Carrying a Heavy Backpack

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11: 28 and 30.

Last week I walked around fifty-three miles on the Colorado Trail from Molas Pass to Kennebec Pass. The trip was breathtaking, refreshing, and exhausting. There is so much to process after spending four days and three nights in solitude out in the wilderness.

It is twenty-two miles from Straight Creek to Taylor Lake. The guidebook warns, “Make sure you load up with plenty of water at Straight Creek. This is your last reliable water source until Taylor Lake nearly twenty-two miles away.” I did not want to repeat my mishap in Canyonlands and wander for miles in a dehydrated, fuzzy state. I also did not want the embarrassment of telling people that I ran out of water again. I was prepared this time. I topped out a 32-ounce water bottle, a 50-ounce water bottle, and a 1.5-liter water bladder. I figured I had around 8 ½ to 9 pounds of water.

I put on my new Osprey pack and my knees buckled under the weight. My pack was heavy to start with, now with the added water it felt like I was carrying a giant boulder and I was Sisyphus. I took off downhill from the creek, but the weight was unbearable. “How am I going to carry this load up and down passes over the next twenty-two miles when I can barely carry it down this hill?” I thought. I could not go without water though, so I trudged on.

What do we do when the weight of life is crushing us? What do we do when expectations, jobs, families, and other responsibilities weigh us down and we struggle to carry on?

Life is hard, and yet Jesus says, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). Richard Rohr says, “Enlightened, conscious, or liberated people invariably describe the spiritual experience of God as resting, peace, delight, or even ecstatic.” The forty plus pound pack laying on my back was not delightful or peaceful.  I was stuck in the wilderness with a pack too heavy to carry with miles and miles to go before I could find rest. To put it mildly, “I was in a pickle.”

Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “We are loaded down, not only by our jobs and our families, and all our other responsibilities but by something that keeps telling us we must do more, be better, try harder, prove ourselves worthy or we will never earn God’s love. It is the most tiring work in the world, and it is never done.” We tend to carry more and more to prove our goodness, our worth, or our love. Sometimes, maybe quite often, we are not particularly good at saying no.

So, we carry heavier and heavier loads and life becomes a burden. “We somehow get the idea that God expects more of us than other people and that we cannot let God down,” writes Taylor. Onward we march, and like Sisyphus we can never get over the hill. We take on more and more and we are driven to weariness and despair.

What should we do?

Sometimes even our religion can become a burden. As Taylor writes, “We labor under the illusion that our yokes are single ones, that we have to go it alone…we have to load ourselves down with heavy requirements—good deeds, pure thoughts, blameless lives, perfect obedience, all those rules we make and break and make and break.” Life is one big mountain to climb, and we never get to the top. Frustration and fatigue mounts. Rohr says, “If God cannot be rested in, God must not be much of a God.” Where do we find rest and peace?

Imagine Jesus standing in front of us with half of a shared yoke across his shoulder and the other half wide open, waiting for us. All we must do is “step into it and become part of a team,” says Taylor. Christ invites us to walk with him; we carry the joys and the struggles of life together which makes our burdens lighter. William Barclay says, “Love and hope make even the heaviest burdens lighter.”

What do we need help carrying? What do we need to let go of? Do we walk in love with Christ?

My pack was a blessing which became a heavy burden. The Lord’s Prayer popped into my head. “Give us this day our daily bread.” I had enough water to make it to Taylor Lake, but I had enough food to make it to Albuquerque. I stopped, took out my very heavy food sack, and removed several bags (many pounds) of trail mix which I had not touched and would not need. I moved well off the trail and scattered the trail mix in a meadow.

My pack was still heavy but manageable.

May our souls rest in the sweetness and the softness of our Creator.
May we step into Christ’s yoke and walk together in peace and patience.

Blessings and peace,