I really enjoy hiking and backpacking. I love being out in nature, enjoying the raw beauty of the wild backcountry. But when you’re carrying everything on your back you need to be really careful about what you take. The difference between a great trip and a miserable trip can be a couple pounds of unnecessary weight on your back.
While researching information about backpacking you might find videos showing a hiker’s “gear loadout.” What this term refers to is when the hiker lays out all of his/her gear and carefully analyzes it to see if it is really necessary, or can be traded out for something lighter. Often we will weigh each item as we consider its importance. This is especially important when backpacking with children; I have to be very careful not to overload their packs.
Sometimes when you’re looking through your gear you realize you have items that are unnecessary or too heavy. You might have to discard them or replace them with something lighter. For example, I don’t take a pillow. Instead I put my extra clothes into my sleeping pad stuff sack and use it for a pillow. It works and saves some weight.
The other day I realized I need to do a gear loadout in my spiritual life. I need to lay out all of the things I carry around with me and carefully decide if they are important enough to keep, or if they are excess baggage that is making my life uncomfortable, or maybe even miserable.
For example, I have a problem with guilt. Even if I have taken all of the correct steps and been forgiven by the offended party, I have a hard time letting go of the guilt. Sometimes I’ll hold on to it for years!
But when I neglect to forgive myself, I am ignoring the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” I am one of those people I need to forgive in order to be forgiven. Not only am I carrying around an extra load of weight in my life, but I am endangering my own soul by neglecting to forgive. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If God has forgiven us it is arrogant to not forgive also. Do we have a right to hold someone—even if it is ourselves—accountable for something God has forgiven?
Another item in my spiritual backpack that I need to let go of is worry. This is probably one many of you can relate to, especially if you are a mother. I know I worry every day as my daughter makes her long drive to and from school. But worry adds a huge amount of weight in our spiritual backpacks and drags us down. The Bible is pretty clear about worry. Matthew 6:25-34 says everything I need to know about worrying; let it go, because God will take care of us. So, again, why do we act as if we can neglect the words of our Savior? If he has told us to stop worrying, why do we continue to drag around that unnecessary weight? Let the worry go!
A few other items in my spiritual backpack that I need to think about are discontentment (1 Timothy 6:6-11, Philippians 4:11-12, Hebrews 13:5), anger (Psalm 37:8, Colossians 3:8) and resentment (Matthew 5:43-45, Mark 11:25, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). When I pull them out and look at them in the light of the words of the Bible, I can see that they need to be discarded, or else they will drag me down and ruin the enjoyment of my spiritual journey.
Sometimes I don’t want to get rid of the item completely, but I need to replace it with something lighter. An example would be excessive empathy. Empathy is a good thing, but it’s easy to allow other people’s problems to become my own. Instead, I need to hear what people are saying, do what I can to help, and give the rest to God.
Other times I am carrying something useful, but it is unnecessary for a section of the trail. For example, if I know I am going to have plentiful water sources up ahead I might not carry as much water (water is heavy!). But if I know I will be hiking through a dry stretch I might carry more, knowing I will need it.
Doing a lot of work in God’s kingdom is an amazing thing and is to be commended. But sometimes sisters get caught up doing so much they are wearing themselves out. Maybe we need to lighten our load a little bit. In my case my husband lovingly asked me to give something up because I was neglecting the education of my children to be involved in so many good works for the church. You still need this piece of gear so don’t give it up entirely, but maybe for a time you need a little less. Then later you can adjust your pack again. In my case, I can add more when my children require less of my attention for their education.
Finally, when I am backpacking with my children I find I have to carry some of their gear. A general rule of thumb is a child should only carry 15-20% of their body weight. If I have a 50 pound child, her pack should only weigh between 7-10 pounds. That means any extra gear she requires on the trail will go into my pack. The Bible teaches us to bear one another’s burdens, Galatians 6:2. When we take on some of the burden for those who are spiritually younger we are easing their load and making the journey easier for them.
But sometimes my pack is too heavy. What do I do then? We are the children of our Father in heaven. When we require more gear than we can handle, He will carry the rest. Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” Sometimes there is so much in our lives that weighs us down; stress, grief, pain and depression to name a few. We need to acknowledge that when our burden has become too heavy to bear we can give some of the weight to Him to carry. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
Sometimes this gear loadout is very difficult. We have items we just don’t want to let go. Other times we can’t imagine life without something we have carried for so long. But by reevaluating the items in our pack we can lighten our load, making our journey easier and our lives more effective for God.
By Fern Boyle
Fern Boyle is a homeschooling mom of six kids who lives in Enid, Oklahoma. Her husband, Doug, is an elder in the church of Christ at Garriott Road, and a pilot in the military, having served in both the Marine Corps and Air Force. Their time traveling from coast to coast has blessed them with friends in the church all across the country as well as many opportunities to grow as Christians. Fern enjoys running, hiking, reading and teaching ladies Bible class. She used to have other hobbies but then she had more kids. Her children are what she loves most, however, watching them grow and develop into wonderful young men and women.