Baggage

I am currently going through the process of selling my parents flat, and sorting out all the various stuff that is in it, as they are now in a care home.  One of the things that my dad has kept is his fathers’ trunk. Now, this is no normal trunk. His dad was an RSM in the Royal Military police, during both world wars. He worked with Lawrence of Arabia in Egypt and also served as King George the 6thsecurity detail when he went to Aldershot during the early stages of WW2.  This trunk held most of my dads’ family possessions when they went to Hong Kong (by sea) in 1936, returning late 1938. It has his name stenciled on it, and still has the cabin number and stickers on it from the return journey.  

Now, when I joined up we didn’t get issued with trunks, but a green pussers’ suitcase, a grip and of course a kit bag. And so much stuff that you couldn’t fit it all in. Stuff. Masses of stuff.  I went on draft from my first ship when it was alongside in Newcastle, and had to take all my kit with me – kit bag, suitcase and a couple of grips. I remember getting it all onto the freezing cold jetty in Dec, whilst the dockyard mateys watched and laughed at me as I struggled with all this stuff, as the ship went back to sea. I then lugged it all to the station, across London and back to HMS Collingwood at Portsmouth.  (The following day the ship came back into Portsmouth – I could have stayed on board one extra night, and put it all in service transport to Collingwood … but there was no way my Chief was going to let that sensible plan happen!!).  

Sometimes with all my kit it felt like I was carrying baggage around for no real reason. Why did I need my cold weather gear in the Gulf? Or why did I need my tropical rig in the Iceland – Faroes gap? I remember well a stoker leaving one ship in Dubai to go on draft back to the UK. He had a very specific baggage allowance for the return flight. One of his oppos went with him to the airport to help carry his stuff. He placed the main bag on the weighing scales and wandered off … the scales went hard over. The poor old stoker was looking at a huge bill for his bag being way overweight. He asked if he could check his bag .. opened it to find two solid steel anchor shackles … oh how we laughed. 

Life can be like that, we end up carrying around so much baggage from the rich tapestry of life, that we are actually weighed down by it. Sometimes we need to check what’s in the bag and see if there are any anchor shackles that we just don’t need and get rid of them.  Life’s baggage can come in many forms, guilt from when we’ve messed up, missed opportunities, failed relationships, when we’ve let down our family or friends, feeling inadequate or keeping hold of a grudge and unforgiveness. 

Some people seem to think that as a Christian this stuff will not happen, but I think that’s a load of tosh. Stuff does happen, but I believe that the bible tells me that by bringing this stuff to God we can be relieved of the weight and burden of it, so we don’t end up struggling with excess baggage that we have held onto, or a huge bill for anchor shackles that actually someone else has given us.  Sometimes we have to face up to the consequences of actions or words, but then once that’s done we need to let it go and not hang onto it.  Jesus does not promise a life free from bad or difficult things happening but he does promise a life free from heavy burdens and guilt if we put our trust in him.  I’m gonna end with two short passages from the Bible … 

First one is from the Bibles Hymn book, Psalm 55 verse 22: 

Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders— he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.

And this from Jesus as recorded in Matthews’ gospel Chapter 11 verses 28 – 30:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

See you next time …. 

Image Credit: Waldemar Brandt