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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Concentration (07/24/08)

TITLE: Have You Unpacked Your Suitcase?
By Helen Dowd


Have You Unpacked Your Suitcase?

Concentration: absorption.
Concentrate: to be engrossed by, or wrapped up in something.

My parents sacrificed willingly so that their children could be educated at a Christian high school. I was not quite 15 when I went away to school, three hundred miles from home. It was my choice to go. But soon the excitement of the trip was over. I was assigned to my room. Reality set in. I was hit by a violent case of homesickness. I couldn't concentrate on anything else. My longing for home absorbed all my attention. It was there when I woke up in the morning. It was there when I went to the dining room for breakfast. It was there when I went to classes. I had always been a home-body, and even though I roomed with my older sisters, who had been attending the school for two years, I couldn't shake my longing for home.

We didn't live in luxury at home: we shared a bedroom, and even a bed with siblings; we existed on garden vegetables, home-grown chickens, and very plain meals; we wore hand-me-down clothes or clothes our mother had made from whatever material she could lay her hands on. We didn't have a lot of the modern conveniences our neighbours had. In fact, the school I had newly adopted as "home" for the next nine months had more comforts than the home I had left. But I missed HOME. My mind was constantly back home with Mom and Dad and my three younger siblings. I was absorbed with memories of the games of scrub, run-sheep-run, tag, anti-I-over I played with my siblings and neighbourhood friends. My mouth watered at the thought of Mom's stews, the ripe tomatoes, the potatoes fresh from the garden, Mom's home-made bread--although bread at the school was homemade, and just as good. My mind was so cluttered with homesickness that I couldn't concentrate on anything else.

Then came the sermon that Sunday morning, from our Principal: "Have You Unpacked Your Suitcase?" I sat up in my seat. "Unpack my suitcase?" Of course I had. School had started a week or so ago. What was he talking about?

Numbers 11:4 (NKJV) "Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense cravings; so the children of Israel also wept with them again and said; 'Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes.'"

"Have You Unpacked Your Suitcase?" The strident voice cut through me like a knife. Wait! What was he saying? What did he mean? "Unpack your suitcase?"

"I mean," he went on, "have you really unpacked your suitcase? Oh yes, your clothes may be put away. Your room may be as you like it, with all your possessions in place, but HAVE YOU UNPACKED YOUR SUITCASE? Are you still longing for the goodies from home, your parents, your friends, your comfortable life-style? Are you still longing for the "leaks and garlic" of home, like the Israelites did? You are here, hundreds of miles from home. Either "unpack your suitcase" or get on the bus and go back to your leaks and garlic. God can't get through to you if you are still concentrating on your old life. God is holding out to you the offer of a Promised Land, flowing with milk and honey. He has better things in store for you than the leaks and garlic of Egypt." Mr. Principal's booming voice was not going to let me shut out his message.

I knew that message was meant for me. I was doing what the Israelites had done: pining for the "leaks and the garlic" back in Egypt. The Children of Israel had lost their concentration on the God who had delivered them from their slavery. They were concentrating on their present circumstances. They hadn't unpacked their suitcases.

My heart was opened. Right there and then I "unpacked my mental suitcase." I settled down. I changed my focus of concentration. It was the turning point in my life.

Many times since that day six decades ago, the thought has come back to me…Unpack your suitcase! Forget about the "leaks and garlic" of the past. Concentrate on today and what the Lord is doing for you today.

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This article has been read 785 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Mariane Holbrook 07/31/08
What a strong testimony and right on point! Everyone who has ever left home for summer camp or for extended visits with relatives or later to school or college can relate to this need to let go, to "bloom where you are planted" and concentrate on what is before you. This is a lovely entry and I know it will bless all those who read it. Kudos!
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/02/08
The analogy that the minister used and you showed with your example is very apt. I loved reading how you chose to "unpack your suitcase."
Betty Castleberry08/05/08
Is this true? It reads like it could be. I like how you wove the child's feelings into the first paragraphs. I think I would have preferred the scripture be listed at the end rather than in the body of the piece. It interrupts the flow a bit. It doesn't detract from the bold statement this makes, though. Nicely done.
Joy Faire Stewart08/05/08
Great inspirational message and I enjoyed the writing voice of the piece. Excellent!
Edmond Ng 08/06/08
The call to discipleship requires our full concentration and our hearts. You have conveyed the message of Luke 9:59-62 on true discipleship very well. Thank you for sharing this valuable lesson.
Glynis Becker08/06/08
Wonderful testimony and a great reminder that living is for today!
Elizabeth Hexberg08/07/08
Very nice Helen, and a good lesson for us all.I also really enjoyed knowing a little bit more about you my friend. God Bless. Elizabeth.
Lisa Johnson08/14/09
Oh, so true, we all have some suitcases that need to be unpacked. This is a great lesson.