“No one is useless in the world who lightens the burden of it for anyone else.” ~ Charles Dickens ~
A few years ago my husband and I started taking backpacking trips to celebrate our wedding anniversary. What is marriage if not an adventure? And so we began to remember the mark of ours by embarking on another. Just the two of us again, against the wide open wilderness.
Out there the noise of the world is filtered out and you can actually hear your heart beating. We remember who we were way back when it all began, when the loads we bore were simpler and lighter. The younger versions of us meld with the older stronger ones and suddenly all the mountains we’ve climbed and trails we’ve blazed along the way make sense. It’s like sitting up on a majestic vantage point and being able take the load off just long enough to see the route you took at a distance – and know it was all worth it. And it’s beautiful.
It’s that kind of beauty, in the midst of the journey, that we long for our kids to experience and to know. We want them to persevere through hard places in life because, in their hearts, they know the end results are good and true and right. We want them to be able to hear God whispering their names, leading the way. But, the world we live in is so busy and noisy and full of distractions. So, this summer we took them to the only place we know that is still enough to hear your own heart beating and know the strength that resides there.
But, as many family adventures go – ours didn’t start out as I had envisioned.
The packs were too heavy. The meager two-mile hike was too long. The bugs were too many. And the sun was too hot.
But, God is good and the magic of the forest is stronger than we think because soon, one babbling creek after another came to our rescue and the kids quit thinking about what they were carrying and began to see the loveliness that surrounded them.
The journey wasn’t difficult comparatively. But, it was hard for four little kids that had never been asked to carry their own load. So, when we reached our destination it was like water to their little souls. And for a night and a day all was well with the world.
The Alpine lake was their backyard and a giant boulder their playground. They were their only companions, thus their most cherished playmates were found in each other. They shattered the quiet stillness of the forest with laughter and their play but I am certain it was still peaceful enough for them to hear their little hearts beating strong.
It turned out to be such a fun trip that we snuck in one more just before school started and we had to say goodbye to long lazy summer days and our little adventures into the woods.
This time I put more thought into the loads my kids would bear. I made sure each one fit their frame and held more than just the necessities of life – but a few extra goodies as well so they could call it their own.
Experience had told them the path might not be easy but they knew it led to something wondrous. And to my delight, we actually made it in just fine. But, the trail back to reality was a different story.
It’s interesting how the two pictured above are toting ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ books on their packs. Because be the time we were heading back home I think they could have written diaries of their own. Those little packs bore down on them so much so that even those little bound comedies became a burden they no longer cared to bare.
On the contrary, my girls carried their heavy packs with determination and pride. With it came a strength and perseverance that spoke of their years. Where my younger two could no longer hear their hearts beating – my girls seemed to be marching to theirs as if it were an inspiring rhythmic song. But, when their siblings lost their gusto, all the waiting around really started to irritate them. They could not understand how those little packs could be such a burden – specifically for my little man. They thought he should be able to carry more and move faster.
Now, if you lined up all of our packs up against a wall – the difference between the smallest and the largest would hold quite a contrast. At a distance the weight each one represents seems unequal and unfair.
But, when they are placed upon our backs, they fit. They are exactly what each one of us is capable of carrying as we venture into the wilderness.
My girls were old enough to remember that the trail would actually come to an end and that when it did the victory in conquering it would taste sweeter than the sweat dripping from their brows. They understood the process of the journey, therefore they could still see the beauty in it. But, the other two couldn’t see past the feet in front of them nor could they keep up with them.
I often say, I think I can handle just about anything as long as I know it will come to an end at some point. But, my little guy has been walking in the shadows of two very strong older sisters his whole life therefore, he has never gotten to see the end of the story where he finishes first. When you have not tasted the sweet joys of victory, the finish line always seems just out of reach. So, for him, the path before him always seems longer and harder and the weight on his back, as small as it may seem compared to ours, actually feels like the weight of the world upon his immature shoulders. Our job is to love him exactly where he is at so that he never stops believing in who he was created to be. So, he doesn’t grow weary before he discovers the greatness hidden in his small frame.
He needs a smaller pack right now. And he even needs a daddy who will take it for him, baring his burdens for for from time to time, so that he doesn’t learn to hate the trail that is set before him – so much so that he becomes blind to the beauty that surrounds him there.
“Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its strength, pleads no excuse of impossibility; for it thinks all things lawful for itself, and all things possible.”
~ Thomas Kempis ~
So, just when he was certain he could go no further and began to believe his journey was stupid and dumb – His daddy lightened his load. And then, just like that, the forest opened up and welcomed him back into it’s arms. He grabbed his little sister’s hand and entered into its warm embrace – as if they were old friends.
We knew we were done long before we saw the end of the trail because it echoed through the woods far ahead of us, through the victorious cheers of the little ones that now lead our pack. His load might have been lighter than all the rest and he still may have needed his daddy’s helping hand – but he didn’t see any of that. Suddenly, the journey made sense. And in his little heart, he believed he was a champion… with a dad who loves him very much.
Somewhere, long down the road my little man will travel, he’ll look back at the journey of his life and the burdens he bares now as a boy will seem simple and light. Mountains will stand before him and vast valleys will spread out below him. But, he’ll be bigger and stronger then and the memory of his sister’s shadows and that feeling of not being able to keep up, will only remind him that he is never ever alone. He’ll know that there is no mountain high enough or valley low enough to separate him from his father’s love. Not the man that carried his packs when he was a child or his God in the heavens who knit him together in my womb. And by then he’ll know that through Him – all things are possible.
God knows the loads we bare as we trudge through life. He does not compare them side by side – set apart from the souls that must carry them. He knows some can carry more. And some can carry less. But, it’s all relative. My heavy load may be light to you. But, to me – sometimes it all that I can bare. Sometimes, like my daughters, we need to look beyond our own strength to understand anothers weakness. For we do not know the shadows they are walking in.
Thankfully, our Father does not ask any one of us to walk this way alone. He has promised to never leave us or forsakes us. His desire is for us to see the beauty that surrounds us, not to be numbed and blinded by the burden of it all. And if you let Him, He’ll carry it for you just long enough for you to see that beauty and believe again.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
If it gets too noisey out here for you to hear Him whispering your name. Take to the open trail, with only what you can carry on your back, and let the solitude and beauty of the wildnerness filter out the noise. Listen to the beating of your heart and know you are His. The creator of the majestic mountains and the green and vibrant valleys also knit you together with His mighty hands. You are His handiwork too. Let Him lighten your load just long enough to see the beauty in it all, and the strength He sowed into your being. Walk with Him and you will know the sweet taste of victory and know it is all worth it.