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by Brent Mills on February 27, 2019

I carry a backpack. A big backpack. People close to me know this, give me grief about it, and are sometimes amused (or relieved) when I pull out a computer adapter, an audio cable, or some other random tech accessory I just happen to have inside. My backpack is so large that the manufacturer calls it “The Kitchen Sink.” My friends, nameIy Jamie Robison, call it the Mary Poppins Bag. I have taken all 60 pounds of it back and forth to work countless times, worn it around the world on mission trips, and seen its contents save the day in presentations, worship services, and musical shows. I've learned that I can never be too prepared, and that others also benefit from my desire to do so.

With this heavy backpack in mind, I feel like the Lord has been showing me something new and fresh for my heart in this season. Many of us in church circles have heard a sermon using a backpack. Usually, that backpack is filled with rocks as an illustration, where we hear the Holy Spirit applying these words of Jesus:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

Releasing our pain and debilitating shame to Jesus is a helpful and needed piece of spiritual rest for all of us in certain seasons of life, and if we carry a bunch of “rocks" around in our emotional backpacks, we will be forever held back from the Holy Spirit’s beautiful, transforming work in our lives.

However, this is not the backpack metaphor God has been impressing upon my heart. In this season, I actually see the Lord adding to the weight of my backpack.

I have always resonated with Scripture’s picture of life as a race. (Phil. 2:16, Heb. 12:1) Many of are familiar with Oregon's annual "Hood to Coast,” race: a 200 mile relay where 12-person teams trade off running segments from Mt. Hood to the Pacific Ocean. Borrowing this as an illustration, I see Jesus handing me a new backpack for the next stretch of my race with Him, and He has added more weight to it. I’m not referring to unhealthy, emotional weight, but the kind of weight that comes from additional layers of leadership and responsibility.

I feel the Lord saying to me, “I want you to lead your teammates—to clear a path and bear some extra weight, that everyone might be able to run together smoothly.” In the last few months, the Lord has opened doors for me to carry additional leadership responsibilities in several areas of my life. These responsibilities carrier heavier weight, have greater consequences, and require even deeper accountability. 

Where I could approach this season with anxious thoughts or fear of what else lies ahead, I’m actually excited for what this journey will bring. Shouldering additional weight in partnership with my respected friends and long-time mentors is something I consider an honor to step into. They paved a path for me, and now I get to help pave the way for others.

“If your understanding of God’s plan for your life is so small you can wrap your mind around it, it’s probably not from God.” - Author unknown.

This phrase has challenged me over the years, spoken by various pastors, and in this season, I find myself overwhelmed with what I don't understand about God's plan for my life. Daily, I am reminded of my weaknesses and inadequacies for the task ahead, my need for total dependence on God, and my need to follow the Holy Spirit’s voice. The Lord may be handing me a bigger backpack, but thankfully, He’s walking beside me so I don’t run faster than I should.

True to his Fatherly character, He is providing breaks where I can sit by the side of the road, put the backpack down, and talk with Him about what the journey looks like.

There will come a day when I’ll get to pass the heavy backpack to someone else, and I’ll take a step back as I encourage and release others to lead their segments of the race. And regardless of the size of our backpacks, constant attention to our individual relationships with Jesus is essential in every season. I encourage you to ask the Lord if you’re carrying the right backpack for the season you’re in, and I implore you to make sure He’s walking alongside you as you carry it.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)

Thanks for letting me share a bit of my journey.


Tags: community, dependency, holy spirit, leadership, trust

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