My bags are packed. I think they’ve always been packed. You might not know it to look at me. I’ve owned the same home for a quarter century, preached in the same church even longer. But almost every day I envision my out, my route away from what seems to never get completely resolved. How crazy is that? I’m still that fragile, that confounding. It doesn’t take much to bring out cowardice in me. Embarrassment, self-doubt, the sudden renewed awareness of unresolved relationships. Stuff that bunches up by staying in one place, one community long enough. Hurt, being misunderstood, past wounds reopened, broken dreams-slapped in your face by the community where the dreams never quite got fulfilled the way you imagined.
The address to where I plot my escape to has changed many times over the years.
But my bags are always packed.
It’s all in my head, where you can’t see it. If I left as often as I’ve played it out, I’d have driven ten cars into the ground.
It looks like this: It’s an ocean town, where I can look for beach glass each mornings walk along the shore. I’d be on a waving and greeting relationship with dozens of the locals. Stacey and I would have several couples we’d know and maybe even travel with. But this time I’d play it closer to the vest. This time I wouldn’t dream so much, risk so much, reveal so much in my passion. I’d be admired as someone who once did something, but not known enough to have all the junk revealed.
For most of my first 30 years, I not only packed my bags, I took them all over the country. Every time it got hard, every time I didn’t want to face the pain of being me. I’d pack my VW with whatever it would hold and start over somewhere where they didn’t know me. All so I could experience afresh the delight in the faces of others when they were first getting to know me, before the immature and irrational came out. I was almost addicted to that sensation of being delighted in, even if largely unknown.
It’s a strangely surreal new feeling this last few decades. To have bags packed and yet to never leave. To imagine that bail out place but to never end up going there.
Jesus, in His grace, invaded my guarded fortress with His love and the love of handpicked others who would not let me put my bags into the car. To be loved for who you are, not who you can present on your best day, it gives something and takes something away. It gives you a place. And it takes away the freedom of going to a place that is not your home.
I’m not sure I’ll ever be free of packed bags. I’m not sure it’s even the point. For grace anticipates and even predicts mess and ongoing imperfection. Grace has a hard time understanding the one who thinks he has arrived into self-sufficient actualization. If my needs went away, I would never experience the love of others. So, I will always carry junk, unresolved sludge, weakness, failure, things that go bump in the night.
We may move some day, but it won’t be running to a world where I risk less love. For over time God has given me friends who will not let me check out. They know the worst about me and actually love me more-more authentically, more wonderfully in all my exposure. It’s a humbling way of living. At times I even want to run from such vulnerability. But this trusted life in grace has nearly cured me from running. And what I have enjoyed and lived out has been…greater by far than any destination those bags could take me.