traveling light

“I’m awfully sorry,” said Bilbo, “but I have come without my hat, and I have left my pocket-handkerchief behind, and I haven’t got any money.” -from ch. 2 of The Hobbit

If backpacking were a competitive sport, the winner would not be the hiker who trekked the farthest distance in the least amount of time, it would be the guy with the lightest pack. It’s not about how many peaks you bag or how many miles you haul or how trashed your boots are, but about how many lbs. you’ve managed to skim off your pack by keeping only the ounces that count. Rumor has it that real minimalists even saw off the ends of their toothbrushes…

When it comes to packing light for long-distance travel, Bilbo Baggins wins the prize, but that doesn’t mean he’s happy about it. Bilbo doesn’t really need his pocket-handkerchief and other accessories; they’re minor niceties to make the trip more pleasant when the road gets difficult. But Gandalf knows what makes a hobbit happy (or at least a happier) camper. In fact, Gandalf knows a lot more about these creatures called hobbits than most in his time. The Baggins side of Bilbo prefers to stay home with a warm bed and good food, while his Took side longs for a little adventure. The question is, when the road gets tough, will Bilbo resort to being a Baggins, refusing to go another step without a good pocket-handkerchief, or will he rise to being a Took, brave and resourceful in the midst of hardship?

There’s more than a little Baggins in each of us. Even retailers who sell backpacking gear cater to this. …the featherlight espresso maker, the nifty nozzle that turns your water bladder into a backcountry shower… Does the serious hiker actually need these things? Not really. And eventually the hiker realizes these things will in fact impede his travel, add to the feelings of exhaustion, and keep him focused on the next stop rather than on what he’s experiencing along the trail. When it comes down to it, we’re fools for anything that takes the edge off life’s inevitable trials and pains. Thus, we have a hard time distinguishing what we need from what we want. We have a hard time making a distinction between those items upon which life itself depends and those items upon which only our happiness depends.

It takes seasons of real struggle and hardship before we’re able to put it all in perspective.

God knows the battle going on inside our hobbitlike selves, the wrestling match between the Baggins and the Took. The Baggins side of us takes our creature comforts for granted. We assume these comforts are part of the terms and conditions outlined in the job description Jesus offers when he says, “Follow me.” But God never said anything about discipleship being comfortable. He’s more interested in coaxing the Took side of us to the fore, the side that’s willing to endure a little hardship for the sake of the final destination. When we learn to live without, we discover what we’re really made of.

A son or daughter of God goes WITHOUT, so they can do more.

They choose to give up something GOOD, to get something BETTER.

When Jesus was preparing to send the disciples out into the countryside as missionaries and itinerant preachers, he instructed them to “take nothing with them except a walking stick-no food, no traveler’s bag, no money. He told them to wear sandals but not to take even an extra coat” (Mark 6:8-9). Did he expect them to starve or freeze, or what? No, he expected them to rely completely on God to provide all of their needs. And because they had no luggage to haul around or stuff to keep track of, they were free to be spontaneous, open to accepting kindness from strangers, and able to be more effective in what they set out to accomplish.

God asks us to travel light for a reason. Our spiritual journey can be impeded by excess. The more stuff we haul along that is meant to bring us comfort, the more difficult the adventure of faith becomes. We begin to focus on when we can stop and take a break from the various tasks God asks us to do rather than on learning to enjoy the tasks themselves. Like Bilbo, if we’re not careful, our love for creature comforts could hold us back from the adventure of faith altogether.

“Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matthew 6:32-33


**resource: Walking with Bilbo by Sarah Arthur, chapter 4

Categories: Spirituality and Faith | Leave a comment

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