I opened the in-box message as a priority and quickly came to an attached YouTube video. Less than 10 seconds in, the narrator posed to himself this question:

“Why am I so aggressive toward the things I believe are wrong?”

And so Jay Gunter, a man in many ways my spiritual soul mate, had done it

aggressive behavior

For me, it’s an ongoing exercise to just breath, and relax.

again. Pointing out something he AND my subconscious knew, but bringing it to the surface for my own awareness’ sake.

I’d show you the video here, but it’s much more powerful a bit down the line, so come along, you’ll get it soon.

In the meantime, why am I so aggressive toward the things I believe are wrong?

***

As a writer soliciting public consumption, I’ve been called everything. Unpatriotic, blasphemer, un-American. One reader even called me the blackest white guy he’d ever known.  And because of my style, I consider the latter high praise, for I’ve never wanted to fit into any certain genre.

The question the narrator posed took me back about 10 days, when a man I hadn’t seen in 20 years asked me to meet with him and discuss blogging of all things. He drove 75 miles to ask for some tips on how to get where he wanted to go, and so first I posed the most obvious question:

“Just where is it you want to go?

His response was not only transparently profound. It was as if his words had come right out of my own mouth.

“I’m 50 years old now,” he said, “and because of so many life circumstances, I’ve been quiet. If you and I sat across this table from one another even just three years ago, and you offered up an opinion on some topic where I felt the polar opposite, I’d have stayed quiet just for the sake of avoiding confrontation. But I can’t do that any more because I realize it has to come out, and I realize I haven’t been true to myself all this time.”

This guy’s gonna be a good blogger one day. Really good.

I have to be true to myself. It has to come out. I can’t do it any more.

Been there. Done that. Yes.

In response to the question at hand, I suppose this is what I’d say:

I’m so aggressive toward the things I believe are wrong because they’re the very things about which I’m most passionate … and I’ve spent a lot of years suppressing passion. It’s time to be true to myself.

***

why are men so intense

Unfortunately, intensity and aggression are prevalent, even in a friendly golf match with best buddies. You’ve gotta get your game face on, right?

Jay’s comments, and the message in his attached video, put me in an introspective mood, and I set aside a time to consider for myself: Why am I so aggressive toward the things I believe are wrong? I set the time aside because when a wise man offers up such a notion, it’s wise, in turn, to ponder it one’s self.

A bit later, I pulled out pen and paper and wrote down the topics that spark my writer’s aggression and considered all the reasons I believe they are so wrong.

So here’s my list:

1. Chief among them is the very thing we’ve all made of “the church.” Now, you’re about to get the opportunity to click on that video I promised earlier, but first, one of many personal experiences … and it’s one of ONLY many:

I’ve been a member of, or attended just about every denominational church you can imagine. Three years or so ago at the outset of an extended personal depression (yes, I can talk about depression for there’s no shame therein) I joined a non-denominational church. Almost immediately, the skids came off a place that previously seemed really safe.

This is a church most caught up in itself, focused inward, inside four walls. Structural leadership is regarded in high esteem. Elders are elected by the body, the elders, in turn, manipulate the people, and the people back-bite the elders on any given Sunday.

Losing control, the body fired the pastor, created a tri-lateral bureaucracy and spent the next nine months immersed in writing a set of rules and regulations for governance they call the constitution and bylaws. And in the end, they recreated what they originally established 30 years before – a self-governed fiefdom, blinded to genuine outreach.

Those are sharp words, for which I am accountable.

So if that account is self-righteous on my part, it’s mine, and mine only, for which to answer. But such a thing makes it hard to stay quiet, and I necessarily removed myself from the circumstance. I wish they would simply own it, and move on to better days.

As one friend recently, and so aptly put it, the value of most churches today is keeping the sin franchise alive.

If you have five minutes to set aside today, in no other way could it be more well spent than viewing this video. It profoundly captures what we’ve all done to the church.

2. Legislating morality. What a slippery slope. Most of my closest friends maintain strong positions on immigration, same-sex marriage, the death penalty, abortion, etc. For the record, and morally, I agree with them. But I simply do not believe we can legislate morality because it’s forced, enacted absent of love and sends the “minorities” an entirely ineffective message. I’ve learned over time that true heart change comes only from within and we can never impose “goodness” on others. Even if it makes us feel good, it NEVER works for the greater glory, or higher purpose. And so I stand against it, wholeheartedly, but respectfully. That’s a whole different column in the upcoming post list.

