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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

When Life is Just Too Much to Carry

[Congratulations to Pam D. of Marblehead, MA, the winner of last week’s giveaway copy of The Courage to Write. And a special welcome to the New England women joining us here for the first time after our retreat weekend at Camp Monadnock. Thank you for sharing your lives with me!]

Women's Fall Retreat, Camp Monadnock, NH

We were never meant to bear our burdens alone, were we? Friends who recently lost their adult son told our church group through their tears, “Nothing makes it better, but your love and support makes it bearable.”

October is prime hiking season in the mountains of western North Carolina where I live as well as here in southern New Hampshire where I’m speaking this week. As I watch backpackers approach or pass me on the trail, I’ve been noticing the packs they carry. While others can shoulder their packs for a time, ultimately each traveler carries her own load.

When the burden is light and well-distributed, a backpack is comfortable. Experienced hikers understand the importance of only taking what they can tote for the duration of their journey. Carry too little, and essential items will be lacking. Carry too much, and necessary items may need to be discarded along the way.

It’s easy to see the analogy, isn’t it? Some of us take on far more daily tasks and responsibilities than we can realistically manage. Others may fill our days with inconsequential activities that leave us feeling empty and purposeless. What can we learn about shouldering only what we are designed to carry?

Let’s take a few tips from experienced backpackers.

First, trail veterans advise newcomers to do a “shakedown” before they pack by taking a hard look at their gear to decide what’s truly necessary. You might do a similar assessment by studying your calendar. Are all those commitments truly essential? What can you jettison to lighten the load?

Henry David Thoreau, the author of Walden, once wrote: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

How many relationships, activities, and responsibilities can you honestly handle? What are you continuing to carry that no longer has a place in your life?

Secondly, keep heavier items close to your core. Backpackers are careful to place weighty items near the center of their back for greater support. As you reflect on your personal priorities, which of your key relationships and obligations deserve the greatest protection?

Among those in the hiking community you’ll often hear this advice: “Hike your own hike and carry your own pack.” No one else’s journey is exactly like ours. While we’ll stop to help others along the way, we can’t carry all their burdens as well as our own.

Finally, don’t forget load lifters! Backpacks are equipped with a variety of straps for specific purposes. If you need to shift the weight of what you’re carrying, you can use the bands on top of the shoulder straps to tighten or loosen your pack. Are there elements in your life you need to pull towards you or push away?

In John Bunyan’s classic allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, the protagonist Christian struggles with the weight of the burden on his back. In one of the most memorable scenes in the book, Christian and his companion wallow in a slough of Despond until Christian begins to sink.

Bunyan’s central character wrestles with the weight of his sin – a burden that can only be removed by placing his faith in Jesus, who extends an eternal invitation.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11: 28-30

When the burdens you carry are too much to bear, slide that backpack off, friends. The One who is with you on the journey offers rest for your body and soul.

My prayer for you this week:

Lord, we are deeply weary. So many want so much from us. Our strength is not what it used to be. Thank you for providing the rest we so desperately need.

- Maggie Wallem Rowe

Toah Nipi, where I'm staying this week in between weekend retreats.


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