Traveling Light

steamer trunk

I do not pack light. If I think I might possibly need it, I tend to bring it—extra clothes, pens, books. I would use a steamer trunk if I could. Traveling light sounds appealing on one hand, but incredibly vulnerable on the other.

Birds travel light, as do almost all animals. They rely on their environment to supply their needs and most only nest in order to birth and rear young. Jesus points us to this reality in the Sermon on the Mount.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6:26 (ESV)

My earliest memory is walking up a ramp into the back of an empty moving van. My dad was showing me the big truck that was to move our family from Indiana to Michigan. To date, I have averaged moving every 21 months. Purging and packing are second nature.

I try not to keep more than I need. I know all of my stuff is perishable; it can all be lost or broken. On the other hand, I try to take care of what I have. I don’t want to be a conspicuous consumer. My relationship to my stuff provides a struggle which the following quote reveals a part of:

“For who, tell me, be he ever so rich, would choose to build a splendid house in an encampment? No one; he would be a laughing stock, he would be building for his enemies, and would the more effectually invite them on; and so then, if we be in our senses, neither shall we. The present life is nothing else than a march and an encampment.”

+John Chrysostom, Homily 23 on Ephesians

Even if we are not physically changing addresses, we are on a journey. Jesus called his disciples with the charge, “Follow me.” We are to follow him in sanctification. We are to follow him in prayer and love and humility. We do that best by traveling light. Taking care of houses, cars, and electronics takes time, energy, and money.

Traveling light, though, isn’t just about the amount of stuff we carry around. It is also about the weight we carry with our attention. Matthew B. Crawford helps us understand that we have a finite amount of attention. Whenever I focus on something, I am not focused on anything else in my world. The time I spend pondering a new purchase is time spent.

Marketers and corporations would have us spend our time thinking about nothing else than, “What shall I buy next?” There are some decisions we need to think about, but we probably don’t need to spend as much time as we do. Much of our materialistic pondering could be eliminated by the honest answer to one question. Do I need it?

“Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight…..”

Hebrews 12:1


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