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Traveling Light: Strength for the Journey

By David Jeremiah

I spend a great amount of time traveling—but the novelty of flying on airplanes wore off years ago. Now I consider flying the same way I do driving through Southern California rush hour traffic: a necessity of life.

Since 9/11, air travel has become more burdensome than ever. What used to take 20 minutes—getting into the airport, confirming your ticket, checking your luggage, and going to your gate—can now take as much as two hours (or longer) depending on the airport, the day of the week, and season of the year.

The changes in airport security have spawned a whole new industry: ways to help people travel light. In other words, the lighter you travel, the fewer bags you have to check, not to mention the easier it is on you getting in and out of airports. Companies new and old are teaching the traveling public how to “get there and back” with the least amount of hassle.

Here are the new rules for travel. (Since you know this is an article on the spiritual life, see how many spiritual applications you can make from these traveling-light rules.)

1. Never check a bag! By traveling light, you can take your one or two allowed items on the plane with you and never have to check or retrieve baggage again. Miss a connecting flight or need to cancel a flight and book another? Not a problem. You’ve got all your luggage with you. You’ll never have to worry about you and your luggage arriving in different cities at different times.

2. Take half as much “stuff” as you think you’ll need. It only took me a few trips schlepping around the country with multiple pieces of luggage filled with things I thought I “might” need (books, sports gear, multiple changes of clothes, extra shoes) to be cured of the “might” syndrome. When I think I “might” need something on a trip and am tempted to pack it, it makes me realize I haven’t planned my trip very well. When I answer these two questions—Where am I going and why?—I immediately know what to pack and what to leave at home.

3. Take twice as much “money” as you think you’ll need. Yes, emergencies do happen and plans change, and you may get caught without something you need—but not very often. It’s much easier to depend on your reserves when you need them than to take stuff you don’t need.

4. What you put on, you’ll have to take off. If you load up on jewelry, belts with metal buckles, shoes or boots that have to be tied, it’s all going to have to come off before you pass through the security screening. The travel-light advice is dress simply and plainly.

5. Prepare! By purchasing electronic tickets, preprinting your boarding pass (with pre-selected seat assignment), and taking only a carry-on bag, you can hit a self-serve kiosk in the airport to check in and be on your way in a matter of moments. In other words, preparation is key.

Traveling Light Through Life

There are lots of analogies and parallels between traveling light across the country and traveling light through life. Sometimes our lives start to look like the high society types in the 1920s who would sail across the Atlantic to Europe with ten or fifteen steamer trunks in tow. Just managing all our “stuff” in this life can become a huge burden. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go all the way through life with nothing but a carry-on bag? If we could lay aside every weight . . . which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1)?

I have good news! I am going to tell you the secret to traveling light through this life. Here it is: This world is not your home. “That’s it?” you say. Absolutely. Traveling light through this life is as simple as applying that profound truth. The hymn writer Albert E. Brumley had it right:

This world is not my home, I’m just a-passing through,

My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door,

And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

This life is like a weekend getaway compared to eternity. All we really need is the spiritual equivalent of a toothbrush, food, and a change of clothes—and we’re good to go. Or as the apostle Paul put it, “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:8).

Traveling Spiritually Light

I’m not suggesting that you and I sell everything except our food and clothing. But what I am suggesting is that we would have greater flexibility to be responsive to God’s leading if we learned to be content with less and developed the skill of traveling light through this life.

Think of this life as just a weekend getaway compared to eternity. What necessities would you pack for a short trip away from your real home?

1. Clothes. God has promised to clothe us (Matthew 6:30). We are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27). We are told to put on the new man” (Ephesians 4:24) and the “whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11).

2. Toiletries. Some things are necessary for daily maintenance, and we have been given plenty: prayer, meditation, Bible study, personal worship, service. We can be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17).

3. Reading material. This one is obvious—we have the Word of God to serve as a “lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path” (Psalm 119:105).

4. Money. With God owning everything in this world, it is no wonder He has promised to “supply all [our] need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

5. A way to record your experiences. A handwritten journal has never been improved upon as a way to create a “first-person” account of your spiritual journey: “It seemed good to me . . . to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3).

6. Food. Jesus himself said that He was the “bread of life” and that those who come to Him “shall never hunger” (John 6:35).

7. Recreation. Part of every journey is recovering our strength through relaxation and recreation. If we remember what Nehemiah said—“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10)—then we will always be refreshed.

The Benefits of Traveling Light

The benefits of traveling light are the same in life as in airports: flexibility, plenty of time for priorities, responsiveness to changes in direction, and extra resources to share with others. On the other hand, accumulating more stuff than we need—physically, mentally, or emotionally—will only bog us down and keep us from reaching our goals.

Are you going through life with steamer trunks and an entourage? Or have you learned to live out of a carry-on bag? If you are continually consumed with details about living in this world, perhaps a fresh look at “where you are going and why” is in order. When you answer those two questions, you’ll soon be traveling lighter and you will be able to see God and His plan for your life more clearly.

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This article was first published in Turning Points Magazine & Devotional.
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