The Luggage of Life
I've never been one to travel light.
I've tried. Believe me, I've tried. But ever since I stuck three fingers
in the air and took the Boy Scout pledge to be prepared, I've been
determined to be exactly that-prepared.
Prepared for a bar mitzvah, baby dedication, or costume party. Prepared
to parachute behind enemy lines or enter a cricket tournament. And if,
perchance, the Dalai Lama might be on my flight and invite me to dine in
Tibet, I carry snowshoes. One has to be prepared.
I don't know how to travel light.
Fact is, there's a lot about travel I don't know. I don't know how to
interpret the restrictions of a supersaver seat-half price if you
leave on Wednesdays during duck-hunting season and return when the moon
is full in a nonelection year. I don't know why they don't build the
whole plane out of the same metal they use to build the little black
box. I don't know how to escape the airplane toilet without sacrificing
one of my extremities to the jaws of the folding door. And I don't know
what to say to guys like the taxi driver in Rio who learned I was an
American and asked me if I knew his cousin Eddie who lives in the U.S.
There's a lot about traveling I don't know.
I don't know why we men would rather floss a crocodile than ask for
directions. I don't know why vacation slides aren't used to treat
insomnia, and I don't know when I'll learn not to eat food whose names I
But most of all, I don't know how to travel light.
I don't know how to travel without granola bars, sodas, and rain gear. I
don't know how to travel without flashlights and a generator and a
global tracking system. I don't know how to travel without an ice chest
of wieners. What if I stumble upon a backyard barbecue? To bring nothing
to the party would be rude.
Every travel-catalog company in the world has my credit-card number.
I've got an iron that doubles as a paperweight, a hair dryer the size of
a coach's whistle, a Swiss Army knife that expands into a pup tent, and
a pair of pants that inflate upon impact. (On one flight my wife,
Denalyn, gave me a swat on the leg, and I couldn't get out of my seat.)
I don't know how to travel light. But I need to learn. Denalyn refuses
to give birth to any more children even though the airlines allow each
passenger three checked bags and two carry-ons.
I need to learn to travel light.
You're wondering why I can't. Loosen up! you're thinking. You
can't enjoy a journey carrying so much stuff. Why don't you just drop
all that luggage?
Funny you should ask. I'd like to inquire the same of you. Haven't you
been known to pick up a few bags?
Odds are, you did this morning. Somewhere between the first step on the
floor and the last step out the door, you grabbed some luggage. You
stepped over to the baggage carousel and loaded up. Don't remember doing
so? That's because you did it without thinking. Don't remember seeing a
baggage terminal? That's because the carousel is not the one in the
airport; it's the one in the mind. And the bags we grab are not made of
leather; they're made of burdens.
The suitcase of guilt. A sack of discontent. You drape a duffel bag of
weariness on one shoulder and a hanging bag of grief on the other. Add
on a backpack of doubt, an overnight bag of loneliness, and a trunk of
fear. Pretty soon you're pulling more stuff than a skycap. No wonder
you're so tired at the end of the day. Lugging luggage is exhausting.
What you were saying to me, God is saying to you, "Set that stuff down!
You're carrying burdens you don't need to bear."
"Come to me," he invites, "all of you who are weary and carry heavy
burdens, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28 NLT).
If we let him, God will lighten our loads ... but how do we let him? May
I invite an old friend to show us? The Twenty-third Psalm.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in
green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my
soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.
You, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will
fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint
my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall
follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the
Lord Forever. (NKJV)
Do more beloved words exist? Framed and hung in hospital halls,
scratched on prison walls, quoted by the young, and whispered by the
dying. In these lines sailors have found a harbor, the frightened have
found a father, and strugglers have found a friend.
And because the passage is so deeply loved, it is widely known. Can you
find ears on which these words have never fallen? Set to music in a
hundred songs, translated into a thousand tongues, domiciled in a
One of those hearts might be yours. What kinship do you feel with these
words? Where do the verses transport you? To a fireside? Bedside?
