How is your pack?
“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.” – Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth
This past Sunday I shared a story of backpacking with my son and Troop 99 from here in Greencastle. It had been a few years since I had strapped a larger pack on my shoulders before our family vacation this summer and this recent trip with the Scouts. I had forgotten how critical it is to ensure that you’re “wearing the weight of the pack” correctly.
Wearing the weight of the back pack correctly includes making sure (a) we don’t try to carry too much weight, (b) we get the order right and (c) we keep pressure on the important points and loosen pressure where needed.
When we don’t overburden our packs with too much equipment, it is possible for us to make the necessary journey.
When we get things in their proper order, there is less of a chance of feeling off balance the entire time.
When we keep close the things we need to keep close and let go of the things we need to let go of, we can better enjoy the trip.
So, let me stop here and ask you, “How is your pack?”
In other words, what is your own life telling you right now?
Are you trying to carry too much? Do you find that at the end of the day you still haven’t gotten everything done and are “swamped”? Do you feel stressed and irritable around others because of the constant demands they are putting on you?
When we start experiencing this discomfort, when these signs start appearing, it’s an incredibly important moment. On the hiking trail, it’s the moment when you take the weight of the pack off of your shoulders for a moment and assess the situation. You make the adjustments that are necessary – even seeking out special assistance from a team leader if need be.
Spiritually, the adjustments we can make are even more important. When our lives are too busy and too overscheduled, it is direly important to “take off our pack” and to return to the rhythms that will hold you together. Carve out space for rest and returning to God in prayer. Take time to assess what priorities are driving your attention and action. Are they from God or from some other source including those around you or your own internal fears?
Then, follow these three rules.
#1 – Don’t carry too much
Many times today we are simply trying to do too much. We’ve put too many things on our plate, leaving little or no time for prayer, time with God. Too many of us are frustrated and exhausted.
As Thomas Merton’s quote above says so clearly, when we life over-burdened lives we are committing violence against God’s Will and ourselves. I’ll say this even more clearly. We are sinning.
We are created to be in relationship with God and to derive our life from him. By over-extending ourselves, we are losing sight of our number one job: to enjoy God and allow God to lead and direct us.
#2 – Put things in their right order
Second to not over-burdening our lives is this important truth. We need to make sure we keep the right order. We may have all the right “essentials,” but we may not be putting the first things first. In a backpack, traditionally, there are specific places for things. Spiritually, when we let go of our prayer life or time for silence, we create an imbalance that begins to wear on us and make life uncomfortable. Invariably, we find ourselves less able to deal with the stress of work or our home life.
#3 – Get the tension balance right
Backpacks are designed to minimize the weight of the pack by distributing the tension throughout the system. This is done by loosening the tension in key areas (shoulders/back) and keeping it in the right places (hips/core).
Is the weight of your life being carried in the right places? Daily time for prayer and for connecting with God keeps the tension where it should be. This allows us to take the things that are stressing us out into the loving arms of God and to release the tension into Christ’s hands.
Too often we end up trying to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders.
So take a moment to consider your “pack”.
What is working? What’s not? And in what ways can you allow Jesus to lessen your load right now?
Let us continue in this path of discipleship.