I was listening to an interview recently of a backpacker who hikes as a “minimalist.”
Minimalist backpacking – or ultralight as it is more commonly called – is about packing the minimal essentials for the hike.
Instead of a tent, for example, he packs a tarp. He cuts the handle off his toothbrush and removes all the tags off his gear. His “stove” is not one of those expensive, fancy kinds that I covet. He uses the bottom of a soft drink can that he has modified to burn twigs and leaves.
The interview was intriguing, but I like my gear, tags and all. This guy is so into minimalist hiking that he even shortened his name from “Clint” to “Lint.” Who needs that extra consonant?
In the interview, he reflected that when he first started hiking trails he quickly learned what he could do without. So far, he has clocked more than 14,000 miles all over North America. All along the way, he has shredded “gear and fear.”
He dryly observed, “You pack what you fear. If you fear bugs and weather, you pack a heavy tent. If you fear hunger, you pack too much food. If you fear the cold, you pack extra clothing.” You pack your fears.
I noticed others packing their fears this past week with the threat, and then reality, of Hurricane Irma blowing through. Gasoline was in short supply. Grocery store shelves were emptying. Most all of us were hunkering down at home, myself included, staying off the road. You pack your fears.
When I pack my backpack – whether I am going out for a multi-day trek or just a long day hike – I try to make sure I can squeeze as much as I can in it in order to be prepared.
This means my pack is usually heavier than it needs to be, but I do not like to be cold or hungry or afraid. You pack your fears.
Maybe I need to lighten my load a bit, but not just on the trail. I wonder about my own overstuffed pack that I take up each day.
Fears are a heavy burden. Insecurity of selfhood is quite a load to shoulder. The tyranny of what others think is practically unbearable. The worry of “what if” or “what could be” can be weighty.
I need to take a few things out of my pack and trust that I can carry on in this life’s trek without them.
The belief in scarcity was a load that the ancient Hebrews carried out of Egypt. Wandering through the wilderness, the story tells us much of their time was spent complaining about the manna and craving for meat as well as looking back to their enslavement in Egypt as something better than the uncertainty of the future.
The burdens of uncertainty were too much, and yet there is this elegant line in Exodus 31:2, “The people who survived … found grace in the wilderness.”
There is grace when you pack less, trust more and sojourn onward. Grace comes when you realize you are not defined by what you possess or accumulate or defend, but by your inherent worth as a human being, created in the image of God.
When you pack less, you have room to love more, especially those who are weighted down by fear and failure.
When you shed all those things that are simply not necessary, you are set free to hold things gently and treat others compassionately.
Greg DeLoach is director of development for McAfee School of Theology and Penfield College of Mercer University. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Pilgrim’s Walk, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @GregDeLoach.