3. Racial intolerance. What can I say? It’s prevalent around me and I hate it.

4. Repressing freedom of speech. It’s truly one cause for which I believe every veteran would say he fought. The most aggressive post I ever wrote was one that conjured up a reader’s comment telling me to hush up. It’s one of the few times I’ve completely reacted to such a comment, and I’m not sure if I’m sorry or not about my response.

5. Self-righteousness. This was never more fiendishly prevalent than in the U.S. presidential race that turned into a red-state, blue-state debate over who had the higher morality – and a week later, it still saturates every venue in social media. The debate was good for us in many ways, but it became so personal.

One kind reader offered last night that she took such a strong position in support of Mitt Romney she believed she’d offended some people and reluctantly stopped offering her opinions. I wonder if this piece will offer her any condolence or recompense?

6. Passive-aggressive manipulation. I’m all for aggression, but I loathe passivity. Say it straight up, face-to-face, or don’t say it at all. Don’t be a coward.

7. Cultural superiority complex. Ever been to a foreign country and become frustrated with the way things work there? Have it in mind they are doing things all wrong? The world’s beauty is found in all the ways people do things differently. Right or wrong is all in your mind.

8. Rules. I truly believe Jesus died because he knew we could never follow the rules. I’m self-employed now, and hope never to be corporately employed again. Especially when it comes to managing creative people, I believe it’s the greatest misunderstanding in the corporate world today. Truly creative people can’t follow rules. Mathematically, I’d express it in this way:

Freedom³ x (x) = ∞

In words: Give a creative person, ultimate and unwavering freedom, and there is no limit to their capacity for achievement and success.

9. Hidden agendas. I (and probably you) see it all the time, and it flies in the very face of transparent value.

10. Blasphemy – It’s that which crosses the line of loving your enemy. I’m guilty many times over, and I hate it as much when I do it, as when I see it in others.

image of marathon runner

Perhaps the most intense moment of my life summoning up all the aggression I could muster — Mile 25 of my first marathon – the Memphis St. Jude. At Mile 25, a man poses to himself many questions including, but not limited to: What the Hell am I trying to prove, and to whom am I trying to prove it?

Two final notes on aggressiveness:

“Now, there’s one thing you men will be able to say when you get back home. And you may thank God for it. Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee and he asks you, ‘What did you do in the Great World War II?’, you won’t have to say, ‘Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.'” ~ George C. Scott as General George S. Patton speaking to the  Third Army in the movie, “Patton”

  • Ever watched a young boy play? His spiritual DNA causes him to turn fingers into guns, sticks into swords and dirt clods into grenades. He’s built to fight and defend honor. Young boys aspire to become the likes of cowboys, police officers and astronauts, seeking a life full of adventure. No young boy dreams of living in a van down by the river.
  • Much of our confusion comes from misunderstanding the character of Jesus and the whole “meek” thing. It’s a whole different topic for an entirely different day, but research it yourself. Jesus was anything but a passive, man who stood on the sidelines.

***

I have no idea what dialogue this may bring. I say only this.

Raise up the brave warrior within you my friends, and bring it.

You’ve been great. I’ll be here all night.

-30-

Own It. Just Don’t Carry it Around.

***

Two men are friends, and moreover, partners in business. Let’s call them Joe and Mike.

At their place of business, they have a petty cash drawer, and they also maintain several hefty bank accounts.

Over time, and here and there, Joe snares a $20 from petty cash for a quick lunch. Mike knows it all the time, but never says a word. This goes on for years, and because Mike hates conflict, he just goes with the flow, never says a word, but the petty cash thing is always on his mind.

And time marches on.

Years later, Mike has a business lunch meeting with a client. It turns into a $5,000 cash deal on the spot. In a moment of weakness, Mike puts the $5,000 in his pocket and buys himself a shiny new red golf cart for which he’s longed. Never, ever, has Mike done anything like this before.

moral conscienceSomehow, Joe gets wind of Mike’s trespass, and there’s a confrontation. A bad one.

Immediately, Mike acknowledges his mistake, apologizes to his partners, employees and their many clients. He comes clean, and the partnership remains intact, but it’s never quite the same.

