Some children show up for school each day with some pretty heavy life baggage: depression, sexual abuse, parental conflict, poverty, inadequate sleep and nutrition, violent talk and actions in their homes and neighborhoods, and terrible peer pressure. One of the things that great teachers do for their students is help them overcome their personal baggage. It’s not that the excuses the kids bring are nothing. They are a big deal. But children from stressed backgrounds will never get anywhere in life if they habitually use their baggage as their free pass from personal responsibility.
Jephthah had a terrible family background. His mother was a prostitute. But Jephthah didn’t let that shame keep him down: “Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. ‘You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,’ they said, ‘because you are the son of another woman’” (Judges 11:1,2).
Jephthah’s talent and drive lifted him to the position of Israel’s commander-in-chief. He channeled his shame into positive energy. His embarrassing personal past helped him to be comfortable around other outsiders and outcasts, and he made them feel important.
So—which pieces of your past have you used as excuses for mediocrity or failure? Which young person in your life, burdened by personal baggage, needs your encouragement?