Monday, April 18, 2005


It's the end of a weekend retreat. I'm on a spiritual high. There's a lot to catch up on here at home, and lots to think about in terms of what happened during the retreat.

Then there's my luggage. So much to unpack... It is all over the table, the family room floor, in a pile for the laundry, a stack on the steps to go up to our bedroom. I'm in a disorganized state - emotionally and psychologically. I've changed my daily routine today to have time to think, pray and look at all that I learned over the last few days...

Unpacking. We do a lot of it in different ways. Unpacking memories. Unpacking feelings. Unpacking motivations. It's possible to get through life without unpacking, but it can get a little inconvenient. And it's not the way we were meant to live.

Think about living out of a suitcase: you never settle in; you never make things permanent; you aren't committed to a place or time or people. You never feel secure or at home. If you've been on a week long tour, you know what I mean when I say "it gets old FAST!"

How about half unpacking your suitcase and living with the mess: you can't find things; it's disorganized; it isn't hospitable to others you live with. Fortunately, you can get out of this stage with a little hard work.

Then there's the ones who unpack their suitcases immediately, completely and thoroughly. They settle back quickly into their routines. The laundry gets done. The prescription meds and toiletries are where they belong. Life is smoother.

In my mind, these are ways of dealing with events and issues in our lives, too.

Living out of a suitcase: you back out of people's lives; you aren't with any group long enough to form a bond; you move away from permanence. It is easy to bottle up emotions this way. But if you keep 'stuffing the suitcase' of your mind, eventually it will reach its limit, and you'll have a 'suitcase explosion'. Picture that suitcase that self-destructed on its way around the luggage claim area at the airport. Make that your emotional state... not very manageable, is it?

Living with the mess: You have good intentions, but you tend to move on to something before you've really addressed the need at hand. This happens in grieving, especially when people tell you "oh, you just need to stay busy." Well maybe you really need to just flex and change your routine enough so that you 'finish unpacking' what you have to deal with at the time. It takes self-discipline, and an almost unprejudiced eye to say, "I haven't finished dealing with this yet." It means not trying to justify what you haven't dealt with (either because you can't handle it, or you can't figure out what to do.)

Unpacking immediately: This is what a mentor I had called "keeping current in the processing of your emotions." It's doing your emotional laundry when it comes up instead of letting it pile for months at a time. It's being honest with your handling of stress. It's choosing to be loving intead of hurtful in your speech.

Many times for me the 'unpacking' happens as I pray with a desire to see God's heart and attitude towards what has happened in my life. It means being still long enough to hear and respond. (Sometimes I don't hear, and sometimes I hear but don't respond.)

Hebrews 10:22
...let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled
(unpacked?) to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

It's more than just 'unpacking' - it is staying close to God, with a sprinkled (unpacked?) heart.

Romans 12:9-21
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I have some more work to do... That's based on the fact that I am typing this instead of getting my suitcase cleaned out. I think it will take me more than today to finish unpacking!

From our home to yours...

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