Filthy Rags Are All I Bring

luggage full and ready to travelMy mother has taught me well. I can pack for a weeklong trip in a single, airline-approved duffle bag. If you have travel experience, you know checked-baggage can be a struggle. One method I employ is first meticulously placing all soft-goods in several Ziploc bags. I then press out all the air until they are flat as possible. This and a few other methods have served me well when going on mission trips. Our last trip to the Dominican Republic was the first time my husband and I had to go through customs with “the beard.” (My husband, over the past year and half, has grown a full beard.) I was certain they would stop him but he breezed through. One security agent even said, “Nice beard!” I thought something would happen and it never did. Yet another wasted worry.

For the return from the Dominican, I used not only the Ziploc trick but also wore several layers of clothing. This served dual purposes: organization and well… dirt control. (Mission trips can get you dirtier than you would ever think possible.) I was the first to go through customs. They immediately grabbed my bag and pointed for me to stand behind a yellow line. The agent asked if I spoke Spanish and I shook my head no. He carefully but confidently opened my duffle, revealing approximately 15 Ziplocs full of unclean clothes. Then he slowly began to inspect each bag. I am filled with shame because I know the dirt and stench from my baggage shaved years off his life. Then he gets to items he can’t quite figure out. He inquisitively points to one so I begin to step closer, over the yellow line. He instantly motions for me to stop, followed by instructions to go back. I oblige as he continues to try and determine what lay before him. My baggage is obviously unlike anything he had seen. He points again at another item. I panic thinking how do I explain why I have a banana shaped pouch filled with wooden tiles.

“The game is Bananagrams, you know, like Scrabble.” Then I thought, “Ugh, I’m a doofus. He doesn’t have a clue and I said that in English…”

Eventually he became satisfied that I was not a threat to anyone – other than myself – and attempts to repack my bag, three separate times.  As I watched, my type A personality was chomping at the bit. In my head I’m shouting, “Just let me do it! I know how to fit all this baggage together so that no one realizes how much I have carted around with me!” He realizes the futility, relents and motions me forward to finish the process. Meanwhile, Beardy Bearderson has deftly passed through all checkpoints. In fact, he was waiting on me and chatting with another traveler who asked why we came to the Dominican.

I can’t help but think about the metaphorical baggage I carry. I have meticulously stowed events from my past. Events that, like my mission clothing, were dirty and soiled. While I don’t hold grudges with others and can get over disputes quickly, my mistakes, my errors, and my shortcomings remain ever-present. FILTHY RAGS ARE ALL I BRING. I have nothing to offer to Him. I need a Messiah. If I were the only sinner on earth, Christ would have still died and rose again for me. He knows my dirt and my stench. He knows and still loves me. ME?!

But like me, God approves you to enter his land even though we do not deserve it.  Even though there is nothing we can ever do to earn it.

Isaiah 43: 18-19 “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Jennifer Whittaker writes devotional articles for Buck Run. You can read her work here every other week.