Carrying Weight

We spread out two nights’ worth of backpacking, covering the entire lower level of our home with sleeping bags, Therma-Rest pads, two tents, freeze-dried dinners, rain gear, S’mores ingredients, fishing lures, flashlights . . . did we forget anything? We roll, fold, stuff, tie, pack, and squeeze the air out. We’re able to confine our shelter, food, clothing, and every need into five packs, compact and tight.

Our backpacking preparation always culminates with the same ritual: we weigh each pack before the trip. Tense and unmoving, we watch the scale until its numbers settle. Then comes a trumpet accolade and the announcements:

Charles: 51 pounds!
Monica: 28 pounds!
Derek: 15 pounds!
Titus: 10 pounds!
Byron: 3 pounds!

The packs weigh more than they did the last trip, and our faces beam.

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At the trailhead I shoulder my load, taking pride in every pound. I keep track of how much I carry. I am proud of the weight on my back.

It is my own weight, mine, and I carry it alone. My strong legs take the trail and its 1,000-foot elevation gain. I can do it.

Self-sufficiency is an illusion, and I fall for it again. As a result, anxiety hovers close by, ready to swoop down on me. I am now a clear and easy target, having marked myself with pride.

But anxiety’s deadly talons never reach me. God’s Word has come between.

So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.

– 1 Peter 5:6-7 (Phillips)

Father, I don’t want to hoard my worries from You. Protect me from thinking that I operate on my own strength. I recognize that without You I can do nothing. Teach me (again) humility, which is an anti-worry shield. Show me how to shed pride and transfer the weight from my shoulders to Yours. I want to labor for You, but only by taking the yoke of Jesus. With this yoke upon me, may I learn from You and find rest.

When we humble ourselves each morning by casting all our cares on the Lord, we will start the day free of care. The humble are genuinely care free.

I’ve discovered how true that is about myself and my soul. Where there’s worry, where there’s anxiousness, pride is at the root of it. When I am experiencing anxiety, the root issue is that I’m trying to be self-sufficient. I’m acting independent of God.

– C.J. Mahaney, in Humility: True Greatness

***

It has been six years since I wrote the above, and backpacking is different now. Instead of going twice a year, I go once. Each son’s pack is heavier than mine.

I don’t feel strong nowadays. Instead of taking pride in the number of pounds in my pack, I gladly transfer as much weight to my husband’s and sons’ packs as they will take.

When people asked, “How far do you go on a backpack?” I used to say, “As far as the youngest hiker.” Now I answer, “As far as I can go.”

Yet the temptation to self-sufficiency can still be strong, and I need humility now more than ever.

***

To read 1 Peter 5 (entire chapter) in the Phillips translation, visit BibleGateway.com.

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