I’ve been backpacking for fifty years. My first trip was with the Scouts to Kings Canyon National Park in 1967. The most recent trip, shown in the picture, was last month as a few of us from our church did a short walk to Indigo Lake in the Oregon Cascades.
As usual in recent years, the pack I carried to Indigo Lake was a bit heavier than absolutely necessary. I took along fishing gear, a Kindle Fire tablet, a star chart, a camera and other items which weren’t absolutely essential to a couple nights in the wilderness. Even the tent wasn’t truly needed because we had clear nights and sleeping under the stars would have been fine.
I know better. My first trips were led by a Scout leader who taught us a pretty minimalist conception of packing. Before our long multi-day excursion each summer, we had to bring our fully loaded packs to a troop meeting for inspection. We emptied everything out on the floor, while older, experienced boys checked it over and told us to leave behind things like a heavy metal canteen (get a plastic water bottle instead) and that extra pair of jeans.
Having now taken many young people in our church, including my own daughters, on backpack trips, I see the wisdom in that minimalist approach. Walking up a mountain trail with everything on your back completely changes one’s perception of what is essential. Carrying less makes for a much more enjoyable journey.
As our church envisions “walking with Jesus,” that backpacker’s minimalism has something to teach us. In the text I’m reading for this Sunday, Matthew 19:16-30, Jesus played “Scout leader” to the rich young man who came to Him. Jesus invited him on a walking expedition, but explained that much of what the young man might have wanted to carry with him was unnecessary and would only burden him along the way.
A little soreness is the only consequence for putting too much in my backpack, but verse 24 makes it clear that the consequences of an overloaded attempt to walk with Jesus may be eternal. I’ve got five decades of experience in leaving behind non-essentials when I hit the trail into the back country. I’m not sure that I’m near so wise about leaving behind what is unneeded and a hindrance when I’m trying to walk with our Lord into His kingdom.
May verse 26 be true for us, that what is impossible for us–leaving behind all our possessions to enter the Kingdom–be made possible by our Lord’s grace. May He bring us safely to the end of the trail, unburdened and freed from all the unnecessary loads we are carrying.