Packing light in life and in faith

As I prepared for my trip to Vegas last week, I was determined not to check a bag. Everybody who flies knows it’s a hassle to round up suitcases from carousels. At the same time, packing a carry on for a 5-day trip requires ruthless purging. My cute boots and a new dress did not make the cut. With the help of a backpack and a shoulder sling, I made it happen!

My willingness to sacrifice cute for freedom and efficiency, brought to mind a life circumstance that required deep sacrifice for an even greater goal.

Two years ago, Joe and I told our children we needed “a healing separation.” The goal was to stay married, but we needed a season of individual reflection and therapy. We separated so we could get back together.

Joe moved into a furnished apartment in Charlottesville, and I remained at our home 25 minutes away. We stayed in touch, gathered as a family, married off two daughters. There was no bitterness between us, but certainly areas in need of healing. What started as a three-month period will be nearly two years once we resume life together at the end of April.

Has it been worth it? Yes. Maybe someday, our shared learning will be a topic of another blog post. Meantime, I am celebrating so many of the things I gained living alone.

First, and foremost, I learned to have my faith between me and God alone. This concept is noted in Romans 14.22 in which Paul advises against judging others or imposing our personal standards upon them.

Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. (KJV)

The entire chapter is rich with principles for how to navigate difference in Christian practice. I just wish I had understood it when I was a newly minted Christian. I was 18 years old when I gave my life to the Lord after a Rick James concert (another story. another blog). I was introduced immediately to a very prescriptive religious framework, what I have grown to call my faith orientation. We all orient ourselves around faith in some way. How it plays out depends a great deal upon who we rely on for spiritual guidance and who is modeling faith for us.

Some would call mine a legalistic orientation. Others might call it a cult. It was both, anchored in ideas similar to what Paul decries in Romans 14, like what to celebrate and what to wear. Judging others. Shaming others. Being judged. Shamed for failing to measure up to the highest possible Christian ideals. This is the woman Joe married, headlong into prescriptions and rules, obedience and holiness. I came into our marriage with heavy burdens of performance and perfectionism. It was a checked bag stuffed with spiritual burdens.

Our time apart gave me opportunity to ponder this reality and how it hurt me and those I love. I can see now I was not really a woman when I got married. I was a girl. A literal teenager when we were engaged. I barely knew God and I certainly didn’t know myself. Our separation enabled me to unpack that heavy suitcase I carried. I needed to do this between myself and God alone. I stopped going to church. I had always been so dependent upon group think, and “fellowship,” and being told by others what God wanted me to do. I resisted that vehemently. I even stopped having quiet time every morning and eliminated all the shoulds from my life. I stopped blogging because I was shaken by the troubles in my marriage and felt clueless and small. I wasn’t equipped to share faith. I was questioning a lot and just emptied my mind.

The journey feels so much better now. I think I understand what it means to travel with a spiritual carryon. But I really want to apologize to anyone – whether family, friend, or foe – who took on spiritual burdens because of what I said or did. May you also find time to rid yourself of those burdens and know how light life can be when you keep company with Christ alone.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Matthew 11.28-30

What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.

Romans 14.5-9 (MSG)

3 thoughts on “Packing light in life and in faith

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: