The challenge is to imagine that you are poor and own just five of your possessions that will fit into a small suitcase. You would have the clothes on your back as well. But what five things would you pack?
As I sat in church last Sunday and listened to our pastor, Doug, issue this challenge, my mind began to roam. Five things…what would I pack?
I looked around the sanctuary at the others sitting there and thought, well, we should knock it down to four. I, like everyone in here, am going to say, “My Bible is the first thing!”
But is it? Do I really hold my Bible in such high esteem? If someone came into my house and watched me for a week, what would they pick as my top five choices? Would my Bible be one of them?
I do well for a while…daily reading and studying. Then life creeps in and distracts me. This time last year, we had just begun reading through the Bible in a year together as a congregation. I was so excited! This was to be my first time to read it beginning to end. I even signed on to help write a companion study guide for small groups.
Then in April, I became ill. May was spent in and out of hospitals, undergoing tests. I had blurred vision that, as sometimes, would also be double. My head hurt so bad that having the lights on was like torture. I was dizzy and nauseated and sitting up for any length of time was nearly impossible. The worst part was…I couldn’t read! Anyone who knows me knows that I am an avid reader. I can read several novels a week, if given the time. And now, to be ill and not be able to read…cruel and unusual punishment for sure!
But the one thing I did enjoy, the thing I could tolerate the best, was listening to KLOVE, a Christian radio station, on my laptop. I could lay in bed, lights off, with just the gentle sound of the radio playing. It was wonderful! It lifted my soul.
As the summer moved on, I was able to tolerate, through medication, being out of bed for longer periods of time, being in a lighted room with the sound of the television on. I could use my computer for short periods of time. But, if I tried to read, it made my eyes ache and made the nausea worse.
Finally came the fall, and through a bizarre bout with the flu, my eyesight cleared, almost all the way. No more blurred vision. My eyes and head still hurt if I read too long at a time, but I could read again! What a relief.
It would be nice to be able to say that I immediately picked up my Bible and began reading the weekly lesson again. It would be nice…but it wouldn’t be true. It’s not to say I didn’t read my Bible at all, because I did. But it wasn’t the first thing I grabbed for each day. I went to the library, the place I probably missed the most, and checked out a couple of new releases from my favorite authors. Oh, it was a joy, just being able to read, even for 15 minutes. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I was able to do it again.
But each Sunday, I would sit in church, listening to the sermon, feeling guilty. If I could read other things, why hadn’t I read the chapters for this week? We were even in the New Testament by now…some of my favorite books in the Bible! But each week it was the same thing…leave with good intentions…return and wallow in guilt.
This year has started off better. The new book our church is doing, The Hole in Our Gospel, has provoked much conversation between Jim and I. It has me turning to my Bible to find this story or that phrase. It has me excited and thirsting for more. It has reminded me just how much I love to read God’s word and let it speak to me.
David prayed in 1 Chronicles 29, of the people who were building the temple, “O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.”
That should be my prayer, to keep the desire in my heart so that my heart is loyal to Christ.
So what five things would go into my suitcase? As I sit in my livingroom, surrounded by the comforts of a warm home, with every modern convenience at my fingertips, I can’t honestly think of anything I can see that I couldn’t live without. Maybe I don’t need a suitcase. After all, in order to use my Bible it has to be in my hands…anything else, would just be a distraction.