Unpack Your Bag

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You were born prepacked. God looked at your entire life, determined your assignment, and gave you the tools to do the job.

Before traveling, you do something similar. You consider the demands of the journey and pack accordingly. Cold weather? Bring a jacket. Business meeting? Carry the laptop. Time with grandchildren? Better take some sneakers and pain medication.

God did the same with you. Joe will research animals . . . install curiosity. Meagan will lead a private school . . . an extra dose of management. I need Eric to comfort the sick . . . Iinclude a healthy share of compassion. Denalyn will marry Max . . . instill a double portion of patience.

“Each of us is an original” (Gal. 5:26 MSG). God packed you on purpose for a purpose. Is this news to you? If so, you may be living out of the wrong bag.

I once grabbed the wrong bag at the airport. The luggage looked like mine. Same size. Same material. Same color. Thrilled that it had emerged early from the baggage catacombs, I yanked it off the carousel and headed to the hotel. One glance inside, however, and I knew I’d made a mistake. Wrong size, style, and gender. (Besides, my pants would be too short with stiletto heels.)

What would you do in such a case? You could make do with what you have. Cram your body into the tight clothes, deck out in other-gender jewelry, and head out for your appointments. But would you? Only at risk of job loss and jail time.

No, you’d hunt down your own bag. Issue an all-points bulletin. Call the airport. Call the airlines. The taxi service. The FBI. Hire bloodhounds and private investigators. You’d try every possible way to find the person who can’t find her suitcase and is wondering what gooney bird failed to check the nametag.

No one wants to live out of someone else’s bag.

Then why do we? Odds are, someone has urged a force fit into clothes not packed for you.

Parents do. The dad puts an arm around his young son. “Your great-granddad was a farmer. Your granddad was a farmer. I’m a farmer. And you, my son, will someday inherit the farm.”

A teacher might. She warns the young girl who wants to be a stay-at-home mom, “Don’t squander your skills. With your gifts you could make it to the top. The professional world is the way to go.”

Church leaders assign luggage from the pulpit. “God seeks world-changing, globetrotting missionaries. Jesus was a missionary. Do you want to please your Maker? Follow him into the holy vocation. Spend your life on foreign soil.”

Sound counsel or poor advice? That depends on what God packed in the person’s bag.

A bequeathed farm blesses the individualist and physically active. But what if God fashioned the farmer’s son with a passion for literature or medicine?

Work outside the home might be a great choice for some, but what if God gave the girl a singular passion for kids and homemaking?

Those wired to learn languages and blaze trails should listen up to sermons promoting missionary service. But if foreign cultures frustrate you while predictability invigorates you, would you be happy as a missionary?

No, but you would contribute to these mind-numbing statistics:

  • Unhappiness on the job affects one-fourth of the American work force
  • One-fourth of employees view their jobs as the number one stressor in their lives.
  • Seven out of ten people are neither motivated nor competent to perform the basics of their job.
  • Forty-three percent of employees feel anger toward their employers often or very often as a result of feeling overworked.
  • Forty-five percent of all U.S. workers said they would change their careers if they could.

 

Feel the force of these figures. You wonder why workbound commuters seem so cranky? “Fully 70 percent of us go to work without much enthusiasm or passion.”6 Most wage earners spend forty of their eighty waking weekday hours trudging through the streets of Dullsville.

Such misery can’t help but sour families, populate bars, and pay the salaries of therapists. If 70 percent of us dread Mondays, dream of Fridays, and slug through the rest of the week, won’t our relationships suffer? Won’t our work suffer? Won’t our health suffer? One study states, “Problems at work are more strongly associated with health complaints than any other life stressor — more so than even financial problems or family problems.”

Such numbers qualify as an epidemic. An epidemic of commonness. Someone sucked the sparkle out of our days. A stale fog has settled over our society. Week after week of energy-sapping sameness. Walls painted gray with routine. Commuters dragging their dread to the office. Buildings packed with people working to live rather than living to work. Boredom. Mediocre performance.

The cure? God’s prescription begins with unpacking your bags. You exited the womb uniquely equipped. David states it this way: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Ps. 139:15?16 NIV).

Spelunk these verses with me. David emphasizes the pronoun “you” as if to say “you, God, and you alone.” “The secret place” suggests a hidden and safe place, concealed from intruders and evil. Just as an artist takes a canvas into a locked studio, so God took you into his hidden chamber where you were “woven together.” Moses used the same word to describe the needlework of the tabernacle’s inner curtains — stitched together by skillful hands for the highest purpose (see Exod. 26:1; 36:8; 38:9). The Master Weaver selected your temperament threads, your character texture, the yarn of your personality — all before you were born. God did not drop you into the world utterly defenseless and empty-handed. You arrived fully equipped.

“All the days ordained . . .” Day of birth and day of death. Days of difficulty and victory. What motivates you, what exhausts you . . . God authored — and authors — it all.

