Three pieces of new, matching luggage lined my living room floor as if they were a part of the décor. I had a weeklong business trip planned, and my mind was focused on packing every single item I would need while away from home. I made a checklist and moved items from throughout the house to the makeshift luggage loading area as they came to mind. Toiletries, pant suits, dresses, makeup, perfume, Bible, journal, pajamas, jewelry, exercise clothes (well I decided to put those back), shoes, and more shoes. My thought process for bringing each item was calculated. I needed every outfit to look just right. Of course the jewelry had to match. And, well, I needed shoes for different reasons: shoes for office work, shoes to meet specific standards for touring certain facilities, shoes to jet downstairs in the hotel and get a night time snack (that’s important, right?), and shoes that would be comfortable for travel. For crying out loud, I had extra shoes in case the ones I had didn’t work out.
For a lady who’s not fond of frequent business traveling, I think I had a master plan for packing.
As I proudly paraded around my living room with a tad bit of haughtiness because of my organization skills, I felt a jolt in my spirit. You know the kind. That jolt when the Holy Spirit is getting your attention and redirecting your thoughts. Yep! That jolt. It wasn’t anything subtle to say the least. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I stood still as if I was paralyzed from head to toe. I was ready for the business journey, but was I preparing for the journey to spend eternity with Christ?
There were some things in my Bible that served as a master checklist that I had willfully overlooked. While I was organized in one area, I was digressing in another. Was I really packing the right things for my spiritual journey, or was I haphazardly letting things fall where they might? I’m embarrassed to say it was the latter. You see, in that season, my prayer life had been shabby at its best. Things that I had spoken certainly didn’t fall into the category of “may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Thy sight.” Actually, my words had been anything but that. The pride I once took in guarding my heart had waned and opened the door to worldly desires. That usual burning desire to be in worship service had diminished—almost disappeared. When I attended church, I was checking a box because it was Sunday. Simply put, my heart wasn’t right. I shared the same feeling in the days of that season as I did for business travel—dread. By the grace of God, I was surviving, but I wasn’t spiritually thriving. I had stopped packing the things that I needed. My days had been filled by packing the things that I wanted: gossip, unwholesome language, and movies that weren’t the best for guarding my heart, ears, and thoughts. Selfishness had crept in, and selflessness had moved out. I had let go of the things that mattered to Christ and tightly gripped the things that had no added value to my life and certainly no eternal value.
In that moment, packing for my business trip no longer mattered, and my organization skills were about as important as my senseless rationale for all the shoes. What I valued most was packing the right way for the remainder of my life’s journey. As I stood there frozen and looking around the room, I noticed that one suitcase was empty. There was nothing in that piece of luggage. It was a visual of the current state of my heart. Empty. I had not put anything in there. My knees felt weak and the pit of my stomach felt hollow as I made my way to the floor. I was embarrassed. I was remorseful. I was ready to start packing for my spiritual journey again. There was an instant longing to pack things of substance. Eternal things that would last. I turned my heart to God and confessed how I felt. Words rolled off my lips as I expressed my desire to be with Him.
There’s no longer a dread for the journey and my heart is now in a new season. I know that I have to be mindful about the things I bring along as I’m traveling towards spending eternity with Christ. I’m more mindful of the people I bring alongside me and the activities that I invite on my journey. Hebrews 12:1 which says, “Let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,” really gave shape to my new packing style. The best way to sum up what my spiritual travel preparations look like now—I’m packing up and getting ready to go.
Betina Brandon is a wife, mother, author, educator, and speaker who thrives on helping women to live an adventure of faith by walking out the Word of God. She has a Master’s Degree in Education and is a regular keynote speaker at women’s conferences and retreats.
Betina is married to Joseph and has two sons, Justin and Joshua. She enjoys reading, writing, being outdoors, and spending time with her family. You can find her on Twitter @betinabrandon.