I consider myself an expert packer. I learned years ago to find a place in the bag the same shape as the item I am adding. Using this process, every square inch gets filled—no wasted space. I am not, however, adept at unpacking. I take out a little here and a little there, but my bag empty is never empty. While simply unloading the contents and putting them away would seem painless enough, it’s easier said than done.
My experiences are so numerous they cannot be counted. I have tried to list them, but quickly become distracted and find other endeavors to fill my time and thoughts. So, I am not exaggerating to say I have been stepping over my bag for years. Ever since I can remember, there it sits, staring at me every morning as I slide out of bed and bidding me goodnight when the lights go out. “Unpack me,” it says.
Having always been a packrat of sorts, I guess I identify with my possessions. Throwing out does not come easily for me. My things become a part of me, even define me in some ways. Every now and then I sort through my bag and take inventory of what remains inside. Some of the contents have been hidden there since I was a child and took repeated trips to visit relatives. They are old and one would think no longer important, but they are of great value.
One day I uncovered a reminder brought home from a vacation when I was a teenager. That, too, I once thought to be insignificant, but I have come to realize how much impact on my life has been made by its presence. Digging deeper, even more remains—stuffed in when I was a young adult. Of all I have carried, those are the most stubborn. They don’t want to budge, even when I try.
Maybe one day this bottomless bag will sit empty.
Most journeys have been taken alone. A few were with others, but usually…just me. Such was the case until a year ago. While traveling solo, I found others who would join me. I soon realized revisiting details about previous excursions comes much easier with companions who show interest in my jaunts and don’t seem to mind hearing me ramble about the small, as well as the large. They remain attentive even when I am repetitive or become side-tracked as I reflect back on years past.
When I stepped into group work with seven other ladies last fall, I did not realize the fullness of where that path would lead. They, too, share stories of experiences from their own lives. Not everywhere we have been are places we want to explore, yet explore them we do. I am sincerely interested in where they have been, and they feel the same about me. I am as trusted by them as the trust I have in them.
Our trust for one another has grown, but our love for one another has multiplied even more.
Without the ability to gather face to face, we manage to travel virtually to every corner of the country and find comfort in each others’ homes. We set up residence in the hearts of our new friends and find our place there to be welcoming and warm. I love knowing they want to share their lives with me, and never again will I try going it alone. When I have attempted in the past, I haven’t gotten very far. The journey I am on with these women is healing, transformative, and life changing…an adventure which I hope will never end.
This morning, I unzipped the top of my bag as it sat in its usual resting place. I slowly pulled open the closure and peered inside. Everything was still there—all I have carried with me for so many years. Today, however, is different. When I lift this baggage I have carried most of my life, it is not as heavy as in the past. The burden is lighter. Everything is still there, but it doesn’t weigh what it once did.
Thank you, dear friends, for helping me lighten the load.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Wendy Lipham lives in Mobile, Alabama, where she has taught interview and communication skills for the past twenty years. Having heard God’s call to work with women who have experienced sexual trauma, she facilitates the “Beautifully Broken” story group in her community. She enjoys playing the piano, needlepoint, and listening to the laughter of six precious grandchildren with her husband.