I carry a bag with me every day to work. My bag makes it easier for me to take what I need from one place to another. It also makes it easier to take things I don’t need from one place to another.
Let’s keep in mind, also, that everything I carry in my bag has the potential to slow me down when I’m on the move. In fact, everything in my bag can wear me out if I have to carry it any distance or length of time. At the same time, some of the things I carry are quite necessary – so I must decide how much I am willing to carry and what is most important to carry.
Let’s explore what’s in my bag – my work PC, a couple of notebooks, some old files, a journal, a book I’ve been reading, my iPod Shuffle and an iPod Video, some vitamins, headphones, various power adapters, a magazine, and so on.
Some of this is stuff that I required for work – my work laptop for example. While I could do at least part of my job, this laptop is essential to being able to do all of my job. Further, without it what I could accomplish would be significantly hampered and would require that I rely on others very heavily to do what is normally my job.
Things like my iPod and headphones are not essential but do facilitate my ability to do my job. “How,” you ask? Well, I work in what is referred to as an “open office environment.” To be blunt, I can see everybody who works around me and can hear many conversations. While this facilitates collaboration and teamwork, it can also degrade my ability to concentrate when working to meet deadlines, building tools, or assessing and solving problems. The iPod and headphones help me to be able to concentrate (while simultaneously improving my mood) – much like Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress and Automattic.
Now to the down and dirty – superfluous items. A book, a journal, files that I haven’t looked at in months, a magazine, and power adapters. These are items that are neither required nor do they facilitate my work. I carry them on the off chance that I might need or want to use them. Or in case I have a few minutes to catch up on something personal.
In the scope of my life, carrying this “stuff” isn’t that big of a deal. Nothing I carry in the bag will likely make or break me. But I do the same thing throughout my life. I pick up responsibilities and activities that don’t lead me towards my God-given destiny. Worse, they weight me down. They sap my energy, resources, and time. And, worst of all, have the potential to lead me away from God’s purpose in my life.
These are the things that the writer of Hebrews writes about when he says that we should “…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
In terms of spirituality, there are some things that may seem to slow us down that are, nonetheless, essential. Prayer & worship, reading the Bible, fellowship, and service & sharing – the “Four Spiritual Food Groups” – can certainly slow down our lives (as can observing the Sabbath) but they are as necessary as eating.
In order to grow and to be spiritually effective, I must continue to carry and observe what is essential.
Which brings us to everything else. I don’t know how to tell you which of your activities facilitate your spirituality and which activities drain your spirituality. But I do know someone who can – the Holy Spirit.
I would encourage you to spend a few minutes reviewing your weekly activities and asking the following questions:
- Is this activity essential for my spiritual growth?
- Does this activity increase the impact of Jesus of Nazareth in the world?
- Does this activity take time from what is essential?
- Does this activity lead me away from or towards God?
Obviously, this list is not all-inclusive but by answering those questions, you can quickly determine where you should consider investing more of your time and resources, where you might consider pulling back, and what things you might want to discontinue altogether.