Hardly a week passes that I don't turn to them. This passage is to the
minister what balm is to the physician. I recently applied them to the
heart of a dear friend. Summoned to his house with the words "The
doctors aren't giving him more than a few days," I looked at him and
understood. Face pale. Lips stretched and parched. Skin draping between
bones like old umbrella cloth between spokes. The cancer had taken so
much: his appetite, his strength, his days. But the cancer hadn't
touched his faith. Pulling a chair to his bed and squeezing his hand, I
whispered, "Bill, `The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.'" He
rolled his head toward me as if to welcome the words.
"He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still
waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness
for His name's sake."
Reaching the fourth verse, fearful that he might not hear, I leaned
forward until I was a couple of inches from his ear and said, "Though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for
You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."
He didn't open his eyes, but he arched his brows. He didn't speak, but
his thin fingers curled around mine, and I wondered if the Lord was
helping him set down some luggage, the fear of dying.
Do you have some luggage of your own? Do you think God might use David's
psalm to lighten your load? Traveling light means trusting God with
the burdens you were never intended to bear.
Why don't you try traveling light? Try it for the sake of those you
love. Have you ever considered the impact that excess baggage has on
relationships? We've made this point at our church by virtue of a drama.
A wedding is reenacted in which we hear the thoughts of the bride and
groom. The groom enters, laden with luggage. A bag dangles from every
appendage. And each bag is labeled: guilt, anger, arrogance,
insecurities. This fellow is loaded. As he stands at the altar, the
audience hears him thinking, Finally, a woman who will help me carry
all my burdens. She's so strong, so stable, so ...
As his thoughts continue, hers begin. She enters, wearing a wedding gown
but, like her fianci, covered with luggage. Pulling a hanging bag,
shouldering a carry-on, hauling a makeup kit, paper sack-everything you
could imagine and everything labeled. She has her own bags: prejudice,
loneliness, disappointments. And her expectations? Listen to what she is
thinking: Just a few more minutes and I've got me a man. No more
counselors. No more group sessions. So long, discouragement and worry. I
won't be seeing you anymore. He's going to fix me.
Finally they stand at the altar, lost in a mountain of luggage. They
smile their way through the ceremony, but when given the invitation to
kiss each other, they can't. How do you embrace someone if your arms are
full of bags?
For the sake of those you love, learn to set them down.
And, for the sake of the God you serve, do the same. He wants to use
you, you know. But how can he if you are exhausted? This truth came home
to me yesterday afternoon on a run. Preparing for a jog, I couldn't
decide what to wear. The sun was out, but the wind was chilly. The sky
was clear, but the forecast said rain. Jacket or sweatshirt? The Boy
Scout within me prevailed. I wore both.
I grabbed my Walkman but couldn't decide which tape to bring. A sermon
or music? You guessed it, I took both. Needing to stay in touch with my
kids, I carried a cell phone. So no one would steal my car, I pocketed
my keys. As a precaution against thirst, I brought along some drink
money in a pouch. I looked more like a pack mule than a runner! Within
half a mile I was peeling off the jacket and hiding it in a bush. That
kind of weight will slow you down.
What's true in jogging is true in faith. God has a great race for you to
run. Under his care you will go where you've never been and serve in
ways you've never dreamed. But you have to drop some stuff. How can you
share grace if you are full of guilt? How can you offer comfort if you
are disheartened? How can you lift someone else's load if your arms are
full with your own?
For the sake of those you love, travel light.
For the sake of the God you serve, travel light.
For the sake of your own joy, travel light.
There are certain weights in life you simply cannot carry. Your Lord is
asking you to set them down and trust him. He is the father at the
baggage claim. When a dad sees his five-year-old son trying to drag the
family trunk off the carousel, what does he say? The father will say to
his son what God is saying to you.
"Set it down, child. I'll carry that one."
What do you say we take God up on his offer? We just might find
ourselves traveling a little lighter.
By the way, I may have overstated my packing problems. (I don't usually
take snowshoes.) But I can't overstate God's promise: "Unload all your
worries onto him, since he is looking after you" (1 Pet. 5:7 JB).
