As we keep on with our unopened package concept, I hope to help you understand not only what packages are, but how they can affect us, direct us, and defect us.
Without even realizing it, our perfected dream-list-turned-into-packages becomes part of how we classify or describe ourselves. Intentionally or not, we put nametags on ourselves, identifying with what we think will certainly happen in our future:
“Hi, I’m happily married, the kids are great, and everything’s wonderful.”
“How are ya, I’m going to be a full-time stay at home mommy when I have kids.”
“Nice to meet you, I’m the girl who’s going to travel the world before settling down.”
Or the slightly darker version, what’s gone wrong or happened that certainly wasn’t supposed to happen:
“Hello there, I wasn’t supposed to be single at this age.”
“Hey you, I’m doing a great job masking my anxiety tonight, but I’m going to suffer from a mild panic attack on the way home.”
“Hi y’all, I had plans to be healthy and enjoy my grandchildren.”
Maybe we can't slow down and enjoy our own lives because we are so busy pretending that what we think is real is really make-believe. If reality looks different than what was planned or expected, we convince ourselves that our true reality is coming right up, waiting to be unwrapped. So we focus our gaze on what we think is supposed to be next.
We can't sit still in a peaceful place because our unopened packages occupy the space in our minds instead.
As I try to unravel this visual God has given me—I begin to notice again and again how these packages can isolate us—they make us believe we are all alone in the world, the only one wishing, hoping, dreaming, and regretting things that have not yet come to be or have already passed us by. We are falling prey to our own dying dreams and doing all of the work for Satan. He doesn't have to try to discourage or distract us, because in our defeat, we've buried ourselves so deep that we can't find the way out.
All Satan has to do is keep us quiet and alone, reminding us of what should have been, and how sorry we must be that it all didn't work out according to plan. So we stop trying, we stop pushing onward with what we think is God-given purpose and drive, because we think, “If it hasn’t happened yet, it probably never will.”
Sound familiar? Eve in the garden: alone with the serpent, Jesus up on the mountain: suddenly alone with Satan. We have warnings throughout scripture, advising us to be on the lookout for the schemes of the ‘Father of Lies’:
"Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour." 1 Peter 5:8 HCSB
2 Corinthians 11:3 says it so well, that when I read it, I get chills. “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's’ cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere devotion to Christ.” NIV
2 Corinthians 2:11 tells us, “So that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” ESV
John 10:10, “The thief comes to only steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and live it abundantly.” ESV
Jonathan Parnell writes, “Satan wants us isolated from one another. He wants to find us all alone in the thunderstorm of our own thoughts, when we’re stuck in the sounds of our sinful souls. It is the oldest trick in the book, that he’d catch us when we’re perusing the tree by ourselves.” I think Parnell’s spot on, because as good southern women, we don’t talk about our hurt; it’s poor breeding, selfish, and certainly not something we hang out to dry.
Satan means for us to tiptoe delicately into the spare room each evening, pull out our unopened boxes, and sit, abandoned in our hurt, convincing ourselves that we are all alone in this world; we have no one we can share shoulders or sobs with. Because if we talk about our packages, we’ll have to address them, right?. But like a window that is opened just enough for fresh air to come inside, when we talk about the things that make us anxious, depressed, or angry, we are opening ourselves up to be filled with healing and hope God promises us through Christ.
In our desire to live a tidy, dream-life, or one that is far more exciting than the ‘dailyness’ I sometimes struggle with—we are often walking away from the amazing things God does have planned us in Christ Jesus. I shudder to think about the blessings I’ve missed that were happening around me because I was too distracted by old dreams.
Just like Philippians 2:15 says, we live in a crooked and twisted generation: packages can come from so many places: our culture, our families, our surroundings, our community, etc.
However, Jesus reminds us that we can know the Truth and the Truth will set us free (John 8:32). He can take the fear out of unwrapping those packages, tenderly giving us the courage and freedom to remove the bows, open them up, take an honest look and then offer them to Him believing He can provide more than than packages offer us.
A thought I’d like you to consider, with your list from Day 1 in hand:
Where do you think your packages could have originated, and where are you keeping them?
On the mantel for everyone to see? Or hidden in the attic collecting dust and taking up space?
Do you deny yourself the funeral of past desires, by promising that they don’t matter to you anymore?
Are you a little more open about these packages, but understand the prudence in not traipsing your woes around? So old, unopened packages are stored in hall closets, and like a winter coat, only pulled out when the weather gets cold.
Or, are you decorating your house and your life with bitterness and despair?
Unopened packages are out on display for all to see. “Come look at my missed-out and messed-up life” your décor declares.
What I want to argue here, is that no matter where we store our packages, they are like abandoned landmines, waiting to be prodded at the right moment, unexpectedly releasing wreckage and havoc extending its reach much farther than an attic, hall closet, or fireplace mantel.
In an article titled ‘How Christ Changes Us By His Grace,’ authors Lane and Tripp talk about addressing the ‘if only’s’ of life, and how “God calls us back from the wide-angle helicopter view to zoom in and humbly take a close look at ourselves. He calls us to believe and act upon the gospel promises of forgiveness, restoration, wisdom, strength, deliverance, and power by acknowledging our responsibility for our thorn-like responses.”
Sometimes the pain of packages come from the distractions that occur when Christ is not the center of our heart, motivations, and actions.
“Anger is cruel, and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” ESV, Proverbs 27:4
Is this a verse that stirs anything up in you?
Do your packages have anything to do with anger, cruelty, fury, jealousy, the need to have control?
I encourage you to be bold here, and ask the Lord to reveal any struggles with comparison or jealousy.
In light of what we’ve discussed today, where do you think you are storing unopened packages?
To end the day, let’s read Philippians 3:12-16 together.
Here, Paul admits to being human. He doesn’t claim to be perfect, but he writes about a freedom I think so many of us want.
Philippians 3:12-16: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But for one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
What do you think Paul means when he writes about ‘forgetting what lies behind’?
How could we describe ‘straining forward’ or ‘pressing on’ in our own lives? What do you think that looks like? What do you think Christ wants you to forget? How could He use your past positively in your future?
I hope you are praying over your list of unopened packages. It might get uncomfortable, having to talk about and think about these hard things—but if you’re like me—you want freedom from the weight and pain, too. Let’s press on together.
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