Packing for the Spiritual Journey Ahead

The older I get the lighter I pack. I take pleasure in packing lightly now.

I find that the more I leave behind the more I find along the way.

As we prepare to take a spiritual journey together, it will be good to think about what we pack for the journey. We will also need to think about what we leave behind.

Things add up in our lives. We certainly need to clean out closets, give away old ill-fitting clothes, and finally toss that odd little statue we picked up in a souvenir shop on some forgotten vacation a decade ago.

We all have baggage and we need to decide what we will take with us on our journey.

Years ago I traveled to Oxford, England, and studied for a term at Regents Park College in Oxford University. When I left home I had a duffle bag and a backpack.

When it came time to travel home ten weeks later, I began packing the night before because I had a four block walk to catch the 5:30 AM bus.

I went to sleep and woke up very early to finish packing, but about 4:15 in the morning I realized I had a serious problem. I had more than I could carry.

I had mailed things home but I also had bought things and I now had five bags of things to carry. It was impossible to carry everything at once. Impossible.

It was too early to call a taxi and I had one hour to get four blocks to the bus park. I did what we do when we’re carrying too many bags.

I took three bags and carried them forty feet and then went back to get the other two bags. I picked them up and carried them forty feet past the first three bags. Then I went back and got the first three bags and carried them forty feet past the two bags.

You get the picture. My four block walk turned into eight blocks as I shuffled back and forth, carrying bags past bags, dropping bags, and then going back to get the ones I’d left behind.

The few people out on the street at that early hour must have thought I was crazy. I made it to the bus just as the driver was preparing to pull out.

Of course, once I got into London, I had to do the same thing through the subway system until I checked my bags at the airport.

How often do we live our lives in that way?

We are always shuffling around trying to carry all the things we think are important. We simply cannot let go because we must be in control.

We need to pack lightly for the journey ahead of us, so I would like to suggest three things for you to leave behind.

First, leave behind your need for control.

Do not start on this journey with the idea that you need to achieve four certain goals or solve three vital dilemmas. Just look to the horizon and leave the lists behind. This journey is not about what you want but what God wants for you.

Second, leave behind your expectation of what you think you need to find.

The best journeys are those where we stumble into unexpected adventures. Be open to God showing you something new about yourself.

Third, leave behind your fear of doing something different.

We may discover or talk about a spiritual discipline that is unfamiliar or uneasy to you. You may discover a spiritual discipline that is different from your tradition so be prepared to embrace something new. Be open to how others have discovered God.

If we can leave these things behind and pack lightly, we might just discover something amazing about God and ourselves along the way.

What do you need to leave behind to discover God more fully?

  • Libby

    I remember you sharing this story when we were in Honduras. It was so funny watching the faces of the Spanish speakers as the translator described why you were walking all over the room! Thank you for reminding us that we are all trying to carry more than we are able to!

    • DarrellGwaltney

      You’re welcome, Libby! I hope you are well.

      This story was a significant learning moment in my life and it continues to teach me!

  • Steve Guthrie

    Thanks for this Darrell. I read this morning and found it helpful. A week into the New Year I’m already burdened by the lack of progress on my “four certain goals” and “three vital dilemmas.” Thanks for this good reminder to continue entrusting my growth to God.

    • DarrellGwaltney

      Hang in there, Steve! I’m glad this was helpful.