Friday, July 11, 2014

Coping With Baggage

by Jill Jackson

Everyone has baggage. There’s the baggage of regret—things we wish we would have done differently or things we wish we hadn’t done all together. There’s the baggage of guilt that often accompanies regret for the pain we caused others or for the way we transgressed against God. There’s also the baggage of hurtful experiences—sometimes self-inflicted, others when we were purely victims.
Children who grew up in “Christ-less Christian homes” likely endured many hurtful circumstances over which they had no control. They lived in a home that others thought was a good Christian home, but in reality their home failed to be different from those in the world . . . or was even worse than a worldly home. Those who experienced a home like this often have a unique set of baggage.

The Baggage of Silent Suffering

Those reared in such homes often suffer in silence—from shame, fear or from being so broken down they believe no one cares. These homes are often filled with lies and manipulation. Many times the church family is completely unaware of the hypocrisy in these homes, but the children within witness it on a daily basis. There is legitimate hurt that accompanies hearing people say one thing and seeing them do another.
It can be a very lonely existence when bearing such burdens alone. Many of these children adapt to this isolation and become self-sufficient in ways one never should be. Leery and untrusting of others, unable to appreciate the bond between those in Christ, they may struggle to form relationships as they age. They may forever deprive themselves of the strength, encouragement and spiritual wisdom from their Christian family (1 Thessalonians 5:14, Hebrews 10:24). Going it alone—even suffering alone—has become a more comfortable existence than being with those who share the common ultimate goal of getting to heaven, but this is not what God had in mind for his family.

The Baggage of Tainted Perspective

We’re influenced and molded by the things we see and do over and over. Our patterns (chosen by us or chosen for us) and habits become our normalcy whether the behaviors are good and normal, or not.
I am a NASM certified (National Academy of Sports Medicine) CPT, PES, and CES. I have logged over 2,000 hours as a personal trainer. When it comes to physical training there’s something we call muscle memory. When a particular movement is repeated over and over, the body becomes so familiar with the motion, that eventually it’s performed without any thought. The bad news is, you can actually build muscle memory when doing something the wrong way! Take for example the squat. When doing a squat, one aspect of proper body mechanics is to push your weight into the heels of you feet. Many times I see people doing squats, and every time they sink down, their heels pop up. Not good! Very bad for the knees, but the abnormal way of doing squats has become what feels normal because of muscle memory. The good news is the body can be retrained. You can correct the movement and build a new muscle memory. The difficult part is that for a while, the correct way of doing things will feel very abnormal.
So it is with our life experiences. For Christians who grew up in “Christ-less Christian homes,” there’s most often the baggage of a tainted perspective. They have abnormal “muscle memory.” What they have grown up seeing from their parent(s) is their normal, despite how dysfunctional or hypocritical they may have been. Perhaps they suffer from the perception that all Christians are like their parent(s): manipulative, deceivers, liars, blatant sinners who in reality make no real effort to do what is right. Their perspective can become very jaded when it comes to Christianity. Or maybe their perspective is that their home was “normal” and they fall into a vicious cycle of repeating the same destructive behaviors they endured. If not corrected, this tainted perspective can create problems that could plague future family generations.
The Baggage of Rebellion
As a result of the baggage of silent suffering and tainted perspective, the baggage of rebellion is often born. Perhaps the word disgust doesn’t even begin to describe what these children feel for the disgraceful behavior they saw from the grown-ups in their home. Often the parent/child relationship is so fractured that even grown children are faced with the temptation to rebel against God. There can be a psychological war within the hearts of these children. Sometimes their perception can become so distorted, they fail to be able to recognize that some of what their parents taught them with regard to the Scriptures was good and right. In this confused state, pleasing God is sometimes seen as pleasing their parents—the last people they care to emulate. This may seem to others like no big deal, but in their shoes it can be huge—especially when dealing with unbalanced parents.
This inability to separate serving God from the behavior within the home makes these children vulnerable to the temptation of rebelling against God’s ways. The reality is these children could lose their souls as a result of this power struggle, which really reflects more of a hostility to the parent, than a hostility to God. But rebellion against God, for any reason, is still rebellion, which is sin. It’s quite tragic that some, after suffering and enduring a “Christ-less Christian home,” break free and leave the nest only to continue to be a prisoner of the past and destroy the future that awaits.
This baggage is real and destructive. It’s a painful weight that can prevent people from living the Christian life the way God intended, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a better way, and perhaps the first step on the road of that better way is acquiring a balanced view of sin. Will the pursuit of this “better way” cause all the painful memories to vanish? No, but perhaps it will help those suffering to see they’re not required to carry the baggage they have with them in the future (Philippians 3:13-14). And the more distance one travels from the baggage, the brighter the future shines. Though this life will not be without burdens and suffering, we should all take heart and remember there is a peace in the fellowship we have with Christ (John 16:33). “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22).

Recommended Reading
Jackson, Jason. A Prayer of the Afflicted—A Study of Psalm 102.
Jackson, Wayne. Promises From God For Troubled Souls.
Jackson, Wayne. How Do I Deal With Conflicting Emotions?
Picture Copyright: <a href=''>_ella_ / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jill,
    You write some very moving and helpful things here. Even good, Christian homes can fail sometimes, as there are many individuals living there who make choices. Learning to take control of our lives, accepting what we cannot change and taking responsibility for our decisions makes a life of sorrow, suffering and sadness into one of joy and peace in Christ.
    Thank you for sharing your insight here.