I have zero interest in backpacking, but a few years ago an interview with an avid backpacker caught my attention. She explained that if you want to know what a backpacker fears, all you need to do is look inside her backpack because it’s what she fears that will quite literally weigh her down. If she fears being thirsty, for example, she will pack too much water. If she fears being hungry, she will pack too much food. If being cold is her worst fear she will over pack on clothing. That struck me as interesting at the time, but I’ll be honest that I had not given it much more thought until last week.

For Spring Break, my family had the opportunity to head out of town for a couple of days on a somewhat impromptu camping adventure. You would think that a last-minute trip would mean less to pack, but quite the opposite was true. As we stuffed every crevice of our minivan in preparation for our getaway, I flashed back to that interview with the backpacker. Our overstuffed van seemed to reveal our family’s worst camping fears. My husband, for example, had packed several extra tarps in case we got rain. My son packed two headlamps, three flashlights and enough batteries to keep them all burning for roughly a year and a half. My daughter brought three sudoku books (because what ELSE would she do without a device for three days?!). I was certainly no less guilty of over-packing. Having not successfully completed a novel in the last 6 months, I packed THREE books to read over three days just in case I should run out of reading material. All that stuff took up so much space that in the end we decided to leave our second tent heater behind…so guess who ended up at the hardware store on day two of our trip on the hunt for tent heaters?! Yep! As it turns out, we didn’t need all that stuff that we had packed and putting our faith in tarps and lights and books meant that didn’t have room for what we really needed. Lesson learned!

I think the idea that our fears weigh us down and crowd out what we really need has a lot of spiritual application as well. What do I fear that causes me to misdirect my faith into the “stuff” of life? Does my fear of failure keep me putting my faith in my own abilities and hard work rather than keeping my eyes open to the teachable moments God can use to shape and lead me in the midst of my failures? Does my fear of letting others down cause me to put my faith in my to do lists rather than on prayerful thought and consideration, asking God to lead me to those endeavors that are for my good and His glory? Does my fear of the unknown cause me to put my faith in my own plans and blind me to the work of the Holy Spirit and His purposes?

Ouch! I don’t even like typing these questions much less giving them adequate thought and prayer, but Lent is a season of hard questions. It’s a time to consider and repent of all the ways I have put my faith in anything less than the salvation won for me by the death and resurrection of Jesus. The purpose of identifying these self-inflicted burdens, though, is not to burden me further! Instead, it is so that I can take them to the cross and be reminded once again that because of his love for me Jesus has given me HIS yoke, and THAT is very, very light!

As we head into Holy Week, join me! Let’s unpack our backpacks and leave the contents at the cross.

Angie Nitz