Lynne and I don't use airports very often. When we do so, we feel like country bumpkins as we don't really know what to do and everything is a bit strange. My most recent visit to Birmingham Airport was last month, when the Kidderminster clergy visited the chaplain there and heard about the chaplaincy to the airport. The chaplain commented on how he looks around at people; some are going on very expensive holidays, but many people look really miserable! Mind you, there are few people who really enjoy airports these days.
Excess baggage used to be a problem for air travellers. You wanted to avoid having to pay extra if you had gone over the allowance. I think nowadays many airlines charge for any baggage in the hold, so the frequent passenger will want to have everything in the hand luggage if possible. To travel light makes sense - it avoids baggage costs, and the queues at the baggage reclaim area. My chaplain friend commented that people are most likely to get angry or frustrated at the security area on the way out, and in the baggage reclaim, or immigration, on the way back.
To travel with minimum baggage gives a freedom. Lynne and I are in the process of having to decrease our personal baggage as we de-clutter in preparation for our move at the end of June. You may have heard that I am retiring and we are leaving the benefice after nearly 15 years. We will be moving to Hartlebury. We will be really sorry to leave this beautiful area and say a farewell to so many good friends - but we are also looking forward to a new chapter in our lives.
We are moving to a smaller house. When we came back from Tanzania 26 years ago we had very few possessions. Over the years we have, like most people, acquired all sorts of things. Living in vicarages we have had space to keep things - but now the time to cut down our possessions and clutter has come.
It is a very liberating experience in many ways. Often we have far more things than we need, and the opportunity to go through everything and think, ‘Do I really need this?' is really good. Sometimes we come across things that we had forgotten that we had. Some remind us of years ago. I was sifting through some records that I used to play when I was a student. It was a strange experience.
There are several kinds of ‘baggage' that we begin to carry around in our lives. There are the things that we own, that are in our homes. There are also memories and emotions. Some are good, some are difficult. There are times when it is good to release, to let go of, some feelings of guilt or sadness. Here I am treading on the toes of professional counsellors who can help us when these things from the past hinder us from living a free life today.
When I pray, one of my themes in prayer is to seek to know from God what are his priorities for my life. What are the important things to do today, or this week? There are times when I lose sight of this and become confused with lesser priorities. Jesus taught his followers to love God with everything and to love one's neighbour as oneself. Sorting out our baggage helps us to sort out our priorities - and that is something Jesus challenged people to do.
So, as Lynne and I continue to separate out what we are discarding and what we are keeping for our new home, I invite you to think about your own situation. Our possessions can be a great blessing, but for any of us too many things can become ‘excess baggage' that weighs us down.