Other translations employ equally intriguing verbs:

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You . . . knit me together. (v. 13 NLT) I was woven together in the dark of the womb. (v. 15 NLT) I was . . . intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors]. (v. 15 AMP)

My hands have never embroidered a stitch, but my mom’s have. In predishwasher days when mothers drafted young sons into kitchen duty to dry dishes, I grew too acquainted with her set of embroidered dishtowels. She had embellished sturdy white cloth with colorful threads: seven towels, each bearing the name of a different day. Her artisan skills rendered common towels uncommonly unique. God did the same with you!

Don’t dull your life by missing this point:

You are more than statistical chance, more than a marriage of heredity and society, more than a confluence of inherited chromosomes and childhood trauma. More than a walking weather vane whipped about by the cold winds of fate. Thanks to God, you have been “sculpted from nothing into something” (v. 15 MSG).

Envision Rodin carving The Thinker out of a rock. The sculptor chisels away a chunk of stone, shapes the curve of a kneecap, sands the forehead . . . Now envision God doing the same: sculpting the way you are before you even were, engraving you with . . .

an eye for organization, an ear for fine music, a heart that beats for justice and fairness, a mind that understands quantum physics, the tender fingers of a caregiver, or the strong legs of a runner.

He made you you-nique.

Secular thinking, as a whole, doesn’t buy this. Secular society sees no author behind the book, no architect behind the house, no purpose behind or beyond life. Society sees no bag and certainly never urges you to unpack one. It simply says, “You can be anything you want to be.”

Be a butcher if you want to, a sales rep if you like. Be an ambassador if you really care. You can be anything you want to be. If you work hard enough. But can you? If God didn’t pack within you the meat sense of a butcher, the people skills of a salesperson, or the world vision of an ambassador, can you be one? An unhappy, dissatisfied one perhaps. But a fulfilled one? No. Can an acorn become a rose, a whale fly like a bird, or lead become gold? Absolutely not. You cannot be anything you want to be. But you can be everything God wants you to be.

S?Kierkegaard echoed the teaching of Scripture when he wrote, “At each man’s birth there comes into being an eternal vocation for him, expressly for him. To be true to himself in relation to this eternal vocation is the highest thing a man can practice.”

God never prefabs or mass-produces people. No slapdash shaping. “I make all things new,” he declares (Rev. 21:5). He didn’t hand you your granddad’s bag or your aunt’s life; he personally and deliberately packed you.

When you live out of the bag God gave, you discover an uncommon joy. Haven’t you seen examples of this?

I recently flew to St. Louis on a commercial airline. The attendant was so grumpy I thought she’d had lemons for breakfast. She made her instructions clear: sit down, buckle up, and shut up! I dared not request anything lest she push the eject button.

Perhaps I caught her on the wrong day, or maybe she caught herself in the wrong career.

Two weeks later I took another flight. This attendant had been imported from heaven. She introduced herself to each passenger, had us greet each other, and then sang a song over the intercom! I had to ask her, “Do you like your work?”

“I love it!” she beamed. “For years I taught elementary school and relished each day. But then they promoted me. I went from a class of kids to an office of papers. Miserable! I resigned, took some months to study myself, found this opportunity, and snagged it. Now I can’t wait to come to work!”

Too few people can say what she said. Few people do what she did. One job-placement firm suggests only 1 percent of its clients have made a serious study of their skills.

Don’t imitate their mistake. “Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants” (Eph. 5:17 MSG). You can do something no one else can do in a fashion no one else can do it. Exploring and extracting your uniqueness excites you, honors God, and expands his kingdom. So “make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that” (Gal. 6:4 MSG).

Discover and deploy your knacks.

Charlie Steinmetz did. He designed the generators that powered Henry Ford’s first assembly lines in Dearborn, Michigan. Sometime after he retired, the generators stalled out, bringing the entire plant to a halt. Ford’s engineers couldn’t find the problem, so he called his old friend Charlie. Steinmetz fiddled with this gauge, jiggled that lever, tried this button, played with a few wires, and after a few hours threw the master switch. The motors kicked on, and the system returned to normal. Some days later Ford received a bill from Steinmetz for $10,000. Ford found the charge excessive and wrote his friend a note:

“Charlie: It seems awfully steep, this $10,000, for a man who for just a little while tinkered around with a few motors.” Steinmetz wrote a new bill and sent it back to Mr. Ford. “Henry: For tinkering around with motors, $10; for knowing where to tinker, $9,990.”

You tinker unlike anyone else. Explore and extract your tinker talent. A gift far greater than $10,000 awaits you. “Remember that the Lord will give a reward to everyone . . . for doing good” (Eph. 6:8 NCV).

When you do the most what you do the best, you put a smile on God’s face. What could be better than that?

Adaped from Cures for the Common Life by Max Lucado.

Copyright © 2006 by Max Lucado, published by Thomas Nelson, used with permission.

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