I've been working on this analogy for a couple of weeks now (since general conference basically) and I feel like its time to put it out there and try it out. So, here it goes.
I've been dying to travel lately (I always get that bug when the seasons change) and have been thinking about the steps of preparing to travel. I'm not talking about deciding when/where to travel, I'm thinking specifically of the days just before you leave. If you're anything like me, you spend time thinking about what you need to take with you; things you want, things you need, things you think you need, etc. You start gathering things and perhaps you organize them neatly according to how you will pack them, or maybe things are just thrown into a big, messy pile. However you do it, I refer to it as the gathering stage.
The next stage is the actual packing of the bags. You have your pile of things, and one by one, each item makes its way into the suitcase. During this time you put EVERYTHING into it. Most times you find that the suitcase is too full and won't close. So you look at the things you've packed and start weeding out things you don't really need, the things that are taking up valuable space, and you repack. If you're like me, you'll get everything to fit, but then you'll weigh it make sure you meet the baggage weight weight requirements, and then you'll make some final adjustments, typically as you're walking out the door, which brings me to the third and final stage, the handoff.
You're being let off at the curb and you hand your bags to the polite and ever so careful baggage handler (don't forget to tip them). At this point you hand them your bag and whatever you put in there, or forgot to grab, it doesn't matter. The deed is done.
Preparing for Christ's second coming is much like packing for a trip. We have been warned for years that we need to be prepared, we need to gather the things we need, and do/become what we need to do/become. If you've noticed, many of those warnings have ceased. We've been warned, our time of gathering has passed and we should now be packing our bags. What do we have in our suitcase that is keeping it from closing, what is taking up valuable space from the things we actually need? What is going to cost us extra to try to take on the plane (or what will you find at security that you should have left behind)?
Now is the time to be making those changes. Now is the time to declutter our lives and make sure we are packing the appropriate things. When He returns, we're not going to have time to sort things out. That is the handoff. That will be the moment when what we have in our bag will be what we're taking with us (all figuratively, of course).
As I've thought about this over the last few weeks, I see need for improvement in myself. I want to have a perfectly packed bag, and it starts today (it probably should have started sooner, but you know, better late than never). I will be ready to hand over my bags and I won't worry if I forgot something. I'm taking this trip, will you come too?