Kim and I were honored to be a part of the 2018 Sandi Patty Cruise to Alaska. I was asked to speak a few times and found myself among a few well-known authors and speakers.
To say it was intimidating is an understatement, but we’d all been on this cruise before, and the friendship there trumps any intimidation I might have felt. It was a meaningful week.
We enjoyed a variety of Christian music artists--some very prominent in the current Christian music scene and others who’ve been inspiring audiences for many years. These people are our friends. When Sandi asked me to be a part of the team this year, I couldn’t turn down another opportunity to spend a week with people who are my treasured friends.
This particular cruise was to Alaska. I’ve not really been a cruise fan, and I doubt we would go on a cruise without all these friends. But I will tell you, the best way to see the beauty of Alaska is on a boat. There are no words to describe what I’ve just seen with my own eyes.
We arrived in Seattle on the Friday night prior to the boat leaving the dock. We took a non-stop flight out of Oklahoma City, and with the convenience of a direct flight, we decided to just check all of our bags.
Why bother with carry-on luggage when there’s only one place it can go?
As we approached the baggage claim area in the Seattle airport, we heard our names being paged. We knew we were receiving VIP treatment; we thought someone would meet us at baggage claim, load the luggage into an SUV, and whisk us away to the hotel where we would stay prior to boarding the ship the next morning.
This seemed to be a new perk, having our names called for the whole airport to hear...Marty and Kim Grubbs have arrived! I thought, "Although no one has any clue who we are, we are being given the VIP treatment."
We were being paged because our luggage didn't make it. How could that be possible? It was a direct flight from Oklahoma City. However, it was one of the hottest days on record for Oklahoma City; it was so hot, they had to remove thirteen bags from the flight.
Four of our bags were among the thirteen. At first, we were stunned. I began to veer into the territory of aggravation, but quickly reeled myself back in before it became anger.
Then came the news that it would take three days to get our luggage to us. The boat sailed the next morning before another flight from OKC would arrive in Seattle. The boat’s first stop would be in Juneau, Alaska on Monday. So, whatever we had on our bodies at that moment would need to last us for three days.
Thankfully, the kind baggage claim assistant told us to go buy what we needed for those three days and we would be reimbursed. Saturday morning we got an Uber to take us to a shopping area close to the airport. Thanks to a department store and a Target, we were able to get what we would need for three days.
The luggage showed up in our room Monday afternoon. We spent the day on a whale watching tour and walked around a beautiful seaside city. When we arrived back at the room late in the day, we were so thankful to see all our suitcases neatly placed by the bed.
And then something very interesting happened.
A trip to Alaska meant a variety of climates, which meant we would need a variety of clothing for both cold and warm temperatures. Due to my speaking responsibilities, I had packed a dressier wardrobe. I wanted to make a good impression and in no way embarrass my friend who had invited me onto her stage.
But when we began to unpack our bags, we realized we really didn’t need them. We had packed far more than would be required for our nine days away from home.
I learned on this trip that I need to travel lightly. Everything in those bags was a part of a careful plan for our time on the ship. As it turns out, we just didn’t need all of it. We thought it might be nice to have some things in the suitcases for those just-in-case moments. But when those moments came, we didn’t need what we packed.
Everything in those suitcases was replaceable. We had to grin thinking about the day we are gone and our kids would be taking it all to Goodwill.
Jesus told His disciples to travel lightly. In Luke 9:3 He said, “Take nothing for the journey, no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.”
While these words are not a mandate, they are a stark reminder of the reality that we hold on to too many things. We travel through life with too much baggage. I assumed I needed some fairly nice dress clothes for the audience to value me when I stood center stage. But so many people told me they appreciated my transparency, not my clothes.
In fact, I realized what people wanted was someone who was honest, transparent, and clear about Jesus. They say I am that person, although I don’t see it in myself. I don’t like to pretend to be super spiritual, or have some type of VIP treatment from God.
Bottom line: my cruise friends could have cared less what my clothes looked like. I learned that regardless of how I dress, it is not the exterior quality of the clothing that defines a person. It is the courage to be honest, to share our reality, to hold out for the hope of Jesus, the hope that fuels me and makes my feeble words meaningful to someone.
So, I want to encourage you to examine the baggage you carry around. Maybe it’s time to let it go.
That grudge you are holding? Let it go. It’s hurting you more than it is punishing the offender.
That secret sin that keeps defeating you? Let it go. It may take a good Christian counselor to work through your tendency to visit that cesspool, but work through it and let it go.
All that stuff you do to impress others? Let it go. Be you. Be real. Be kind. Be open.
John Maxwell has been a significant help to my journey at Crossings. It was John who said to me, “People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.” For the purpose of this blog post I would use those words in a slightly different way: people don’t care what you wear. It’s more about what they hear.