When I was 18 years old I was struck by an ad in a magazine. I’m pretty sure it was an ad for shampoo. I know, you’re thinking, “Man, if I had a dollar for every time my life has been impacted by a shampoo ad in a magazine, I’d be rich!” Happens all the time, right?
Well, this particular ad stood out to me because of the tagline, which read, “Life’s a journey. Travel light.” To my 18 year old self, the message jumped off the page and seemed very profound. I pulled that page out of the magazine, cut around the words, and pinned it to the bulletin board in my freshman dorm room at Bible College. (ML 205, for my fellow CBC’ers. Shout out, Main Ladies!)
I was fairly new to my faith at that time and the words on the ad resonated with me because I was learning a lot about the power of forgiveness and letting go. I’m sure the marketing executives who designed the shampoo ad were referring to having less build up on our hair or something, but I took it as a reminder that the journey of life is long and if we want to be free to go where life takes us, we need to lay down our heavy burdens.
For 20 years straight, I’ve had that saying posted on my wall. After a few years the initial magazine clipping was bent and worn, so I printed it out on a piece of card stock and I still look at it every day in my office. At each stage of my life, this little phrase has always served as good advice.
When I’m tempted to dwell on old hurts and offenses, I remember that life is a journey and I can’t carry that stuff with me. When I’m faced with a fresh hurt, I remember that life is a journey and I need to let this roll off me. When guilt resurfaces over something long since dealt with, I remember that life is a journey and guilt is too heavy. When I’m crippled by people’s expectations, I remember that life is a journey and I’ve got my own path to walk. When I want to cling to personal possessions, I remember that life is a journey and belongings weigh me down. When I feel scared about not having something when I need it, I remember that I don’t really need much. And I have never gone without. And travelers often find their needs met in unusual ways.
I think the longer we’ve been on our life’s journey, the more likely it is that we’ve allowed ourselves to become burdened, without realizing it. We’ve been hurt more. We’ve accumulated more. We’re afraid of more. And all of that prevents us from moving forward in our journey. So when we’re faced with taking a big step, we find we can barely move our feet. But what about my stuff? But what about my future? But what will people think? But what if I need something and I don’t have it? Our need to let go and travel light never ceases.
I have discovered that this advice has never been more applicable to me than right now. We find ourselves preparing for a move overseas and I’ve come face to face with the burdens I’ve started carrying that slow down my journey. It’s a great process, really, asking myself what I’m holding onto that I think I couldn’t let go of. Am I meant to carry it? Is it preventing me from moving on to something more meaningful? Because what do I really need? What really matters? When it comes down to it, life is entirely about relationships. Relationship with God and relationships with people. And I don’t need much of anything for that. In fact, sometimes the “stuff” of life just interferes with that. If we spend our lives offended, guilty, accumulating, and trying to meet everyone’s expectations, we can easily become too burdened for slow, meaningful, authentic relationship.
And so I’ve decided that I am willing to let go of everything, except relationships with the people I love. Who are the beautiful people God has put in my life and how can I invest in them and love them, near or far? Because that is the goal of my life’s journey – to love God and to love people. And with those two priorities alone, I’ve found that my bags are pretty light indeed.