The clothes on your back. Two pairs of mittens, six pairs of socks, two pairs of boots, a sleeping bag. And two pounds of personal possessions.
That’s what Ernest Shackleton, leader of the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition told his twenty-eight member crew they could each bring with them when they had to abandon ship once it became trapped in an ice pack as they sailed towards the South Pole.
They were going to have to march across the ice dragging two one-ton lifeboats towards Paulet Island, some 346 miles to the west. Traveling light would be paramount.
It’s interesting to understand what they left and what they kept.
They abandoned clothes, scientific instruments, books, and suitcases. Along with their money, jewelry, and gold. The things that had the most value in the explorer’s lives back home would have the least value on their Antarctic march.
Things they kept included toothbrushes, photographs, medical supplies and instruments, and journals. Two other things are particularly notable: Religious items, and a twelve-pound banjo.
One man kept a cloth devotional scapular he had worn around his neck since he was a young man. Other men kept small reminders of their faith as well.
Shackleton himself took his Bible and ripped out a few pages, including the 23rd Psalm, a passage from Job, and the flyleaf. The Queen had written to him on the flyleaf of the Bible, “May the Lord help you to do your duty & guide you through all the dangers of the land and sea. May you see the Works of the Lord and all His Wonders in the deep.” The remainder of his Bible was laid in the snow.
The point? Faith brings meaning and purpose to our lives. It provides direction as to the big questions of who we are, why we are here, and where we are going. And faith helps us continue forward in the face of challenges and struggles.
And why a banjo? Especially a massive twelve-pounder? Shackleton actually insisted it be lashed to one of the lifeboats and brought along. “It’s vital mental medicine,” he said, “and we shall need it,”
He was right. At the end of their grueling journey, Shackleton credited the banjo’s music and the crew’s frequent sing-alongs “to being a vital factor in chasing away symptoms of depression.”
What would you keep? What would you leave behind?
We’re not likely to go on an Antarctic expedition. But that doesn’t mean we’ve never been at a crossroads before.
And sometimes those crossroads are pivotal and chaotic.
Many times when we’re trying to turn our lives around, we concentrate on getting rid of what’s not working: throwing out our junk, leaving toxic situations, quitting bad habits.
But that’s only half of the solution. Emptying yourself of the bad is fine, but we must also fill the newly created space with something good. Something better.
Otherwise more crap just creeps in, weighs us down, and buries us.
In chapters 15-16 of the Gospel of John, Jesus lays down a wake-up call. He warns that the world is gonna hate Jesus Followers, without cause. In the same way they hated Jesus. In the same way they hated God the Father.
Can you imagine that as a church greeting? “Welcome to our church! We promise you great coffee, good preaching, and sheer hatred from the world around you!”
And every Monday the church leaders sit around asking, “Why don’t people ever come BACK?”
But Jesus, in his wisdom, knew it was something we needed to be prepared for.
Not simply so we could eliminate the chaos.
But so we could prepare to fill that empty space with something better. Jesus said:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33, NIV
The world will have trouble, but Jesus has overcome the world.
So you can have peace.
In the middle of whatever life is throwing at you today.
For the weekend, for Monday, for the rest of the month, and for your entire future.
Today and all weekend long, take heart.
Regain courage and confidence. Christ has overcome the world.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7, NIV
What are you leaving behind? And what will you keep?