Rosemary Flaaten, M.A.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13b-14 NIV
“Baggage” can refer to the suitcases we take on trains, planes, and automobiles, but it also is a quasi-psychological term that refers to the emotional things that encumber us. Our baggage restricts our freedom, development, or adaptability.
Imagine being at a track-and-field meet. Imagine a young runner who is not wearing the best cleats and aerodynamic clothing but is wearing snow boots and carrying a suitcase loaded with textbooks. Now imagine that person attempting to jump hurdles. Getting over each hurdle would be a major feat, given the baggage he or she is toting.
After we have worked with our clients to help them identify their goals and choose a path that will help them realize these aspirations, our role as a coach is to point out the hurdles and hindrances that pop up as our clients work toward these objectives. One of the benefits of having a coach is having an additional set of ears and eyes on the lookout for the baggage that weighs them down.
But what about the coach? Do we as the coach have baggage that is holding us back?
A story in 1 Samuel 8-9 helped me see my baggage in a whole new light. Let me retell it: “We want a King!” demanded the Israelites. So, God gave them the desires of their hearts and chose Saul whose view of himself was this: “I’m only a Benjamite, from the smallest of Israel’s tribes and from the most insignificant in the tribe at that” (1 Samuel 9:21, NIV paraphrase).
One would think that Saul, having been chosen by the most highly respected prophet of the day, having been told that he was to become a leader for the people, and having experienced such personal transformation, would move into this new role with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way.
The people were assembled. The crown was ready. Saul’s name had been called, but where was he? Samuel couldn’t find him, so he inquired of God.
God’s response should stop each one of us in our tracks. God found Saul, the man He had chosen and equipped to become king. Everyone discovered “he has hidden himself among the baggage” (1 Samuel 10:22b, NIV). Saul’s sense of inferiority based on his heritage became baggage that impeded his movement into the role God had for him.
This story resounds strongly with me. I grew up on a farm in a small, rural Canadian community with parents who lived simple lives. Emotional struggles were sidelined in favor of the philosophy of buck-up and work hard. Faith was uncomplicated and practical. Like Saul’s view of self, “I’m only a Benjamite, from the smallest of Israel’s tribes and from the most insignificant in the tribe at that,” my view of myself was similar. “I’m only a little farm girl, from the smallest of families and from the most insignificant country at that.” Thinking I was anything greater seemed pretentious and prideful.
Roll the clock forward 30 years: I have a master’s degree in Christian Counseling, I have successfully published two books, and I’m coaching individuals of substantial influence. But I still struggle not to hide out in the baggage of my heritage. My family origin of meager means becomes baggage that makes me hesitant to step into circles I would never have dreamed about as a child. My perception of my past keeps me from entering a client’s world. I focus on the fear that I will have nothing of value to say to this influential person because of who I used to be. If I allow it, my baggage from the past pulls me away from relationships and creates obstacles hindering me from becoming who God has called me to be.
By studying Ephesians, I am learning how not to hide in my baggage. Paul, speaking about the mindset of non-believing Gentiles, describes baggage as “the futility of their thinking” (Ephesians 4:17). The word “futile” means that something is ineffective and useless. How have we come to think of ourselves as useless?
He also says “they are darkened in their understanding” (Ephesians 4:18).
Darkness causes us to be cautious, even paralyzed, holding us back in fear. This leads to hardening of our hearts (Ephesians 4:18). A path that is walked over time and again becomes packed and hardened. As disciples of Christ, we don’t want to think like unbelievers. Yet, how often have we replayed the message of our heritage, creating a rigid view and a hardened heart?
But listen to the hope that God offers in Ezekiel 11:19. “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” We don’t have to have futile thinking. We don’t have to have an understanding of ourselves that is darkened and impossible to decipher. We don’t have to live with a hardened heart.
Ephesians 4:22-24 NIV sets a new course of action. “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Let’s all stop hiding in the baggage compartment where we feel safe. Let’s forget what is behind–our baggage–and press on toward the goal God has marked out for us.
Coaching the Coach Tip:
There are three steps to learning a new way to think about yourself: Put off the old, allow God to change your attitude, and embrace the new you. The first step is to “put off.” Like old clothing stripped off our bodies, we can be free of them. We don’t have to walk around encumbered with a view of ourselves that represents yesterday. God is offering us a new set of clothing, not to put on over top of our old, but after we take off the old.
Second, after the old is gone, we are to allow God to change the attitude of our minds. Emotional baggage is not something physical that we carry around but rather a mental entity. It is the baggage of yesterday that God desires to deal with so that we can move away from the old view of self that restrains us. God is offering to change the attitude of our minds.
Third, as the final step, we are to embrace the new us. We are to wear the “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Time and again we have all seen the baggage from the past that encumbers our clients, but we too are at risk. Our ancestral heritage, upbringing, the things we did as a teenager, or what we came to believe about ourselves in any of the past decades of our lives can become an inhibitor of what we are called to do. It doesn’t have to be that way. We owe it to ourselves and our clients to do the hard work of handling our own baggage. Allowing God access to our hearts will provide the Holy Spirit with the opportunity to reprogram the way we think about ourselves so that we more closely reflect God’s view rather than the warped view we have held. What an incredible opportunity to become more than we had ever dreamed possible.
What’s holding you back?
Rosemary Flaaten, M.A., is a life coach, spiritual director, author, speaker, workshop presenter and Adjunct Professor at Rocky Mountain College. She specializes in personal development and relationship coaching, as well as career, transition and leadership coaching. Rosemary is widely published including her bestseller book “A Woman and Her Relationships” and “A Woman and Her Workplace”. Her breadth of experience and education makes her an internationally sought after speaker by secular and Christian organizations, including the American Association of Christian Counselors.
Georgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.