I experienced my first real backpacking trip in May of 2005. It turned out to be a real "spiritual" journey for me and I kept a journal of my meditations. Six years later, I’m getting ready to go again.
Though the thought of hiking with a heavy weight on my back didn’t particularly thrill me, I jumped at the opportunity to go because it was going to be a trip with my two accountability partners. As it turned out, one of them couldn’t go due to emergency eye surgery, but despite that, I just couldn’t back out at the last minute on my friend Dave.
When you are going on a backpacking trip, covering forty miles in four days over rugged terrain, you definitely need to carry some essential equipment and supplies, but you want to take only the necessities – no excess baggage. Dave told me to make sure my pack didn’t weigh more than forty pounds without my water. He told me stories of other people he had gone with who took too much stuff and that he didn’t intend to carry my pack as he had done for his dad on one occasion. Excess weight slows you down, tires you out, makes you sore, is hard on your joints and can make you a burden to the rest of the group. It can also be dangerous as the extra weight on your back can make it easier to slip or can throw you off balance at a critical moment. I took great care, using the list of supplies Dave gave me and some advice from a web site to ensure I stayed within the forty pound limit. I knew that including my backpack, oversized waist pack and my water, I would actually be carrying closer to forty-five pounds. I got the scales out periodically as I packed and checked and re-checked my weight. I packed and unpacked, sorted and discarded in my attempt to make my target weight. When all was said and done, there was quite a pile of supplies I had bought and equipment I had borrowed that was left on the bed in our spare room. My final test on the scales indicated my pack weighed thirty-nine pounds without water and my waist pack.
Our spiritual life is something like that. Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Things that “hinder” and the “sin that so easily entangles”, are like the excess baggage that I left behind on my backpacking trip. Things that hinder may be things that are not wrong in and of themselves, but which are keeping us from the best things that God wants for us. They may be things that rob us of time which God wants us to use to pursue our relationship with Him, or time He wants us to invest in ministries or particular people’s lives. We need to regularly evaluate the activities, responsibilities and pursuits in our lives and weed out those things that are hindering our spiritual growth, ministry and relationship with God. We need to learn to say “no” when it is appropriate.
The “sin that so easily entangles” is something each of us needs to deal with on a regular basis. Psalms 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Allowing God to regularly search our hearts and show us the sin that is there, and repenting of that sin, is the way we get rid of it. This means spending time daily with God in prayer and in his Word and taking an honest look at ourselves when other believers admonish us in regards to flaws they see in our lives. Dealing appropriately with sin and things that hinder will go a long way towards helping us run the race that God has marked out for us with perseverance and in a way that brings His applause.