There’s a lot of talk out there about baggage. Not the kind that you pack to take a trip to Bermuda or even to spend the night at Grandma’s. Real baggage. The kind that someone – most of the time, a lot of someones – pack for you. It’s heavy and awkward. It’s what makes us the weary and heavy-laden Christ beckons come.
The problem with baggage language is that too much focus gets left on the baggage itself. The suitcase doesn’t deserve the attention. The attention belongs to what got packed, the trip you’re taking it on and what you’re going to do with it all when you get there.
I used to think of all the stuff in my baggage as dirty or stupid or irrelevant or a liability. In general, it was all crap, so I kept it metaphorically in a dark, dingy, duct tape-clad, well-locked 20-year old American Tourist suitcase someone dug out of a dumpster. I managed to keep it hidden under the bed and simultaneously make it the elephant in the room.
But then one day I got the gumption to open that suitcase up and wade through all the things packed inside. I found the things I was most afraid of – stained sheets, torn clothes, a brown leather belt. And there were things I wasn’t sure of – a prom dress, some sheet music, an apron, a tie. Then, once I had it all laid out, I realized there were things in there that I loved – gym shorts, blue jeans, a swim suit, a book.
Mostly other people had packed that suitcase for me, handed it to me, said it was mine to carry. So I carried it as a burden. With it fully unpacked, I could for the first time see that it wasn’t all crap. Even the dirty, torn-up and bloody stuff wasn’t total crap. And because it wasn’t all crap as I’d led myself to believe, it couldn’t/didn’t need to stay jammed into a suit case under the bed. Or be left out in the open for others to uncomfortably ooh and aah over.
The suit case was emptied and now the things had to be put away. Some things were left out, they were more than worth wearing. Others were hung towards the back of the closet, within reach but safely, respectfully tucked away for the right occasion. And yes, some things did go back in the suitcase because that’s simply where they belong. But this time, I threw the American Tourist back into the dumpster it came from and put all of my precious suitcase-worthy belongings into the glamorous Prada they belong in.
Suitcases aren’t for hiding things. They are for carrying the things we love from place to place, protecting them and keeping them safe. They are for our precious things, the things others may have told us to be ashamed of, things that they shoved into the big ugly American Tourist with all it’s duck tape glory. They are for our pearls, the things we will not cast before swine, the things that make us beautiful.
For the things we shall carry with style and grace. They are the things I pack in Prada.