by Teresa Tomeo
As someone who loves to travel, leads pilgrimages to Italy several times a year, and writes as well as speaks about my travel experiences, I’ve realized I need to do a better job of practicing what I preach.
I am the first to offer all kids of sage advice about the most beautiful chapels, best restaurants, off the beaten path places that are a must in Rome, Florence, or Assisi. And when it comes to advising someone concerning what to bring or how to dress, I remind fellow travelers, less is more. “Oh, you don’t need much more than good comfortable shoes, a versatile jacket,” I will tell them.
But if I am honest with myself, I must admit I still struggle with that important “less is more” concept every time I prepare to pack for another journey. Surely just one more pair of black flats just in case, or another sweater, will not slow me down?
Whatever those extra items, especially items that we can easily do without, they can make a difference and not in a good way. After all, packing for a special trip is a lot like traveling through life. We pack way too much baggage for our journey with God. We certainly don’t need all the extra weight. But we just cannot seem to let go of the very issues or things that may be slowing us down when it comes to growing closer to Him. Are we really listening? Are we too consumed with the effort it takes to drag that heavy emotional suitcase behind us, to hear what He might be trying to say?
There was a time in life, even after returning to my Catholic faith and recommitting my life to Christ, I was still having a hard time packing and unpacking so to speak. There were several, shall we say, larger items that were bulging from my carry on. The heavy load of pride was the first thing that needed to go. My plans, if God would only bless them, surely were the best plans. After all, who knew better than me, myself, and I what would make me the happiest, or so I thought. Noise was the next obstacle that was really causing me to hit major bumps in the road. I spent too much time listening to the messages of the world, instead of the messages I was hearing at Mass or reading in Scripture. It was all about my career according to my agenda. Fear was also a constant companion.
As I explain in my new book, “Listening for God: Discovering the Incredible Ways God Speaks to Us” , the good Lord could have been standing right in front of me speaking loudly through a bullhorn and I would have been oblivious to whatever He had to say. It was my way or the highway, pun intended. I was fearful that not fulfilling my goals would mean an unfulfilling or boring existence.
As I mentioned earlier, like many of us, I am a work in progress, still dealing with emotional baggage from time to time. But I have learned, along with the contributors to my book, that true joy is a continual journey that begins by listening for God.
So how do we do that exactly? When a person decides to go on a tour, for example, a good travel agency does their best to prepare the traveler. We could think of God and our faith as our top travel guides. He provides a beautiful plan that brings us to the ultimate destination, a solid relationship with His son, Jesus. Our faith, including the sacraments, the Bible, the saints, and of course regular prayer, act as Google Maps, preventing us from getting lost. They enable us to enjoy life and see the signs along the way. These are all great tools and tips to pack as we take the steps needed to listen for God.
In “Listening for God”, several Catholic voyagers share how they are well prepared for their Godly adventures packing double doses of hope and trust. They highlight their own “Godcidences”, as I like to call them, those “aha” moments that catch our attention and cause us to think about what God might be trying to say. These experiences include everything from a car accident that led to a lifesaving encounter, to a business offer that suddenly landed in the lap of a woman threatened with financial ruin. There is the jaw dropping moment experienced by Corporate Travel Service President John Hale during Mass, where he felt the Lord directly speaking to him through the celebrant with the unique timing of the word “pilgrimage.” So many memorable moments put in writing, letting us know as the great saint and doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila says, “the feeling remains that God is on this journey too.”
Again, I love to travel and cannot wait to get back on the road and in the air, God willing, very soon. But my absolute favorite trip is this thing called life. And the journey of listening for God makes it even more meaningful and exciting. As they say in my beloved Italia, “Andiamo”. Let’s go!