Joe and Mike’s business flourishes for years beyond the conflict, and as in any business, there are moments of differences of opinion. On each occasion of disagreement, Joe reminds Mike of his $5,000 transgression, and yet shows no remorse for his ongoing fetish with the petty cash drawer.

owning your sinsBecause Mike came clean on the spot years ago, he feels a certain freedom from his failure, and really wishes Joe would own his past shortcomings as well. But for some reason, Joe will always see Mike as the greater transgressor, and he’ll never let him forget it.

And time marches on.

The Relativism of Wrongness

We see it every day. In business, in marriages, in the church and all about. Because their shortcomings were more public, more consequential, more “sinful” than another, we rates our sins on a scale of 1-10, and one person judges another to justify him/herself.

The saddest thing about days like today (Sunday) is that millions of people will go to their chosen place of worship, walk in with the baggage of the past believing in their own “unworthiness,” and it’ll be reinforced by others who manage their own shortcomings through the relativism of wrongness. The bad things they’ve done aren’t nearly as bad as the guy next to them.

And time marches on.

***

My dad didn’t go to church often, but he came along with mom and me occasionally.

On the first Sunday of each month, we’d celebrate communion, go to the front of the church, kneel at the altar and take the bread and wine. We’d stand, pew by pew, line up and march single-file to the altar. But dad always stayed behind. He felt unworthy of communion simply because he believed his sins carried a great weight than the rest of us, and nothing could’ve been further from the truth.

***

The Low Cost of Ownership

As for Joe and Mike, I know Mike pretty well. Boy, do I know Mike.

Conflict avoidance is a killer for guys like Mike and me. Avoiding the issue at hand creates some messy junk, and with the junk comes consequences. And it never helps the matter that guys like Joe remind us about the past, especially when they haven’t “owned” their own “lesser” sins, and the Mike’s of the world already know how much they screwed up.

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of good, is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. ~ Romans 7:18-19

The irony??? Yes, Mike’s momentary lapse in judgment caused a lot of collateral damage, but none, more so, than to himself. But there’s good news about Mike’s ownership of the past. His forgiveness, was not only instantaneous, but free, because the price was already paid.

The Principle of Baggage Weight Restrictions. The Airlines can Teach us a Thing or Two About a Thing or Two.

Today, Dana and I are preparing for an extended, four-month trip outside the states. That’s a long time, and we’re confounded by how to pack. Honestly, we need to take everything and the kitchen sink, but we can’t because there are baggage weight restrictions. Too much baggage, and we’ll pay the price. We simply can’t take everything we own. The cost is just too high. We can’t afford it.

the baggage of past sin

Oh, the freedom of two carry-ons. Walk off the plane, sail through the airport and catch a cab. Now, the carry-ons may have a lot in them, and they may become uncomfortable at times, but I’ll just switch shoulders and transfer the weight’s burden. No big deal. At least I don’t have to stand at the carousel and watch the bags endlessly go round and round and experience the cumbersomeness of it all.

***

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning (suffering) all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and you forgave the guilt of my sins.” ~ King David in Psalm 32:1-5

sin and baggage consequences of sinFor the period during which David covered his sins, the scripture tells us his bones literally groaned with agony. The one way – the only way he could be set free, was to own his transgressions.

The Great Debate: Grace-Based Forgiveness vs. Earth-Based Consequences

We must get this. Forgiveness and consequences are two entirely different things.

Murder, theft, abortion, adultery – name whatever bad sin you choose. The forgiveness is a 100 percent free, immediate, never-look-back kind of thing. We don’t get it, deserve it or comprehend it, but it’s true. The consequences – they may last for a lifetime and we simply must own them, accept them and learn from them.

So it plays out like this:

For Mike:

  • He’s a good guy who screwed up.
  • But he came clean. He owned his mistake and was freely forgiven.
  • There were some consequences. Colleagues never quite fully trusted him again. Friends gossiped about him. Though free, he still sometimes regretted he’d violated his own moral conscience. But he move on, grateful for grace.
  • He became an example to others, and was admired by many.
  • He doesn’t like to fail, but when he does, he’s okay with it, because he’s free.
  • He still had a purpose in life.

