Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you…The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
1 Peter 5:6, 10
I have a love-hate relationship with suitcases. We’ve been through a lot together. Their stickers reflect multiple International and domestic flights, flying here and there in our years of living abroad. I have packed and unpacked them hundreds of times, no doubt. Packed them with clothes folded neatly, tiny travel shampoo and body soap, souvenirs for loved ones at the other end of my journey. My trusty suitcases have been present for many happy arrivals, welcomed by family and friends at the airport. The unpacking gave way to settling and suitcases were put away for a season. Return trips required a re-packing of suitcases, when dirty clothes were stuffed back in and unworn or clean clothes were tucked back in another. The half-gone shampoos and soaps don’t fit quite so neatly back in when combined with new things acquired on this end of the journey.
And as my suitcases and I prepare to make a return journey, the hellos become goodbyes and the sadness returns as the cycle of packing and unpacking begins again. My suitcases again witness emotion- tears of sadness and of goodbye and of leaving behind.
Yes, packing and unpacking are essential parts of any journey. Perhaps for others, this simple fact doesn’t carry much weight (pun intended). But for this girl, packing and unpacking have occurred on many levels and have become a vivid reminder of the reality of life and change.
I recently did the math in regards to my life as a traveler thus far, and the numbers shocked me. I turn 37 this January. For the first twenty years of my life, I did not move homes a single time. My childhood home was the only home I’d known up until I moved away to college just months before my twenty-first birthday. And that’s when I officially began my life as a traveler and a mover. In the sixteen years since then, I’ve moved homes seventeen times! Twelve in the US and Five in Asia Pacific. We’ve spent the majority of our married life in one city, in the heart of an island in Asia Pacific.
And perhaps this is why I have been reflecting lately on packing and unpacking. After living for seven months in transition, waiting, searching for answers, and ultimately having peace that we needed to move our lives to this side of the ocean and begin a new season of ministry, I am sick of packing and unpacking. SICK and tired. Sure, we love our trips to my parent’s house in Tennessee, the weekend jaunts to Shad’s parent’s house, the motel stays that put us closer to the doctor for those early (and long!) appointments, the nights with friends from supporting churches. But seriously, the thought of packing those suitcases one more time makes me feel physically ill.
I told God about this while driving home from our family Christmas overnight at Grandma’s. In true drama queen fashion, I invited Him to join me for my pity party. And He listened. He assured my tired heart that He cared. He understood. Living on this earth, He felt the pain of being in transition. Of constantly being on the move.
He also challenged me to think bigger than the suitcases. To realize that it was more than dirty clothes and toothbrushes I was packing. For in every journey, we pack things, carry them in the corners of our souls. Our journeys and our destinations change us, whether we are aware of them or not.
Our dear city and friends in Asia Pacific have made us different people. In our nine years, I had packed quite a bit in this heart, soul, and mind of mine. Heartache and joy. Friendships and hardships. Pain and healing. Life and death. If the airport clerk who checked us into our flight back to Michigan back in May had known how much baggage I was carrying, she would have made quite a commission on my overweight fees!
And my Heavenly Father challenges me with this: Unpack. In all of your packing, don’t forget to unpack. Unpacking involves wrestling with what has been packed. A willingness to deal with all that has been stuffed inside. A willful act of bringing it to the surface and casting it on Him. It requires time and intentionality and vulnerability.
My baggage is heavy, and I tire of carrying it alone. My soul aches to purge my soul’s suitcases and sort through the cluttered mess of my emotions. I am learning that the hurt is healing, for in the hurt we recognize our need to unpack. I’m not completely done unpacking, and I’m certain that my daily life is only accumulating more baggage as we transition from one season of life to another.
What I know is this: my Father waits for me to come to Him and unpack at His feet. He is not afraid of what I’ll find hidden in the pockets or wadded in the corners of my soul. He longs to take what is muddled and make it good and useful. He takes my baggage and uses it to make me more like Himself and to make me an instrument better equipped to serve for His glory. He longs to bring security in the midst of change, strength in the midst of weakness, and settled-ness in the midst of an unsettling season.
Honestly, I still dread the cycle of packing and unpacking that await us in the days ahead as we make our move to Missouri and go back to wrap up life in Asia Pacific. But I am learning that even suitcases are a tangible reminder from my loving Father of my need to pour my heart out before Him, allowing Him to unpack my soul’s burdens and make my heart a vessel available for His glory.
Thank you for your prayers for us as we process all that lies ahead! Your continued support, encouragement, and prayers give us fuel to keep pressing on for His glory!