Carry-On: A Packing List for the Christian Life

There’s nothing quite like realizing you’ve forgotten to pack clean undies when you’re away from home and nowhere near a store.

Any time a trip comes up, I start getting neurotic. What will I really need? What am I forgetting? Do I have what matters most? This is when it’s great to have a packing list. I can neatly check off the items as I tuck them away, making everything fit snugly and restoring peace of mind. No more worrying or wondering or wigging out. (Or going commando involuntarily.)

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Christian life came with a packing list, a set of essentials we can count on needing at some point during our journey home? Let’s create one!

1. Curiosity.

I was recently introduced to the idea that we should make it a habit to be more curious than certain. An openness to life and others is so much more inviting than a closed, arrogant (and false) sense that we have it all figured out. God is the only one who is omniscient—we don’t need to be. Allow gentle questions and a childlike spirit to infuse your way of thinking. I have more fun when I can let myself off the hook from knowing (or appearing/trying to know) everything. Let’s just wonder together, shall we?

2. Grace.

It would have been impossible to make it far in your relationship with the Lord without grace, and it would be impossible to make it far in your relationships with others without it, too. We are all broken, and we need a go-to response for moments the brokenness seeps through. A harsh word, an unguarded look, impatient body language. Sure, you could choose to take offense. But grace gives so much more than righteous indignation ever could. It quietly covers over imperfections because it remembers how many imperfections have been generously covered over on its behalf. To whom much is given, much is required.

3. Kindness. (We might as well just throw the whole fruit of the Spirit in here, too.)

Okay, honestly, Galatians 5:22-23 is its own mini packing list, and I may eventually get around to writing on each of them. But for now, we’ll go with kindness. Grace and kindness might seem similar, but grace is more of an internal state (letting a hurtful remark slide, for instance) while kindness works outwardly (validating their fear and restoring their dignity). Grace holds its tongue; kindness pours out healing. Make it a goal to leave each person you meet on this adventure a little better off than you found them. Kindness is the quickest way to do so.

4. Humility.

There are certain things in today’s world that are pretty dang rare: specific kinds of jewels, really good steak, and a teachable heart that can soak up wisdom. You can bank on the fact that pride will make the journey so much worse. To truly succeed according to kingdom principles, we have to ditch it, replacing it with humble acknowledgment of our own neediness. Only then does God begin filling us up with Himself. And that’s when the good stuff happens.

5. Love.

Really, it all boils down to this one. Even Jesus says so: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence’… [and] ‘love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them” (Matthew 22:37-40, MSG). You can do a lot of great things, but without love, it’s all pointless (1 Corinthians 13). If you sincerely love the Lord, you have to love others (1 John 4:21). That’s just the way He set it up because God is love.

Practically speaking, even this short list can seem pretty lofty. You mean I have to gather all of that? Good news! No, you don’t. Better news! It’s been gathered for you, packed neatly into your carry-on by the Pilot Himself:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence…

(2 Peter 1:3)

Did you catch it? God has granted us (past tense) everything we need. We don’t have to ask for it or work for it or beg and plead and throw a hissy. It’s already ours. And not just some of what we need, either! All things that pertain to life and godliness. Anything you can think of that could be considered an essential for walking with Jesus is yours. So now we can enjoy the journey knowing that our hearts aren’t accidentally leaving the spiritual equivalent of clean undies at home. Whew!

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