If you’ve read the book The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings, you may have gained some insight into our tendency as human beings to carry our baggage with us. Of course, I’m not talking about the physical baggage, but the comforts, trials, and hurts of our life that, unless we let them go, can weigh us down.
It’s hard enough to carry it around when you’re in your own country or familiar environment, but when comfort and “normal” are stripped away, we open those bags pretty quick. Answering God’s call to serve requires a shift in priorities, but before we can look forward, we must look back and check what we want to pack.
Let’s deal with the hurts first. What relationships need resolution in your life? Without dealing with past hurts, you carry bitterness with you to the field. You may think it’s long gone and in the past, but as soon as something similar happens, it all comes back to haunt you; and trust me, it will happen. Just because you’re serving God and working with a team of like-minded believers, doesn’t mean somebody won’t get on your nerves or say a hurtful word.
Making strained relationships right cuts the cord of bitterness, envy, and other heavy emotions that weigh down your ability to freely serve with joy.
What about the good things in our past? Why would we need to deal with those? Because that shift in priorities will require you to put God’s call before family, friends, and even your home church. What did Jesus say?
If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sister—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:26 NIV
If you are used to talking to your mother every day at 7 a.m. or before you go to bed, then you’re going to find that hard, when you’re living in a time zone twelve hours different from that of home, and you can’t wake her up to keep your schedule. Are you ready to miss out on years of your family or friends’ lives to fulfill God’s call on your life?
Before you go, ask God to reveal way’s you’re putting family or friends over him.
And what about dating? If you’re single and headed overseas even for a short span of time, six months can seem an eternity, if you’re used to having a date every Friday night. It’s even harder if you’re currently in a dating relationship. I realized, before I went overseas the first time as a single, that I needed to break off a relationship with a non-believer. I couldn’t carry that baggage with me for the next two years, and why would I? It wasn’t healthy either way.
It takes daily surrender to remain committed to singleness (i.e., no dates) while overseas.
There are doors that need closing on this side of the ocean before you move to the other side.
You may have to say no to a career, financial security, or a family home. I can’t answer that question for you—only you can do that by evaluating the things that might become too heavy to keep trying to handle long distance when you’re in service.
Are you finding some doors hard to close? Seek help from a mentor or close friend as you seek the Lord’s will in lightening your load before you leave.
Grace and Peace
For more about this topic, check out my new book, When Doors Close: Changing Course in Missions Without Losing Your Way.