The Middle C of Life
The Burden of a Lesser God
The Lord ...
I'm only five feet from an eagle. His wings are spread, and his talons
are lifted above the branch. White feathers cap his head, and black eyes
peer at me from both sides of a golden beak. He is so close I could
touch him. So near I could stroke him. With only a lean and a stretch of
my right arm, I could cover the eagle's crown with my hand.
But I don't. I don't reach. Why not? Am I afraid of him?
Hardly. He hasn't budged in two years. When I first opened the box, he
impressed me. When I first set him on the shelf, I admired him. Man-made
eagles are nice for a while, but you quickly get used to them.
David is concerned that you and I don't make the same mistake with God.
His pen has scarcely touched papyrus, and he's urging us to avoid gods
of our own making. With his very first words in this psalm, David sets
out to deliver us from the burden of a lesser deity.
One might argue that he seeks to do nothing else. For though he will
speak of green pastures, his thesis is not rest. He will describe
death's somber valley, but this poem is not an ode to dying. He will
tell of the Lord's forever house, but his theme is not heaven. Why did
David write the Twenty-third Psalm? To build our trust in God ... to
remind us of who he is.
In this psalm David devotes one hundred and fifteen words to explaining
the first two: "The Lord." In the arena of unnecessary luggage, the
psalmist begins with the weightiest: the refashioned god. One who looks
nice but does little. God as ...
A genie in a bottle. Convenient. Congenial. Need a parking place,
date, field goal made or missed? All you do is rub the bottle and
poof-it's yours. And, what's even better, this god goes back into
the bottle after he's done.
A sweet grandpa. So soft hearted. So wise. So kind. But very,
very, very old. Grandpas are great when they are awake, but they tend to
doze off when you need them.
A busy dad. Leaves on Mondays, returns on Saturdays. Lots of road
trips and business meetings. He'll show up on Sunday, however, so clean
up and look spiritual. On Monday, be yourself again. He'll never know.
Ever held these views of God? If so, you know the problems they cause. A
busy dad doesn't have time for your questions. A kind grandpa is too
weak to carry your load. And if your god is a genie in a bottle, then
you are greater than he is. He comes and goes at your command.
A god who looks nice but does little.
Reminds me of a briefcase I own. Though I'd like to fault the salesman,
I can't. The purchase was my decision. But he certainly made it easy. I
didn't need a new satchel. The one I had was fine. Scarred and scratched
but fine. The paint was worn off the zippers, and the edges were
scuffed, but the bag was fine.
Oh, but this new one, to use the words of the college-age boy in the
leather store, was "really fine." Loaded with features: copper covers on
the corners, smooth leather from Spain, and, most of all, an Italian
name near the handle. The salesman gave his line and handed me the bag,
and I bought them both.
I left the store with a briefcase that I have used maybe twice. What was
I thinking? It carries so little. My old bag had no copper-covered
corners, but it had a belly like a beluga. This new one reminds me of a
high-fashion model: slim, stiff, and tight-lipped. A book and a
newspaper, and this Italian satchel is "fullisimo."
The bag looks nice but does nothing.
Is that the kind of God you want? Is that the kind of God we have?
David's answer is a resounding no. "You want to know who God really is?"
he asks. "Then read this." And he writes the name Yahweh. "Yahweh
is my shepherd."
Though foreign to us, the name was rich to David. So rich, in fact, that
David chose Yahweh over El Shaddai (God Almighty), El
Elyon (God Most High), and El Olam (God the Everlasting).
These and many other tides for God were at David's disposal. But when he
considered all the options, David chose Yahweh.
Why Yahweh? Because Yahweh is God's name. You can call me
preacher or writer or half-baked golfer-these are accurate descriptions,
but these aren't my names. I might call you dad, mom, doctor, or
student, and those terms may describe you, but they aren't your name. If
you want to call me by my name, say Max. If I call you by your
name, I say it.
Excerpted from "Traveling Light" by Max Lucado. Copyright © 2006 by Max Lucado. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.