I love flying on airplanes. As if traveling to a new destination were not exciting enough, my extroverted personality delights in being in the company of complete strangers, packed front to back in a Boeing 787. A cocktail of ginger ale and light conversation typically helps pass the travel time, and being thousands of miles up in the air allows me to relax and detach myself from any concerns I have left behind on the ground. Nonetheless, as many times as I have traveled by airplane and as much as I prefer this method of travel, I still find the routine of packing a bag and stowing the luggage in the overhead compartment to be a major source of stress.
I have made it my goal to pack as light as possible when traveling, because who wants to carry around extra baggage? As a result, the carry-on I bring into the cabin of the airplane is typically an old backpack, bursting at the zippers with all necessary gear. Even though the bag itself meets the size guidelines, the awkward girth of the carry-on is an embarrassing concern of mine. What if the bag doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment? What if it does not even fit underneath the seat in front of me? Would they make me deplane and check the bag at the gate and then reboard? I should have packed lighter…
While airlines will often penalize travelers for their extra baggage, those traveling towards eternity need not fret about the baggage we bring into prayer. How can God alleviate the embarrassments and ills contained in our baggage if we keep these things from him? The prospect of being barked at for a bulgy backpack is terrifying to me, but Jesus is not a flight attendant. As he pilots us in our approach to eternity, the awkward extra baggage we bring to him alerts us that we have much to work on and much to learn from him.
Of course we have to be perfect to enter heaven, but any wounds or insecurities or even personal embarrassments we keep at home and away from prayer only separate us more from the very purification we pray for. Jesus wants to sanctify our ills, cast out all fear, and break the bonds that limit our ability to love him more deeply. Jesus proclaims, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). Withholding any baggage from God only makes it harder for us to find that rest. God already knows all our baggage, so the more of it we are aware of and bring to prayer, the more we allow God to work in our lives. In time, we can confidently hope that we will be able to bring less and less each time we visit him in prayer.
During a time when major airlines are charging for carry-on bags and limiting the weight of checked luggage, Jesus waits in silence to take on any baggage you bring to him on any given day. He wants all the things you wish you did not have to bring but find yourself carrying anyway. Jesus delights in us when we bring him our insecurities, habitual sinfulness, or anything else that bogs us down, because he wants to help us through it all. He alone can purify us and allow our hardened hearts to be docile under the care of his providential love. Jesus wants us to bring our baggage, yes, all of it!
Image: Gary Lopater