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Ask Dr. Elia: What’s in your backpack?

SHARE Ask Dr. Elia: What’s in your backpack?

There is an old Beatles song called "The Long and Winding Road." I'd like for you to imagine for a moment being on such a road. You're all alone, it's dusty, hot and you find yourself getting tired and thirsty. You are wearing a backpack that hopefully has the provisions required to sustain you on this long journey. When you finally decide to stop and take a break, you open the backpack looking for relief. What should you be looking for? Well, some cold water, an energy bar and a delicious sandwich. Instead when you open your back pack you discover something entirely different.

It is filled with rocks, stones, pebbles and even a couple of boulders! This is all the "dead weight" we often carry with us while attempting to navigate the long road of our mortal existence. Believe me when I tell you that ALL of us carry something! The rocks could symbolize a past mistake, a broken heart, an unhappy marriage, an addiction, a failed venture. Some of the little pebbles may come to represent an argument without reconciliation, withholding our love, being easily offended and unable to let go. The boulders are far more serious and therefore carry the heaviest weight. They can include the loss of a significant person in our lives, a bitter divorce, being abused as a child or even worse — knowing that the abuse was on our end.

Lack of forgiveness is another major component of the weight we seem to carry around. The most severe and damaging of all of these, however, is the utter lack of self-forgiveness. For some the backpack only weighs a few pounds, for others a few dozen pounds; and for a few it seems like they are carrying the "weight of the world" on their shoulders! It is our own human nature that has created this unfortunate situation. We tend to hold on to things much longer than necessary. Our Savior was well aware of our human frailties and shortcomings and he made us an offer. Have we responded to this incredible offer in reality, or do we just say we do?

Perhaps this little poem might exemplify what we often seem to do when we have the burdens of the world upon us. It is called:

Let Go and Let God!

As children bring their broken toys with tears for us to mend

I brought my broken dreams to God because He was my friend.

But then instead of leaving Him in peace to work alone

I hung around and tried to help with ways that were my own.

At last I snatched them back and cried, "How can You be so slow?"

"My child" he said, "What could I do, you never did let go!"

— Anonymous

Now who in their right mind would wake up every morning and decide to put on a backpack full of rocks and then go about their day? Most of us would choose to lighten our burden, if we knew how to do it! Believe it or not, many of our burdens and cares could be eliminated if we took a few simple steps:

First of all, list all the things found in our backpack: from small resentments and little hurts, to the bigger issues in our lives, culminating with the areas of lack of forgiveness of self and others. Doing so in writing makes a big difference.

Identify them according to each category: light, medium and heavyweights.

The lighter and medium stuff can usually be released through journaling, prayer and meditation. Sometimes we can even do it face to face with someone that has hurt our feelings or we've offended. Making amends and receiving forgiveness can lighten our burden almost immediately.

For some people who carry "boulders," a need for some professional help might be necessary. For the most part, however, especially in the area of self-forgiveness, an open, sincere and loving communication with God will provide tremendous relief!

It is important even after we empty our backpack to occasionally take some personal inventory, lest it gets filled again! Life is an incredible journey with many ups and downs. I once heard someone say "Do you know why angels fly? ... Because they take themselves lightly!" Let us do our part to lighten the baggage we each carry around with us and thereby become greater beacons of hope and light to those around us!