Parts of this article have been excerpted from Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt. Used with permission from Moody Publishers © 2013.
This is an excerpt from my book Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage, a memoir I wrote about quitting my job and selling everything I owned to go on a yearlong road trip.
We’d already been planning our trip for nearly a month when I told Sharaya I didn’t want to go.
“I can’t do it,” I said.
I wished it were all a joke. I wished that I could just laugh and tell her I was kidding. But instead all I could think was about what how, if I quit my job now, if I let go of all my stuff, if I left home, I would ruin everything. I would never figure out what I was supposed to do with my life. I would never settle down and be normal. I would never get married.
I went home early that night, and wondered if I’d regret it.
So much could happen in the course of six months. I would miss so much. Going would mean I would have to give up my job, my apartment, my stuff, my friends, my life. Sure, going on this trip could mean getting the life I always wanted. It could mean that I would get to write a book. But what if it didn’t? What if I lost everything in the process? What if the only way to get the kind of life I wanted was to stay put?
I went to bed early that night because I was sick of being tired all the time. I was sick of traipsing around with Sharaya to all her shows just to sit in the back of the room and take pictures. I was sick of giving up sleep for some stupid road trip. What was the point, anyway? A road trip wasn’t going to change my life. Was it?
While I slept, I dreamed I was in Costa Rica.
I was standing on the edge of a waterfall—about 35 feet high—and people all around me were jumping. I watched several of them hurl themselves over the edge, pierce the water with alarming force, and emerge again, smiling. I wanted to do it, but I was afraid.
Gingerly, I found my way to a rock that jetted out above the falls. I widened my stance, put my right foot securely in front of my left, and leaned out over the edge of the water. From there, I stared at my inevitable path down.
That’s when I noticed there was a man standing on the shore, yelling, “Do it, do it!” I peered out over the edge, looked at the fall, shook my head, and turned to walk away. That’s where the dream ended.
I woke up thinking about the “rich young ruler.”
He came to Jesus, just like I did to the waterfall. Nobody forced him to come. He came voluntarily. Maybe, like me, he saw others take the leap before him and experience something thrilling. Either way, he came because he felt like there had to be something more. He came with a question: “How do I get a taste of heaven?”
Jesus gave him an answer: jump. Do it! “Sell everything you own and give it to the poor,” Jesus told him. “Then come follow Me.” The young man looked at Jesus, much the same I must have looked at that waterfall. He decided it was too dangerous, too much of a risk.
It wasn't worth it.
Everyone is afraid to lose something—dignity, reputation, comfort, safety, stuff. It’s easy to look at someone who has some- thing you don’t and wonder, “You’re not willing to give up that? What’s the big deal?” It’s easy for me to look at the “rich young ruler” and think how sad it is he wouldn’t give up his “riches” in order to follow Jesus. That’s because I’m not very rich (at least not compared to the people living right around me). But all of us have “riches” we don’t want to sacrifice to follow Jesus. For some of us it’s comfort, for others it’s image, and for others still it’s relationships.
What if the things we feel most attached to are the things standing between us and heaven?
Not “heaven” as in the place we go when we die, but heaven as in the tangible perception of God’s peace, love and mercy, breaking into our reality and our lives right now. We taste it in a delicious meal, a first kiss, or a conversation with friends. We taste it when we laugh until we hurt, and when we love something so much we’re willing to give up whatever it takes to get it.
What if these “things” we’re attached to aren’t even bad things, but our fear of losing them is keeping us from seeing beyond what we have right now?
What if there is something better?