By Sonya Shafer
There was once a man named Bill who decided to go for a walk. A long walk. More of a hike, really. You see, he wanted to walk from Georgia to Maine on the Appalachian Trail. A distance of about 2,000 miles. Six months of hiking, sleeping on the ground, and cooking meals outside.
Bill realized that he would need some equipment to help him make this journey. So he went to a local outfitter, and the salespeople laid out everything he would need, packed it all into a backpack, and strapped it on his back. It wasn’t exactly featherweight, but it was manageable.
Bill had a friend named Stephen, who had offered to come along on this journey with him. So he took Stephen to the same outfitter, and they got him equipped with the same forty-pound backpack of essentials for the hike.
After a good night’s rest, Bill and Stephen were ready to start the adventure. Bill hoisted his pack onto his back and waited for Stephen to join him. When Stephen appeared, it became apparent that he thought he needed to add more items for the journey and had spent considerable time trying to fit it all in.
His pack was decorated with various footwear and cooking utensils, hanging off it like Spanish moss. Extra tins and boxes of food protruded from the zipper pouch. And somewhere he had procured a huge shopping bag that was stuffed with who-knows-what-all and tied onto the top of his now-overloaded backpack. Bill didn’t say anything, for they were both in high spirits and felt ready for anything, and besides, he was just happy to have a companion along the way.
As they started off on the trail, Bill gazed eagerly at the beautiful scenery, breathed deeply in the fresh air, and enjoyed the feeling of freedom that surrounded them.
But the farther they walked, the more disgruntled Stephen became. He kept shifting the weight of his bulky pack. Soon he started muttering under his breath and then complaining quite loudly about his tired feet, his heavy load, his aching back, and the rough terrain.
Somehow, at that point, Bill knew that this was going to be a very long journey.
ENJOYING OR ENDURING
Oh, you may mean to take along just the things that are needed, but it’s so easy to add one more thing and then one more thing and then just one more, until you find yourself staggering under the weight of it all.
Homeschoolers today have so many good options to choose from: classes, lessons, teams, field trips, stacks of curricula, co-ops, websites, support groups, conferences, blogs, retreats, videos, studies…and the list goes on. And, when you see a list like that, it’s easy to ask, “How can I fit it all in?” when a better question might be, “Why do I feel that I have to?”
DON’T LET YOUR BACKPACK WEIGH YOU DOWN
It’s a fascinating study to look at what was in Jesus’ metaphorical backpack while He walked His journey on this earth. The compartment that held His schedule was not filled with time-driven appointments. He spent His time fluidly and flexibly, not hand-cuffed to the clock. His days were focused on living in the moment with the people around Him, reconciling them to God and to each other, addressing attitudes, encouraging and challenging beliefs, relieving suffering, and ministering to core needs.
The compartment that held His possessions was mostly empty. Jesus did not need any possessions to do the work that He was on earth to do. His backpack did not weigh Him down, hinder Him, or distract Him in any way from focusing on what was—and still is—most important in life: relationships.
You see, when your backpack is weighed down with an overload of busyness or possessions, your burden—rather than those who are traveling the trail with you—soon becomes your focus. Yet, if we are to have the same priorities that Jesus did, people should matter more than any activities or any things.
Maybe now is a good time to step off the trail for a few moments and take everything out of your backpack. Lay it all out on the table and take a good look. Then, when you’re ready to repack, don’t try to fit it all in. Be selective. Leave some items on the table. Keep your load light enough to enjoy the journey, not just endure it. And in the process you will find it easier to focus wholeheartedly on those who are walking beside you.
Sonya Shafer is a homeschool speaker and writer. She has been on an eighteen-year adventure, studying, practicing, and teaching Charlotte Mason’s gentle, effective methods of education. Sonya co-directs SimplyCharlotteMason.com, a place of practical encouragement and help to homeschoolers.
This article was originally published in the 2014 spring edition of the Virginia Home Educator.
Online Form – E-newsletter signup for blog posts