“It’s hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind” Michael Card
The kitchen table is covered with camping gear. I pick up each item one by one and ask “Do I really need this?”, before deciding to stuff it into my backpack.
I have learned from past climbing trips that each ounce I carry matters when climbing 5,000 feet of elevation. Too much weight, and I will struggle the last half of the climb and fail to enjoy the experience it offers. Worse, I could find myself in trouble by going too slow and getting trapped by weather.
There is, however, one thing I will not leave out when packing— The Ten Climbing Essentials. These are indispensable. Every other item gets challenged.
While learning to pack correctly for a climb, I was also learning something else. Over time I have collected certain ideas, opinions, and concepts that, like the excess items in my pack, were weighing me down—making my journey harder than it needed to be, and at times jeopardizing the trip entirely.
Ideas such as;
- I should not feel bad or uncomfortable
- I must never fail or make a mistake
- I need everybody’s approval to be worthwhile
- My worth depends on my (fill in the blank)
- I should always feel happy, confident, and in control of my emotions.
- People and things should always be the way I expect them to be.
There are also age-old attitudes that are unfortunately still prevalent in society. These societal illnesses can seep unaware into my soul.
They are the “Dirty Ism’s”–Judgmentalism, racism,sexism, egoism, and one that has been in the limelight this season – Xenophobia (aversion to strangers, foreigners, or anyone not just like me!)
Lighten the Load and Enjoy the Journey
The first thing I do when getting ready for a hard climb is inspect each item I consider taking. I must have a willingness to ask myself how this item will help me along the way.
Discarding these useless life-views is the work of spirituality and grace. The medieval German mystic Meister Eckhart wrote that spirituality is a life of subtraction. Getting my life-pack lighter is my spiritual work, and work worth the effort.
When one courageously admits to them and is willing to leave them behind, something marvelous happens.
Psychologists call it a “Paradigm Shift.” The religious term is a “Conversion” experience. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous has several names for this, from “Psychic Change ,” to “Moral Psychology,” to the most common term “Spiritual Awakening”—implying a sense of waking up to a reality that was always there.
They all involve a dramatic change in the direction we look for happiness.
The famous 19th-century Swiss psychologist Carl Jung explained it this way;
“To me these occurrences are phenomena. They appear to be in the nature of huge emotional displacements and rearrangements. Ideas, emotions, and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of the lives of these men are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate them.”
Occasionally this shift in consciousness is dramatic—like the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus. With most of us however, it occurs in fits of starts and stops, gradually changing us over time—like St. Peter, who vacillated for years between retreating in fear and taking bold action, until he became the undisputed leader of the Christian Faith.
The Essentials for the Journey
When I examine the reasons I have held on to extra weight, it comes down to fear; fear that I don’t have what I need to be happy and useful. These irrational ideas were once useful survival tools for me, but no longer.
Through the gift of Gods grace, I came to a place of trust and reliance on God. This trust freed me to investigate the contents of my pack, and to discard the stuff I don’t need anymore, yet always holding to the essentials–trust and reliance upon God.
“And So, we have come to know and rely on the love God has for us” JN 4:16
There is a catch. With every climbing trip I take, I go through the same process of making sure I have the essentials, and that I am not carrying anything not needed.
If I don’t take this same care with my inner life, I am in danger of taking back some of the old ideas and concepts I originally discarded, and I will again find myself unable to enjoy the journey.
With this new freedom comes a host of new and useful ideas; that I am connected to a loving God, and hence, connected with all others; that I am neither superior nor inferior to anyone else; that at depth, we all seek the same thing in life – peace, happiness, contentment, and fulfillment.
These new attitudes are the hallmarks of a new consciousness, one in which I realize we all seek a life full of adventures, of beauty, of exhilarating experiences, of usefulness, and of just down right fun!
Here is a new and radical concept; the degree of joy we experience in life is directly connected to the degree we serve others and seek God’s will.
My next post will explore the things we leave behind from the perspective of what I leave to others.
Until then, I invite you to check out your pack. Dump it all out, and ask for God’s help and guidance in leaving behind the unnecessary stuff… but make sure you have your essentials.
Enjoy the journey!