For Joe:

  • His life continued as well. And he never did anything really, really bad.
  • He always held himself in a position of higher esteem than Mike, because he knew the things he’d done wrong were never as bad as what Mike had done.
  • When he did do something wrong, he always had Mike’s greater transgression in his back pocket.
  • But somehow, for some unknown reason, Joe forever more carried a chip on his shoulder because he had a secret – at least so he thought.
  • He carry’s his failures around, and they are heavy.
  • He never really felt real peace or freedom.

Mike and Joe are both good guys. They really are. But whose example will you follow?

And time marches on…

-30-

What We Fight For, Cherish and Honor – But Almost Never ENJOY

Yellowstone National Park in Montana

Me, two years ago, stretching arms and checking a bucket list item in Big Sky Country at Yellowstone National Park. Freedom.

“But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—‘Thou mayest’— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.” ~ John Steinbeck, East of Eden

If you’re among the 16 percent who didn’t, count yourself as lucky – but recent statistics show 84 percent of Americans woke up this morning hating their job. That means sometime, most likely around 5 a.m., just over a billion Americans woke up and dreaded going to work. That’s billion – with a B.

***

Roughly, 100 million Americans attended a church service yesterday. Forty percent of the church-goers left feeling frustrated, ostracized, criticized, guilty and unloved. They were frustrated that much of their church activity is centered around carpet, curtains, choir robes, procedure and doctrine – and they left wondering – is this what the church is really all about?

And I get that. Up until a few months ago, I felt guilty, condemned and spiritually insulted by every church I’d ever attended.

***

Failure is not an option.Two months shy of the New Year, millions of Americans are already thinking about their list of upcoming resolutions. They’re frustrated with their busy-ness, lack of goals, or lack of goals achieved. They are shamed by inner-conscience guilt for their past failures and shortcomings. They’re mad about the analysis paralysis they experience because they just can’t trust their gut to take a leap of faith into the yet unrealized dream of launching a new business, losing 20 pounds or repairing a lost relationship.

***

Here’s a quote from a Facebook friend, just yesterday, that got me thinking about this:

“Once you decide to step out of the program, the programmers (i.e.-controllers) no longer have the prerogative to fit you into the scheme of their design… that’s when you realize that you’re free to live as the One inside of you desires.  It really is for freedom that you’ve been set free.  Be free to live and love.

“In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off.” – Galatians 5:1

***

And while we’re flirting around with the Bible, here’s another bit of truth that has me thinking about it further:

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”

Show me a single place in the Bible where God says he wishes guilt, condemnation or shame on you and I’ll send you my next paycheck.

And either this is truth or it’s not. A boss once called me half-joking, but serious still yet – “a religious wack-job.” I’m sure it had something to do with the WWJD bracelet I wear on my right hand. And for the record, I almost always wear it inside out because it’s not for public display. It’s just for me. His remark was actually funny – I’m about as anti-religion as you’ll ever find. My friends will tell you I RAIL against religion.

Freedom to fail.

I choose to embrace the truth that God grants me the freedom to fail; that he’s not keeping account of my shortcomings; and that he won’t ask for my spiritual resume – EVER.

Last week, I re-read Bruce Wilkinson‘s Prayer of Jabez. If you’ve never read it, this was the young man’s audacious prayer:

“Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be upon me, and that you would keep me from evil.”

In the seven days I’ve been praying that prayer, I’ve:

  • Paid off three credit cards;
  • Paid off a vehicle;
  • Developed two new sources of income with two more strong potentials.
  • Learned a new golf grip that has me sailing a 7-iron about 155 yards straight down the middle of the fairway with the faintest of beautiful draws (this is among the greatest of blessings);
  • and started a checklist for a great new adventure that will begin on December 21. I’ll write much more extensively about that beginning a week from today.

That’s not braggadocio mish-mash. It’s God’s honest truth.

It’s not a prayer to Santa Claus. It’s a prayer to the God who assures me that he has a plan for my GOOD and not my GUILT.

July 4, 1776. We celebrate it every year as our Independence Day.

I’ll tell you the day you were set free. It was more than 2,000 years ago when every smidgen of your guilt, shame and regret was nailed to a cross – forever, done deal, over.

Success is 99 percent failure.

Now. Don’t just go celebrate your freedom. Live it. ENJOY it.

god of second chances

Embrace it. ENJOY it.

30-