Saturday, May 5, 2012

Backpack, God, and Life

My backpack, the big one I bought in 1996 when I went to live in Guatemala, the one that's traveled with me through many countries over the last 8 months, is in Wassenaar, Netherlands at my cousin's house. She's going to ship it back to the U.S. for me. I was pretty grateful to leave it there, because it means the amount of stuff I'm carrying continues to decrease. Yep, two weeks left and I'm getting closer to packing light. Not quite there, but getting closer...  It's about time...

As I was looking at my empty backpack, which was not nearly as impressive empty as when I had stuffed it fuller than I'm sure the manufacturers intended, and talking to my cousin about it, she said, "Aw, your backpack... I think I see a blogpost in the future."  Actually, I hadn't even considered writing about my backpack. I was happy to be rid of it, but my cousin's statement made me feel rather ungrateful to the trusty vessel of my physical burdens.

I think I do a reasonable job of being thankful, but clearly, sometimes I need a little help seeing what's right in front of my eyes. Thanks, Brandy.

At various points as I have arrived with my huge backpack (and small backpack and market basket, sometimes all filled to the brim) people have offered to carry things for me. Usually I'll hand over one of the smaller bags, saying, "I've always said if I can't carry my stuff, I shouldn't have it." When it comes to the physical stuff I'm carrying, I believe that. I know I could've packed lighter and chose not to. That's cool. I can handle the burden, though I am grateful to share it when someone offers. I never hand over the big backpack. It seems too much to hand over to someone else, since it is always so full and so heavy.

I've never actually asked my backpack if it's OK with the way I've stretched, stuffed, slightly ripped, dirtied, thrown, hauled, dragged, and swung it around. I never thought to. I just assumed that a backpack's life is meant to be that way. But maybe I should have. Or maybe the backpack also thinks that's how its life is meant to be and is cool with it. I notice that I am anthropomorphizing things again...I guess I like to do that.

As I think about my uncomplaining, heavy burden-bearing backpack, I'm also thinking about God. I know in my life I've also tried to stretch, stuff, rip, dirty, throw, haul, drag,  and swing around God. God's bigger than I can even fathom, so it's not God I'm stretching, but my mind as it tries to comprehend the vastness.  I'm not sure my mind stretches to encompass the wholeness of God as easily as the backpack has stretched to fit all my stuff.  God has taken in everything I've stuffed and gone with me everywhere I've dragged, hauled, and swung, even through the dirt.  And, as far as I can tell, God can't be ripped.  God hasn't complained and God's handled the burden.

My backpack also makes me think about what we carry around in life. Though I believe I shouldn't pack more than I'm able to carry, I have quite a different philosophy when it comes to life. We don't always get to choose our burdens. In fact, the heaviest ones tend to be the ones we don't choose. As with this short journey, in our life journey, sometimes the load is pretty darn heavy. I don't think we're meant to carry the heavy loads by ourselves. In fact, I'm pretty certain we're not supposed to carry the biggest burdens ourselves- whether the burdens be individual or collective. I'll go even further and say, even when it is of our own doing, we're not meant to carry the burdens ourselves...  We all need some help sometimes. Luckily, some of us always have lighter burdens and stronger backs. When we are fortunate enough to be in that place, it's our turn to assume at least part of someone else's load.  I look at my life and can see that I have been blessed with a lighter load...pretty much my entire life... This year is a prime example of that privilege and I've tried to use a little of my blessings to lighten the burdens of others. I think I've done an OK job.  I still think I have a lot to learn about doing it well.

Maybe I could learn more if I study the life of my backpack a little more seriously...

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