Packing Lighter

It’s hard to know how much stuff to take and how much to leave behind. One Saturday morning the Iron Men were hiking Guadalupe Peak on the same day as the Junior High students from Wall, Texas. It was cold in the parking lot and all those kids left the trailhead wearing too many layers of clothes. Our group started out a few minutes behind them, and as soon as the trail started gaining elevation we noticed the bushes covered with fleeces and sweatshirts and jackets and hoodies, where the kids had pulled them off when they got too hot. The trail had quickly revealed unneeded clothes and gear. (I’ve read the same about people who begin the Appalachian Trail with too much gear. They start dumping as soon as possible.)

In her book, Packing Light, about a cross-country road trip, Allison Vesterfelt wrote, “Part of what makes it hard to pack light is often you think you’re already doing it.”

I’ve made a dozen or so backpacking trips during the last few years, and every trip I’m striving to pack lighter. In fact, my loaded backpack weighs fifteen Gila 1pounds less than it did when I started. I’ve learned to leave stuff behind I know I won’t need or can suffer without until I get back down.

But Vesterfelt wasn’t writing about backpacking, or even car-tripping, as much as she was asking how to live her life with less baggage.

One of her friends asked, “How do you know when you’re packing too light? You don’t want to leave your toothbrush behind. How do you decide what’s your toothbrush and what’s an extraneous pair of shoes?”

Which brings me to one of my biggest question nowadays, as I consider the next phase of my life: What should I carry along and what should I leave behind? What is extra, and what is essential for the trail ahead?

Bob Goff told us to live our lives for the person we expect to be next, the person God is shaping us to be, our next phase, rather than who we are today or who we were yesterday. No matter how successful those past uses might have been. He said, “A lot of us are one job behind who we’ve turned into.”

Goff told us to stop wasting time and energy reinforcing our current state but make room for the future. If certain behaviors or practices or responsibilities don’t match our future we should be prepared to throw them over the side.

In fact, he’s well-known for quitting something every Thursday. Sometimes it’s a big thing he quits, like membership on a Board of Directors. He does it to make room in his life for what is to come next, for what God sends his way, for his “next man.”

If I had Bob Goff’s audacity there is one position I would quit this Thursday. I no longer enjoy it and I doubt I contribute much of value. It isn’t because I want to withdraw, but I want my future efforts to go toward teaching and writing and mentoring and this particular position doesn’t fit. However it would be selfish to quit before my term ends, so I won’t.

In 2009 our Iron Men group took on the project of listing One Hundred Life Goals, after our study of Mark Batterson’s book, Wild Goose Chase. Just this week I dug out my list again and went over it. I have completed thirteen items and I’m well underway on many others. But there are at least six items on the list I want to discard. Not because I’ve given up on the dream, but because I am not the same guy. Still, it’s hard to distinguish between packing lighter, setting goals for the “next me,” and giving up on a dream because it’s become too difficult.

So, who am I next? What does this next phase of life look like from here?

I want the world to be a different place because I passed through. And when I say “the world,” I don’t mean society or politics or government, I mean the hearts and minds of men and women God has entrusted to me. Not only do I want to leave them changed people, but to follow in my footsteps.

I want to be the man who gives away what he has received, with a life informed by: generosity, grace, movement, and less baggage.

HOW ABOUT YOU? What does your next self look like? How are you getting ready?

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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