Packing My Life

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What do you need for your spiritual journey? What are you hanging on to that no longer serves you?

I’m knee deep in stuff collected over many years of doing “life”. The task at hand is to discard what is not usable, to pass on those things recyclable, and to pack what needs to come along. It’s hard work actually, because to sort it properly, you have to pay attention.

Every item you pick up, you recall how often you’ve used it – try to judge how important it is. Would the boys even notice? Is it necessary? I can’t help but reflect on how useful an exercise it is. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I don’t like it. Not one bit. “Ain’t nobody got time for this” -- if you get my meaning. The thing is though, once I dove in and started the process, it became really cathartic. It was healing to remember where things had come from and the people associated on the journey. It was liberating to let go of some things, memories included, that just don’t need to come along. It is expanding to make room in our lives. To make space. To have some ’empty’ in our cupboards, drawers and in our lives.

I started wondering why I hadn’t done it sooner. How much easier it would have been to live with the sorting done. And that got me thinking about all the packing necessary in our internal lives. Those places are at least as cluttered and unsorted as the things we see with our eyes. What if we took the time to sort through the unseen places with the same intention?

What if we had the sorting bins out all the time? Things to discard. Garbage. We could throw out old things, ripped things, nasty things – all the time. We could chuck all the unnecessary baggage in the bin labelled ‘discard’ and let. it. go. I have a hunch it’d be a much better way to live. A lot lighter. A lot cleaner.

What if there are things that have served us for a while but we don’t need anymore? Attitudes, perceptions, fears. What if we could recycle them – pass them forward for someone in the spot where we once were. I wonder if like growing children our attitudes and personalities grow and the old clothes and playthings that were once essential are no longer needed. What kind of life would I have if I let those things go too? What if I acknowledged the growth and packed up the old stuff and passed it on to someone who needs it right now. It’d be a bit scary. Am I sure I don’t need it anymore? Is it still necessary? Might I shrink back and require that size again?

I remember trying to help a hoarder friend of mine. Her slum rooming house space was literally floor to ceiling packed with garbage bags of things she needed. There was only one way to get through the stuff so we started with the first bag. I pulled out some clothes that were obviously not her size. She told me why she needed to keep them. She would definitely hit that size again in the future and what would she do without this bag of clothes? I guess that’s part of the problem for people who live in the future and not the present. It requires a lot of baggage.

I don’t want to live in the past. I want the past to spur me on. I want to acknowledge the faithfulness of God on the whole journey. I want to give the past a place. But I don’t want to live there. And I certainly don’t want to try and walk looking backwards – that’ll only take me in circles. But I also don’t want to live a ‘what if’ life either. Always thinking the future could change, always looking forward to what’s coming, without being ‘present’ in this moment. In this time.

I guess, as I think about it. Packing is about the present. What do you need to bring with you right now? What is required for this time? What is necessary? What is important? What is worth slugging around the world and unpacking on the other side? When Jesus sent out his disciples he told them to take nothing with them… just one bag. And I think that exercise wasn’t a rule but an opportunity to rely on the provision of God for the present time. I think it was about the sorting and the packing of our lives so we can minister with open hands. Freely we give. Freely we receive. So, if packing is a metaphor for my life I hope I have the tenacity to get the sorting done. To dive into the bags and boxes of my thought life and my attitudes and habits and discard – to really let go, recycle – to pass on things I don’t need anymore, and to keep, the things essential to my own self. I hope I travel light into the present and rely on God’s presence in the here and now to meet my every need.

Come to think of it, packing might be required for any journey forward. All of us are invited to move. I pray that as you get your invitation to move along in your own spiritual journey, you enjoy the power of the packing process. The best way to start is with what’s in front of you.

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