What's more, we're often loaded down with supplies that are cumbersome, even useless, and may in fact be liabilities. For the journey we're on, the baggage we hold dear is revealing. For instance:
Sir John Franklin sailed from England in 1845 to find the rumored northwest passage to the Pacific Ocean across the Canadian Arctic. He and 138 officers and men sailed in 2 three-masted vessels equipped with an auxiliary steam engine and a 12-day supply of coal for the entire projected 2 to 3 year voyage. Instead of additional coal, each ship boasted a 1,200 volume library, a hand organ, china place settings, cut-glass wine goblets and sterling silverware. The expedition carried no special clothing for the arctic. They were last seen alive entering the Lancaster Sound.A sad ending. And although our life adventure may at times be dangerous, Jesus does not intend for our expedition to end in tragedy. He has a clear goal in mind for each of our lives and has a plan that, if followed, will take us to our destination with banners waving. And along the way we will find satisfaction, refreshment, joy and purpose. In a word, success.
For the next 20 years, search parties found the remains of the Franklin expedition scattered across the frozen sea. Many, on their way for help, died far from the broken ship, stuck in the ice pack. They were found carrying the supplies they deemed important. One search party, for example, discovered among a clump of frozen bodies, some guns, chocolate, tea and a great deal of sterling silver flatware. This was the Franklin expedition of 1845.
(Note: I first read about this tragedy in Teaching a Stone to Talk, a collection of narrative essays by Annie Dillard, and have adapted her account here.)
So what is the goal that Christ has in mind? What's the plan that we should follow if we don't want to end up "frozen in the pack" with only a bit of silver to show for our efforts?
An important text of scripture to meditate on is Galatians 5.22,23.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." ~ The Apostle PaulThis passage speaks of the character that the Holy Spirit is developing in each of us. In fact, it is the character of Jesus that Paul is describing. A quick preview, then, of our destination: What makes for a successful life expedition is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ.
Since he created us, doesn't it follow that he knows what it takes for us, the creation, to find fulfillment? Doesn't it follow that he is himself the answer to our most basic needs? The clear goal for our lives and the route that will take us across our own "northwest passage" is Jesus himself.
We're each of us on a wild expedition called life. Will there be uncertainty along the way? Yes. A life of adventure with our Creator guarantees unexpected twists and turns. We have an incomplete map to follow (or rather, an incomplete understanding of the map); but God is the cartographer and because he is good will lead us every step of the way. Are we trusting in his direction?
Where are you on this journey? Have you just begun? Or are you over halfway done? Take some time to evaluate the baggage that you're carrying. What does it reveal about your life? If you are burdened down with supplies that you don't really need, what could you throw overboard? Since we can't take it with us anyhow, let's dump the flatware here and now.