As I sat down to enjoy my meal at the restaurant, a waitress approached me and asked, “Will you like to order any drink to go with your meal?”
“Yes, please,” I said, looking at her. “Water, please. Room temperature.” And I studied her face some more. When she brought the bottle of water and began filling my glass, I looked at her again.
Something mournful about her looks, her melancholic face, and the cloud that cast a shadow over her brow gave a hint about what might be going on inside her.
A moment later, she came around and asked, “Please, is everything all right? Do you want something else?”
“No, thanks,” I said. But as I looked at her, there it was again – the sad and worried looks and her gloomy disposition. Obviously, she was grieving inside.
“Excuse me,” I said, unable to resist my probing instinct, “may I ask you a question later?” She smiled before answering “Yes”, but that smile was heavily tainted by the struggle inside her.
When I was through with my meal, she came for my question. “Madam,” I began carefully, “I’ve noticed, by studying your face, that something is worrying you. You look sad and troubled. What is it?”
I am that kind of a person. I have no trouble reaching out, but that sometimes comes with unpredictable consequences. What if she were to ask, “What has that got to do with you?” Or say, “Why don’t you mind your own business”?
But my question didn’t surprise the waitress. Instead, she sighed heavily and said, “Family issues oo! Problems!” And she looked away quickly because her eyes were beginning to glaze with tears.
I knew it. And I trust that the few encouraging words I left her with would keep on ringing in her heart and mind to offer the needed hope in the midst of the weight she carried.
I couldn’t walk away without giving her a special tip. He who probes for reasons must also come with help. “This is for you personally, not for the general pool,” I offered. Quickly, she stowed it away.
That gift, of course, could only be a tip of the iceberg of any financial problems she had. Yet, a little action speaks louder than many words.
I have titled this article, Excess baggage because I have a point to make about emotional overload. Before I reveal my point, however, follow me to the airport where the term “excess baggage” is mostly used.
I was in the queue to check in my luggage when the KLM staff came around and told us, “Please, note that we will weigh your hand luggage for excesses.” That was not good news for those who thought they could hide their excess baggage in their hand luggage.
Later, the senior flight attendant explained that airplanes are in danger of crashing if they are overweight. The captains are able to tell if the plane is overweight and will discharge excess weights before take-off. But if that action is overlooked, the result can be devastating.
Those of us who drive have often noticed pedestrians crossing the road absent-mindedly. Why? Because they carry emotional overload of worry, sorrow, frustration and pain. And if the driver is also emotionally overloaded with his or her own excess baggage, the outcome could be fatal.
People sit in church listening to sermons and you think they are all present. Some of them may be present only in body but absent in mind.
Why? Because they are overloaded with many troubles. We worry over financial matters, job losses, spousal problems, workplace fights, relationship struggles, bitter arguments with neighbours, business setbacks and all kinds of failures leading to frustration.
‘Come to me!’
But to be worried at church is contradictory in terms. We go to church to unburden our excess baggage before the Lord. Beneath the cross, we offload our worries, sins and wickedness. For the Lord Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Why then do we take our burdens to the cross and still carry them?
That is like the old woman who was given a lift by a kind private driver. From the interior mirror, the driver noticed the woman still carrying her load!
What I told the waitress at the restaurant, I share with you also: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6, 7).
That was what the Apostle Paul told the believers in the Philippian church.