Coming back from 12 days away over the Christmas-New Year break, I realised that I only used half of what I’d brought along with me – the rest could have stayed at home.
I really thought I’d gotten good at packing light. When I travel with others I often get comments about how little luggage I get by on. I’m a bit chuffed about that.
Basically, after a few experiences of living abroad now and more recently moving back and forth between Canberra and Sydney, it’s become clear that there are so many things we can survive without.
By “so many things”, I mean pretty much everything – as long as you have a credit card handy; I mean, ultimately all material things are disposable.
It’s when we settle that we start accumulating things.
Over two decades growing up in the one city and every time I go back, I chip away a little bit more at my stockpile of worldly belongings.
Things I kept because I thought I might need or want them some day.
Things that seemed a waste to throw out because they were functional though I never used them.
Things I held on to for sentimental reasons.
Things I didn’t even know I had.
Sorting through my belongings always feels like an enormous, overwhelming task. The truth is that my stuff is oppressive. Disposing of my belongings has been generally liberating, even if I experience an occasional twinge of pain when something once loved goes into the bin.
When I have conversations with people sick of “living out of a suitcase”, I do understand. Yet if we’re sojourners on this earth, even the biggest house with all the storage space you might ever need is just an oversized suitcase.
The Israelites lived in tents for 40 years while they wandered through the desert, eager for the Promised Land. Rekab’s descendants continued to do so even after the Israelite kingdom was established.
I’m not sure how far I want to go towards that extreme.
On the one hand, I’m currently averse to purchasing any sort of furniture and would only live in a house where all of that is provided. On the other, the fact of not having a permanent desk at work continues to bother me more than I expected.
I want to be unattached enough to be flexible, yet I see great value in taking the time to invest in a place, in its people.
There’s definitely a tension between living light and laying roots.
Still, the story of Rekab’s family is a reminder that our time here, while not necessarily short, is nonetheless temporary. It’s temporary regardless of what we might believe about the afterlife or lack thereof. So what does that mean for the way that we consume and accumulate?
Jesus told a parable about the man who demolished his barns to build bigger ones so that he could accommodate his growing possessions; a man who died suddenly one night. What was the point of all that effort?
Beyond all the memes floating around about “what really matters” in life, we should live according to what we believe about our lives here and in the hereafter. It’s worth thinking about what that means, what should that look like.