The following is a story by Sheri Dew from her book, If Life Were Easy, It Wouldn’t Be Hard and begins chapter two on page 25. This story really inspires me and I hope that by sharing it you will be inspired too.
“Last fall I arrived in New York City late one evening for a crucial meeting the next morning. I was dead to the world when at 3:00 A.M. a fire alarm jolted me out of bed. As I prepared to dash out of the room, I was overcome with a wave of reality… and vanity. I don’t look that great at 3:00 A.M. What if I couldn’t get back to my room? How could I go to the meeting in flat hair and sweats? Quickly I threw clothes in my suitcase, grabbed my briefcase, and bolted out the door. For an instant I wondered if I should just leave my luggage behind. But I was going down. How hard could that be? I had failed, however, to factor in one minor detail: I was on the 44th floor.
The fire escape quickly filled with smoke and bathrobed guests, all of us heading down the stairs as fast as we could. Funniest thing, I was the only one carrying luggage. After a few floors my legs started to throb, then shake, then scream with pain. When I thought I couldn’t take another step, I looked up to see that we were only on the 21st floor. But there weren’t many options. If I dropped my bags or slowed down to rest, I would block the escape and put others as risk. I had no choice but to keep moving.
It was unbelievably grueling as I forced my muscles to keep going when they ‘d long since signaled that they were worn out. Somehow I made it down – but at a high price. Because there was one more small detail about this flight to safety: I was recovering from surgery on my left knee, so I forced the other knee to bear the brunt of the pounding – 1,232 stairs straight down (yes, 28 steps per floor), carrying 40 pounds of luggage. The escapade shredded my right knee, and I subsequently had to have surgery on that knee, from which the recovery was slow and painful. The moral of this pathetic story? When you have to evacuate your hotel, leave your baggage in the room!
That trip down 44 flights of stairs was a lot like our trip through mortality. It was scary – there were moments of sheer fear. It was more grueling and painful than I could have ever imagined. And even when I thought I couldn’t take one more step, I had to keep going. Sound familiar?
But the trip didn’t need to be as hard as I made it. I should have grabbed my laptop, phone, and scriptures – because each one helps me communicate – and left everything else behind (well, except maybe my makeup). Likewise, on this jaunt through mortality we’ve simply got to leave our baggage behind, because our spiritual joints can’t take the pounding.
When I speak of baggage, I’m not talking about burdens. Burdens are part of the mortal experience – the burdens that come with unfulfilled expectations, with disappointment and heartache, with affliction and wavering faith. Loneliness can be a burden. Emotional wounds can be burdens. Heavy assignments from the Lord can feel like burdens. And certainly, sin creates burdens. But the Savior atoned precisely so we wouldn’t have to carry our burdens alone. He knew they’d be too heavy for us. Thus His entreaty, “Come unto me, all ye that… are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, … for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30; emphasis added).
(Skipping to page 28) Baggage, however, is another matter entirely. Burdens have the potential to exalt us, but baggage just weighs us down and wears us out. When we don’t repent, sin becomes baggage. Natural-man behaviors that we aren’t ready to give up becomes baggage. Worry, jealousy, and guilt are baggage. And unforgiving heart, anger, regret, and pride are baggage. Resentment, the desire to retaliate, fear, and insecurity create unbearable baggage. We choose whether or not to pick up baggage, and Satan loves nothing more than loading us down like pack mules.”