I’ve carried a backpack for most of my life. I started in elementary school, continued through seminary and, to this day, I still carry all of my stuff in my backpack. I don’t carry textbooks and Trapper Keepers anymore, but I do carry my computer and my Kindle. I suppose I could upgrade to a nice briefcase, but I don’t think it would survive the rigors of youth ministry.
Whether we actually carry a backpack or a briefcase, we all carry with us some sort of baggage. If we look into our pasts, we will all find some sort of hurt, anger or grief. Each of us has experiences that have wounded us to varying degrees. If we don’t address those hurts from our pasts, then they’re bound to impact our futures.
We need to be willing to go back in order to go forward.
Going back includes unpacking our emotional baggage. We need to be honest about the experiences that have hurt us and acknowledge their impact on us. It definitely isn’t fun or easy, but it’s the only way to fully become the people God created us to be.
Joseph provides a great biblical example of going back in order to go forward. Joseph was beaten by his brothers and sold into slavery. He was falsely accused of rape and imprisoned for years. Even though backpacks probably hadn’t yet been invented, Joseph definitely had a lot of emotional baggage.
After he rises to power, though, and brings his family with him to Egypt, we see how Joseph was transformed. Genesis 50:19-21 says:
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Joseph’s brothers were worried that he would hold a grudge and get back at them. Joseph had gone back to his past, though, and addressed his hurts so that he could move forward. Joseph focused more on God than he did on his past, which helped him leave the baggage of his past behind as he moved into the future.
Personally I also know the value in going back to go forward. A few years ago I had a bit of a breakdown and needed to take some time off of work. I met with my counselor and he helped me unpack some of my emotional baggage. It was difficult to go back, but today I can definitely say that it helped me go forward.
God is the God of our entire lives: our pasts, presents and futures. He is with us in the present and will help us go back to our past so we can more fully become who he wants us to be in our future.
How has going back helped you to go forward?
You can download my sermon, upon which this post is based, here.