Of Love and Backpacks

By:  Staci Stallings

 

The sermon was simple—at least it seemed to be.  The Gospel was the one about “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”  The priest began with a discourse on the word “yoke”—as in take My yoke for My burden is easy…  He said many don’t know what a yoke is anymore (it’s not what comes out of an egg).  No, he said, “It is like those backpacks you see the kids carrying around.”

           

In fact, the books the kids carry now are so heavy they are often bowed over with the weight of their backpacks.  This is very similar to what Jesus was talking about with the yoke.  It is a burden we are carrying, and it is heavy.

           

We each have backpacks like this.  Some are filled with worry, some with tragedy.  Some hold old hopes and dreams dashed, some are stuffed with anger and hatred.  And boy, are they heavy.  They weigh us down.  They hold us back from living today.  We drag them with us everywhere.  After all, they are our backpack.  No one else is going to carry them for us.

           

The priest then said that what Jesus is saying is, “Bring your backpack with whatever is in it.  Bring it to the cross, bring it to Me.  Bring it here.  Give it to Me, and I will exchange your backpack for Mine.”

           

Now for one moment, I want you to think about your backpack (or backpacks—because the truth is, we often have more than one).  What’s in your backpack?  Is there sorrow?  Is there guilt?  Is there anger or pain?  Is there frustration or overwhelm?  Worry or doubt? What’s making your backpack heavy, and do you think it’s time to give that backpack to God?

           

One of my best friends signed up to give a personal talk at a retreat.  The talk would reveal some very painful moments in her life that no one knew about.  She was understandably nervous.  I told her that as someone who had given such a talk previously the experience was much like dragging a couple of heavy suitcases in, setting them down, and then walking out without them.  It was truly amazing how freeing it was to just be honest about how heavy things in my life had become.

           

So, I would suggest that you find a way to lay your burdens at the cross—whether that’s writing them down, or saying them out loud, or just sitting and visualizing yourself at the cross giving Jesus your backpack.

           

The next thing the priest said was that in exchange for your backpack, Jesus will give you His backpack.  When you look into this backpack, there will be only one thing—love.  Love that you are then supposed to give to the world.

           

Now I heard this sermon about a year after my brother died.  During his life, my brother had tried so hard to love everyone by trying to make their lives perfect.  It didn’t work.  It took him down when he couldn’t make the world right for everyone.  So the idea that there is only love in the backpack, and it’s your job to give that love to everyone else, would’ve sounded like a great idea at one time—noble and all of that.  But through the filter my life has now, I could see how that love could become a huge burden.

           

Instead of being freeing.  It can become a millstone, dragging a person down—even if they have the best of intentions.

           

As I thought about it, I knew there had to be another answer.  There was something missing in the backpack story.  What was missing was what I had found, what God had given me.  Because the love I had found in the backpack didn’t feel like a burden.  It was the most freeing thing in the world, but why? What was the difference?  As I thought about it, I realized the answer.

           

You see, in the backpack Jesus gives me is not love for everyone else.  It is only God’s love for me.  And that love is very light.  It says, “I love you, My child, right now.  I love you just as you are.  Come let Me hold you. I love you, and you need do no more to earn anything.”

 

And He has the same backpack waiting for you!

           

When you understand it is that kind of love God gives you, you can relax and just do your best.  You’re not having to strive to earn anything because you already have everything that matters. You can then ask for His love to come through you into the world—instead of trying to manufacture that love for others in yourself.

           

As I thought about this and about others that God has brought into my life, I realized that I don’t try to love others as God loves them.  I let God love them through me. But more than that, I show them that they have a backpack too.  God loves them just like He loves me, and when they get that, everything else falls into place.

 

See, I’m not the only one with the backpack that says God loves me.  You have one too.  So do my kids in Sunday School, and my kids at home.  So do my readers and my writing friends.  So does each of my family members and my friends. 

           

It’s not my job to love them like God does.  It’s my job to point out that God loves them like God does.  It’s my job to point out that they have a backpack waiting at the cross, that all they have to do is exchange this heavy one they are dragging around for one that is light and easy.  When they open the new backpack up, they will find God’s incredible love for them, and when you find that… an amazing life truly begins.

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