One box of pasta; rotini, because it’s versatile. Two kinds of sauce, just in case. That might not be what we’re in the mood for, though, so grab the Pad Thai sauce and the noodles to go with it.
We’ve got carrots to go with the Pad Thai, and we can always grab a pepper and an onion. Probably don’t need to pack that. Grab the bread and the bagels and the naan and the English muffins. Grab the salmon from the freezer and the smoked salmon from the fridge.
Move on to the clothes. Three T-shirts. Skirt, shorts, and at least two pair of jeans. Thick wool socks, thin wool socks, plain cotton socks, and a pair of those socks that don’t show above ankle boots. Get a bigger suitcase. Keep going.
I’m writing from Northern New York, where my husband and I are visiting my family for a week. He packs much differently from me. He brings what he expects to need, with confidence that he can either do without or find a substitute while we’re traveling.
My specialty, though, is catastrophizing. I imagine scenario after scenario, and pack what I would need in each one. More yarn for the project I’ll work on if I finish the other project. More books for all the time I’ll surely spend reading.
By the time I’m done, the dog is a bit crowded in the back seat. I can tell that some of this must be unnecessary, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you what.
Sitting at our rented cabin, I’ve been thinking about the unnecessary things that I carry. I’m fairly happy with my packing for this trip, despite how I’ve described it; I brought more than we needed, but nothing that’s been a real burden. We had space in the car for it all.
What about the things in my soul’s backpack, though? How much of what I’m hauling around in my heart is what I actually need? It’s cliche, almost, but needs to be said often: unforgiveness is a heavy burden to carry around. Don’t even think of it in terms of what will fit in your backpack. Think of it as boxes adding so much weight to your car that it affects the gas mileage.
There’s also the weight of old assumptions: ossified patterns of relating as family members or imagining the world or even ways of thinking about God that aren’t leading to flourishing life. Imagine hauling all of that out with the trash and starting fresh.
In the earliest document in the New Testament, 1 Thessalonians, Paul gives the church in Thessalonica this advice: “Test all things. Hold fast to what is good. Reject every kind of evil.”
Testing all things is intimidating, because it requires us to consider getting rid of beloved ideas and models that are no longer worth holding fast to. It also implies, though, that we might find good in things that we would otherwise be too quick to discard.
I packed a number of books for the trip that I’m on, but I’ve found myself missing my small Wendell Berry collection. I’ve gone back to his poem about the Mad Farmer Liberation Front, because it contains in it a way of thinking about testing all things: Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years. Listen to carrion – put your ear close, and hear the faint chattering of the songs that are to come. Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. So long as women do not go cheap for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy a woman satisfied to bear a child? Will this disturb the sleep of a woman near to giving birth?
The poem ends with a simple command: “Practice resurrection.” Not “Believe in resurrection,” as though it’s believing hard enough that matters. Practice it. Live the way that resurrection requires.
To practice resurrection, in a sense, is to practice discernment. What needs to come with you on the next leg of the journey, and what can be left behind with the graveclothes?
“We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive, or gain by Love and Information. And yet we could hurt no Man that we believe loves us. Let us then try what Love will do: For if Men did once see we Love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: And he that forgives first, wins the Laurel.” — William Penn
Julie Rudd is the Pastor of Wilmington Friends Meeting, a LGBTQ+ affirming church committed to the peaceful and just work of Christ in the world. Learn more at wilmingtonfriendsohio.org .