Summertime at our house means lots of packing and unpacking of suitcases. We love to travel. Weekend getaways. Cross-country adventures. Even the occasional journey to another country. And all of our traveling means we’ve become pretty good at figuring out what to bring. We use checklists. We plan our activities and carefully consider what clothing and equipment we’ll need. One of us even lays out all of her outfits, shoes included, and “runs through” each of the days and corresponding fashion choices.
I’ve learned from packing for dozens of trips that what I bring is important, but equally important is what I leave behind.
Traveling light feels great. But it does not come naturally to me. I’m much more of a “just in case” kind of traveler. But I’ve learned that lugging along too much stuff can spoil everything. I get distracted and worried about keeping track of it all for one thing. And for another, it makes me really tired and cranky dragging pounds of my belongings from terminal to terminal, in and out of hotels and taxis or rental cars. It’s just not fun.
So I thoughtfully select what I think I’ll need and leave the rest at home. Once my daughter and I traveled for 14 days through Italy and brought only one carry-on bag each. Quite an accomplishment with the number of hair care products I consider necessary. But I did it! And with so few personal items to keep track of and limited wardrobe options to choose from, we were able to focus more fully on our time together, enjoying the experience with as much energy and attention as it deserved.
If I insist on carrying things around with me that I don’t need, I get distracted and miss out. I get tired and cranky.
While I’ve mastered the art of packing light when traveling, I still sometimes find myself feeling overburdened, tired, and distracted in my daily life at home. When that happens, I have to ask myself: am I bringing things along that I should be leaving behind?
We aren’t meant to carry certain things around with us. Things like fear, anger, and disappointment. We don’t have enough hands. And we just aren’t strong enough. If we try – refusing to leave them behind as we journey forward – they interfere with the one, most important thing we’re asked to do with our lives: love God and love others. Accomplishing this assignment requires all of me. My heart, soul, mind, and strength. Trying to do it while juggling bags I refuse to drop makes it impossible. Bags full of bitterness, unforgiveness, remorse, guilt, shame, blame or any of the other unhealthy emotions I’m tempted to stuff into a suitcase I need to sit on top of to keep closed.
Of course, leaving these feelings behind isn’t as easy as choosing what shoes to leave at home when traveling. But there is a place where they belong every day.
When we recognize the unhealthy things that fill up our lives as the burdens they really are, Jesus says to bring them to Him.
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Just like planning and packing for a trip, this requires something of me. I need to think about what to bring and what I should leave behind. I can’t just head out the door and hope for the best.
It takes time and attention to prepare for a day free from worrying about things that only weigh me down and tire me out. So I carefully set aside any frustration or disappointment from the day before, asking God to take them from me. Then I ask for added measures of patience and curiosity for the day ahead. I ask him to replace any items of worry with a healthy sense of wonder. Only then can I set off and expect my day to feel lighter. I’m less distracted. Less prone to say or do things out of fear or anger. Able to bring into my day the energy and attention necessary to love God and others well. And tomorrow I’ll be back for more help with my packing, knowing that as I give my burdens to the LORD, he will make sure I have everything I need. (Psalm 55:22)
Traveling without unnecessary burdens allows us to experience more of what we came here for. Loving God. Loving others. And leaving the rest behind.