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Family Baggage

“…human beings never enter this world without baggage. The baggage is an inheritance, both cultural and biological that shapes the ground we walk on and the challenges we will inevitably confront. Fr. Alexander Schmemann is reported to have said that the spiritual life consists in “how we deal with what we’ve been dealt.” In some families, it seems that no matter how many times the deck is shuffled, the same hand (or close to it) appears. The Scriptures are rife with this element of our reality. It is a story of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, tribal destiny and inherited blessings. Two of the gospels give a chapter to rehearse the genealogy of Christ. Modern thought wants to imagine each human being entering the world as a blank slate whose life will be formed and shaped by their desires and choices. This is our imaginative version of freedom and we work to maximize its reality. Nevertheless, human experience continues to be doggedly familial. Those who do family therapy carefully ask questions about the generations that have gone before. The battles of our lives are not about theory, but the cold hard truth of what has been given to us.” (Father Stephen Freeman)

“Persons living in a broken family often carry a great deal of harmful psychological baggage…Another piece of dysfunctional baggage is neurotic guilt, a self-indulgent claim that the current split is completely self-caused, resulting in appropriate punishment from God, and better endured without an expectation of peace and joy. This simply leads to depression. It’s a narcissistic centering of the cause and effect on one’s own self. It also can, and usually does, distort one’s view of God, changing the loving Father and redeeming Christ of the New Testament into an avenging, dispenser of justice who operates primarily through family retribution. Another piece of baggage takes the form of temporary, borderline agnosticism. The person, in effect, says, “I don’t know if I can accept the idea that a good God would allow this to happen to my family”…All the unnecessary psychological baggage and authentic life struggle of the person living in a broken home, are put in perspective through the vision of Orthodoxy. As an Orthodox theologian says, “Belief in divine providence and in the fact that each person has a unique vocation from God, in the place where he is called, to sanctify, transfigure, and redeem the specific conditions of his life in ways provided and revealed by God, is fundamental to the Christian view of human liberation.” (Albert S. Rossi, Ph.D.)

“We might not have that dramatic encounter like St. Paul did while on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, however there are other events that challenge our attachment to this world…life stages unmask and expose our attachment to this world. Whether or not we transition through life stages peacefully or painfully tells us a great deal…pockets of an unresolved past may become revealed upon transitional life-stages. Moving from one life-stage to another can force to the surface unprocessed pain or experiences. It is as though our mind knows when we need to unload unnecessary emotional baggage in order to proceed to the next life-stage.” (Fr. Joshua Makoul)

“Many of us are willing to lose physical weight to gain physical health. We become willing to go through the pain and hardship of giving up certain goods and habits. We need to be as willing to lose spiritual baggage or weight to gain spiritual health. And this will always involve the willingness to take up our cross.” (Sacramental Living Ministries)

“When we have rid ourselves of the excess spiritual baggage we accumulate throughout our lives, sifting through the unnecessary and necessary components that define who we are and dispelling the excessive interferences and distractions of life, we place ourselves in a position of better clarity in order to receive sanctification.” (Fr. Stelyios Muksuris)


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