Monday, October 5, 2009

Traveling Light

One of my favorite devotional times at CIT last summer was led by Peter Pikkert, who talked about three characteristics of a pilgrim. Lest you are concerned that I might don a bonnet and shoes with shiny buckles, rest assured, I am not talking about THAT kind of pilgrim.

The dictionary defines a pilgrim as a traveler or wanderer, esp. in a foreign place. By that definition, we are certainly going to be pilgrims in France; however, all of you who are my brothers and sisters in Christ are also pilgrims. Philippians 3:20 says, "But our citizenship is in heaven...." If our citizenship is in heaven, then we are pilgrims here on this earth--or at least we should be. As the old hymn says, "This world is not my home, I'm just a passin' through."

Do you want to live like a citizen of heaven? Do you want to be a traveler here on earth? I know I do. This is why for the past few months I have been pondering what it means to be a pilgrim. What, exactly, are the characteristics of a pilgrim? I am glad you asked. The first one (according to Peter Pikkert) is that pilgrims travel light.

A few years ago I flew to New York for a family reunion. My sister Keri and I arrived at our destination together, and my Uncle Daryl rushed out to help us with our bags. We each had only one small carry-on bag, and my uncle could hardly believe it. "That's all you brought?" he asked, genuinely shocked. My dad--a season traveler himself--beamed in the background, proud to have daughters that knew how to travel light.

Now that the airlines are charging for checked baggage, most of us are learning how to make some cutbacks when packing for a trip. I now ask myself two questions when determining what to take with me:

  1. What is essential? and

  2. What can I do without?

But lately I have been wondering what might change in my life if I asked myself those questions when I am not going on a trip. That is to say, if my life is indeed a journey, am I traveling light? Or have I forgotten that I am pilgrim, and begun to "feather my nest" here on earth.

There is a reason I must ask myself both questions. The first ensures that I have everything that I need. The second ensures that I don't have anything that I don't need.

Take shoes. (Yes, I know. Now I'm meddling.) I think that we would all agree that a person needs shoes. So the answer to the first question is, "Yes, shoes are essential." However, the second question addresses the quantity of shoes that I have. In other words, do I have shoes that I could do without? Before cleaning out my closet last week, I had three pairs of red shoes. Three. One pair is the amazing pair that I wrote about in this blog. I kept that pair. The second pair was a pair of red sandals that I wore exactly zero times last summer. I guess you might say that I could do without those. They went in the Goodwill pile. The third pair was pair of dated pumps that I stopped wearing the moment I acquired pair #1. Again, they were shoes that I could do without--Goodwill.

I believe David and I got a helping hand from the good Lord when our house flooded in 2006. We lost skis that hadn't been skied on in years, appliances that were wasting away in the garage, and filing cabinets full of papers that must have seemed important at one time or another, but have never even been missed. In many ways, our losses set us free. And I can honestly say I am thankful. Things tie a person down, and Jesus knew that He had places for us to go.

I am starting to believe that the inventor of the storage unit did not do us any favors. Don't get me wrong, storage units do a booming business. But they also give us permission to accumulate more stuff than we really need and then save it, cherish it, LOVE it--until our stuff owns us.

And so I have found it necessary to make a lasting commitment to vigilantly (maybe even relentlessly) eliminate excess from my life. It is the only way for me to remember my first love, to live daily in His grace, and to be free to do His will.

But Pilgrims not only eliminate excess, they minimize the acquisition of stuff in the first place. As I go through life I must continue to ask myself, "Is this essential?" and "Could I do without it?" I can't tell you how many times those simple questions have kept me from turning into a Starbucks, putting an item in my shopping cart, or even saving a piece of mail.

Peter Pikkert also suggested asking, "Does everything I own serve the purpose of service?"

This question takes the discussion to a whole new level. It addresses not only WHAT I have, but what I DO with what I have. Do I realize that anything I own only has value if it is used to further the kingdom of God? Keep in mind that really, it's all His anyways.

I have always been struck by the fact that almost everyone Jesus called left something behind to follow Him:

  • Peter and Andrew: "At once they left their nets and followed him." Matt. 4:20

  • Matthew(Levi): "After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him." Luke 5:27-28
  • The woman at the well: "Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?'" John 4:28-29

Apparently, Jesus likes empty-handed followers--Pilgrims who know how to travel light.

And the most amazing part of it all, for me, is that the more I let go of the things of this world, the more satisfied I am.

But it wasn't just things that people left to follow Jesus. They also left their homes, their professions, and even their families.

  • James and John: "Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him" Mark 1:20

I imagine these were the hardest. The closer we get to leaving for France, the more aware we have become of what and who we must leave. The following slide show represents the people, places, and things that we will leave behind. We love every single one of them.

Is Jesus asking you to leave something behind to follow Him?

Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you!"

"I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life." Luke 18:28-30


  1. Oh, I'm feeling challenged! I really need to ask myself these questions as I just unloaded a Uhaul of stuff from my Grandma's house. I did get rid of stuff first but need/want to get rid of more. What a beautiful slide show!! Thanks for sharing Jenn. Needed this "teaching" today!!

  2. I am not sure that the Williamsons are people that this mama can do without. I love each of you so very, very, very, very, very much.

  3. This one takes some pondering. I've usually thought most about how to find room in my house for everything I thought I "needed". Lately, I've been thinking I want to lift off the burden of my belongings and run free. This is such positive encouragement!

  4. Preach it Jenn! You are so speaking my heart.
    After getting rid of most of our stuff to come to Thailand as missionaries with just a few suitcases, I can unequivocally say that there is freedom in not being tied to things.
    Love and Blessings from April in Thailand.

  5. You inspired me - maybe if I had less "stuff" in the cupboards, closets and drawers, everything would fit and I would not feel so cluttered! 3 boxes are now full of kids books, my books and videos that we don't/wont watch... and more to come :) thanks Jenn!