Take nothing for the journey. Luke 9:3
This is the instruction Jesus gives his apostles as he sends them to preach the Kingdom of God, and it is what he tells us, too.
Take nothing for the journey.
Just thinking of beginning a trip with nothing—no money, no clothes, no food—causes me a bit of anxiety. Not even my driver’s license? Or cell phone?
Even when I go out for a short walk, I take a house key. But I can see how the house key connects me to what I have left behind and binds me to my house.
If I did not have my key, my house would be unlocked and I would worry about what I might find when I returned home. It would not be a very relaxing walk because I would constantly be worrying about what I had left and what I might find on my return home. Past and future, instead of being open to the present.
When I lived in l’Arche, two Jesuit seminarians lived with us for a few months. After l’Arche, their next step in formation was to make the kind of journey Jesus commands. They would be dropped off in Cleveland, Ohio, and would have to make their way home to Milwaukee, Wisconsin—with nothing for the journey.
They would have to rely on the generosity of strangers.
Both of these young men were a bit anxious about this upcoming adventure, which I could certainly understand.
Most people came to l’Arche with very little—a suitcase or backpack with clothes and maybe a few books—but I came with my car, and it was fully packed.
I had gotten rid of furniture and most of my books, but I just could not part with so many of my possessions. Pottery, cookbooks and gifts that held special significance got packed into the car. Even my sewing machine accompanied me to l’Arche. I did not travel light.
Living in l’Arche helped disencumber me, though—not necessarily of my material possessions, but rather of the emotional baggage that caused me to cling to material possessions. My overstuffed car was the symbol of how much emotional baggage I was dragging behind me and helped me understand how all that stuff held me back. It was as if I was pulling two-thousand pounds of emotional baggage along with me.
And that is another way to read Jesus’ instructions to take nothing for the journey. Jesus invites me to depend on him and to be free of unhealthy relationships and emotional dependence on others.
That kind of freedom is both attractive and somewhat scary. I find comfort in what is familiar—even if it is unhealthy—and stepping away from the familiar can be unsettling.
Every day, God invites me to take the first step of the journey of proclaiming God’s Kingdom, to leave everything behind and trust that God will provide for my needs—just like the first disciples and the Jesuit seminarians.