The thing about pilgrimage is you have to carry everything you need that you don’t think you’ll be able to pick up along the way. But you don’t want to carry anything you won’t need. Because it’s hard enough just walking the walk.
Why would you bring stuff along that is unnecessary?
The trick is, though, how will you know if you’re going to need it? Maybe it isn’t necessary now, but what if….? What’s good contingency planning and what’s just misplaced attachment or attempts to control all the outcomes?
I’m not much of a hoarder. I think having moved around the world three times in my adult life has taught me some useful lessons about seasons of life and non-persistent usefulness of items I have fond memories of but no realistic expectation of needing again. And it’s taught me to recognise when things have come to the end of their time with me…which means it is time for me to let them go so they may find a new home with someone else.
But even so, I have to admit that the kind of travelling light Jesus the Christ demands of his followers, well, it sounds extreme. It sounds extreme if we hear with the grasping, clinging, fearful ear of the ego centered self that is always convinced that supply cannot match demand, that competition is the only game out there and that there’s no real safe place to trust.
The story goes that you can’t trust others because they pretty much all let you down one way or another, or else they betray your trust in things small if not things large – and if they haven’t yet, it’s probably just a matter of time.
And it goes on to say that you can’t trust yourself either, because deep down, and despite all or any appearances to the contrary, there remains a nagging sense of inadequacy and the fear that others already know this, or if not, they will eventually discover it.
And of course to cap it all, it tells you that you can’t trust God because…well…if God were trustworthy, why all these demands that we suffer and give everything away, endure persecutions and instead dredge up blessings for those who hurt us?
So with that in mind, have a read of this rather troubling passage from the gospel according to Luke, and notice all of your initial reactions. Then stay with it, reading it over again and out loud. Spend some time with it and let your awareness open the ear of the heart. Listen to the cost of discipleship from the depths of your soul, from the place of freedom and abundance, from the place of trust and cooperation.
Large crowds were walking along with Jesus, when he turned and said:Luke 14:25-30; 33
You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot come with me unless you love me more than you love your own life.
You cannot be my disciple unless you carry your own cross and come with me.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. What is the first thing you will do? Won’t you sit down and figure out how much it will cost and if you have enough money to pay for it? Otherwise, you will start building the tower, but not be able to finish. Then everyone who sees what is happening will laugh at you. They will say, “You started building, but could not finish the job.”…..So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.
Jesus invites us to embrace travelling light rather than resist it, to drop the extra baggage we don’t need to keep holding on to so that we can carry the real burden of discipleship, which is our share in living, breathing and embodying the Love that hopes, endures, believes and bears all things.
What’s your relationship like with your stuff? Do you own it, or does it own you?
What are the stories you tell about ‘just in case’ or ‘what if…?’ that arise out of a need to control outcomes or manage every aspect of life and avoid failure or regret?
What might you be holding on to that adds weight without value?
How do you find yourself responding to the implication that we often treat our relationships like possessions?
Are there people you are more transactional than relational with? Are there people you tend to treat like objects to use to your advantage or obstacles to move out of your way?
Are there relationships where you feel less than fully seen, treated as less than your whole self?
What might need to happen to shift the dynamic towards mutuality and freedom?
Do you feel like you have started to build a tower? How is it going?
This practice engages with the inner dynamic of fasting, and it’s about more than sex. Or voting.
Given that we live in a culture which is obsessed with consumption, and that much of our consuming is addictive rather than appreciative, abstinence is a practice we can use in relation to food, drink, money, recognition, news, melodrama, youtube, social media, shopping…did I miss anything out? Oh, yeah, sex.
These are things – and there are many others – that are often not enjoyed as lovely gifts received with gratitude and appreciation, but are consumed without real pleasure and as objects to fill emotional voids or to avoid touching the pain within.
So, if you were trying to move toward appreciation, gratitude, awareness, receptivity and freedom…what might it be helpful for you to abstain from for a bit?
Take a threshing
The expression separating the wheat from the chaff means to find things of value and separate them from things of no value.
What is true and good, and what is meaningless and distracting?
What is worth your energy and attention as it draws you deeper into the life of God, and what is chaff, to be allowed to fall away? Take some time with your journal and review what you are giving your time and your thoughts, your energy and imagination to. As you do this, look for what is of value to you now, reflect on how it has come to be important and how it feeds your soul and your connection to others. Does it help you travel light and trust yourself to the journey?
Everything needs space to grow and to flourish, space to be and to become. In our acquisitive culture, we are encouraged to fill space – with music, with talk, with images; with food and drink; with activity and busyness; with stuff we buy and stuff we look at wishing we could buy it. So make some space. What might that mean in the light of your journal reflections?
Part of the art of travelling light is to recognise what is mystery along the way, and to enter into it with delight.
Often, when things don’t make immediate sense or when there is no clarity or resolution in sight, we resist the uncertainty. We don’t enter into the mystery of life unfolding and allow for grace and peace to be present in the unfinished, untidy ongoingness of the journey of life and faith. We grasp for meaning, a lesson to learn or for closure.
How might you embrace mystery and enter into aweful wonder at what you can’t yet make sense of? There might be a song to listen to when you find yourself frustrated by circumstances or a mantra you can repeat to re-orient yourself when you notice you have tripped into objectifying others.
You could try this: Beloved, beloved, beloved.
Let it remind you of who you are, and of the wholeness of the other who has triggered your reactive pattern.