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Written by Sandra Barrett

Baggage.  We all have some.  

I’m not talking about expandable carry-ons, soft shell duffels, hard cases with spinner wheels, or designer totes.

Nope.  I’m referring to the kind of past life experiences, personality traits, family dynamics and belief systems that play a less-than-best role in determining how we approach and navigate relationships.

Similar to an airport, bus or train station, as people walk through Branches double-doors, they are carrying some sort of baggage. Mind you, it’s the invisible type.  

Some types of “baggage” might not be that big of a deal.  They’re lightweight and don't pose a significant hindrance to connecting with others and growing in our relationship with Jesus.  

Other types are no fun at all to haul around.  It’s more like lugging an overweight roller bag with a missing wheel, to boot.  The by-product?  Our “excess luggage” ends up costing us on an emotional, relational, physical and spiritual level.    

On a path to discover if the claims of Christianity were true, a young wife and mother shows up on Branches doorstep, about a year ago.  

Rather than sit around at home, waiting for someone to come and answer her most pressing questions about life, purpose and faith, she courageously decided to enter the big grey church she’d driven by countless times on her way through town.  

No different than you or me, she had a tolerable amount of baggage in tow.

Her thought?  Maybe God could help her gain some insight into the hodge-podge faith she’d cobbled together from a random assortment of “spiritual” sources.  

In addition to the rubbermaid-sized trunk full of religious confusion she was trying to wrangle, she had a bag full of relational heartache. Her marriage was on the rocks and she honestly wondered if there was enough “sticky factor” that would enable it to survive.  

After a few months of random Sunday morning attendance, she dared to trust that we are genuinely interested in helping her safely explore what faith is all about in a judgment free zone called, Starting Point.  

As we began our journey through the content, she was gripped by the difference between a “serial mistaker” versus a term people generally try to avoid - sinner.  

For the first time, the words, “I’m sorry” struck her as cheap, powerless, and - oftentimes - insincere. 

By contrast, reconciliation comes on the heels of a person owning up to their sin and seeking forgiveness. That struck her as powerfully life-changing.

At that moment, I believe that the angels of heaven looked with adoration at Jesus.  They know what He’s up to.  You see, humanity’s Burden Bearer is in the process of gently relieving another one of His dearly loved creation from the “baggage” of sin and death that she’s carried far too long.  In exchange, reconciliation, forgiveness and new life are being extended as a free gift.  

The cool thing?  As she continues to move forward in her journey of faith, we get to partner with Jesus in the process of lightening her load.