A Note From Kelly King: If there’s one thing I continue to learn about leaders, it’s that we can often lead with a limp. In this case, Rachel Forrest describes how we can often carry unnecessary baggage into our leadership style. This emerging leader gives us three ways to lose our baggage and be more effective. I think you’ll enjoy getting to know Rachel.
Do you like flying? I’m going to be honest and tell you that I don’t. Between motion sickness and a fear of heights, flying is typically an unenjoyable experience for me.
I remember the first time I had to fly. I was in high school, and I had the rare opportunity to go to Hawaii with my high school choir the summer before my senior year. It was a thrilling experience, and I spent the weeks prior to the trip in much anticipation. I didn’t have any proper luggage, so a family member graciously gifted me a brand new suitcase and carry-on bag.
I meticulously checked the TSA regulations for what I could and couldn’t take. I asked everyone for advice about what to pack. I was so concerned about having everything I might need in my carry-on over the long flight from middle America to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. On the day of my trip, though, it wasn’t my carry-on that concerned me so much. It was checking a bag.
I’d heard horror stories of lost luggage, arriving to your destination only to find that your suitcase was on a plane headed to Timbuktu. So, when we arrived in Honolulu, I scanned the baggage claim with vigor, meticulously checking every bag for the telltale signs of my suitcase. Thankfully, mine appeared and I grabbed it from the conveyor belt with enthusiastic relief.
To this day, I still approach the baggage claim with fearful anticipation, waiting with bated breath and hoping to avoid the unthinkable horror of lost luggage. Ultimately, my trust is misplaced in the security of my things: my world wouldn’t come to a crashing halt if I were separated from my stuff. Yet, the sight of my baggage brings a false sense of security, like I can tackle whatever lies ahead in this new place so long as I have my baggage.
This misplaced trust may be fine when it comes to literal baggage, but what happens when we cling to our spiritual and emotional baggage? Whether it’s a past hurt or a sin struggle, as women’s ministry leaders, we all may carry some metaphorical baggage. Carrying this baggage limits our leadership capacity as the burden of it cripples our trust in God.
So, how can we let go of our baggage in order to lead with boldness? The prophet Isaiah has some helpful truths for us. In chapter 46, God’s people are exiled in Babylon, and they have engaged in idol worship of the Babylonian gods. As part of the idol worship, they physically carry images of these gods during the annual New Year’s festival in Babylon. Isaiah warns God’s exiled people against trusting in the Babylonian gods. He admonishes them that Yahweh is the one true God, and they misplace their trust in the doomed gods of Babylon who will fail them.
Here are 3 things we can learn from Isaiah about how to lose our baggage in order to be more effective leaders:
1. Call it out. Isaiah identifies two of the chief Babylonian gods by name as he details their inability to save God’s people.
Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts. They stoop; they bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity (Isaiah 46:1-2, ESV).
Do you have a root of bitterness in your heart from a past hurt? Are you harboring unforgiveness or holding a grudge against a fellow saint? Whatever your baggage is, calling it out by name will weaken its authority in your life. When you identify it, then you can bring it before the Lord in repentance and faith and find healing.
2. Call on God to carry it. Speaking on God’s behalf, Isaiah reminds the exiles that there is never one moment when God fails His people.
He says, “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:3-4, ESV).
What a beautiful expression of God’s faithfulness to His people. Because of God’s personal commitment to His children, we can call on Him to carry our baggage for us. We can cast our bitterness, hurts, sins, and concerns on Him because He loves us and carries them for us.
3. Recall God’s purpose for your life. Isaiah concludes the chapter by calling on God’s exiled people to remember their identity as children of God set apart for His glory.
“Remember this and stand firm…for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’…I will bring near my righteousness…and my salvation will not delay; I will put salvation in Zion, for Israel my glory” (Isaiah 46:8-13, ESV).
When we’re weighed down by baggage, we can lose sight of who God is and what He has done in our lives. We must renew in our minds who we are and Whose we are. We can let go of our baggage because the record of God’s faithfulness to us will compel us to a wholehearted trust in Him.
Rachel Forrest is an Oklahoma native where she lives with her husband and two young children. Having grown up as a child of a parent who suffered from mental illness and substance abuse, she is passionate about sharing her story of hope and redemption with others. She is a ministry wife who has served in local churches as a women’s ministry director and teen girls small group leader. She has an M.A. in Theological Studies. In between loving her family and leading in her church, she enjoys reading, vintage shopping, and spending time outdoors. You can connect with her online at OfHeartAndHope.com