A Backpack too Heavy

Sheila Walsh tells a poignant story of her son wanting to leave home at the tender age of six. Evidently he set out with his backpack and jacket, heading toward a pond near home. She, wanting to allow freedom but aware of his young age, kept a watchful eye from a window where she could ensure safety as well as give him his independence. After a short time he was back at the door, offering no explanation other than a six-year-old going on sixteen response of “It’s good to be home!”

Later that night as she was tucking him in, she brought up the adventure and asked him about it. His response was matter of fact “I would have gone farther but my backpack was too heavy”.

As I listened to her, I was overwhelmed by the truth in this retelling of the story and a child’s simple comment. When I would go farther except my backpack is too heavy – the things I carry too weighty. My kids and their lives with the confusion and sorrows; friends I know who are aching from pain, some that can be spoken and other that can’t; patients I have known and sometimes lost; worries and fear about the future and regret about the past – a backpack too full of ‘stuff’.

It’s all mixed together with the good stuff so I’m not always sure what the good stuff is. Sort of like my kids backpacks at the end of a semester, where a mashed up moldy sandwich, an apple, and crushed Cheezits are crumbled up together in what used to be a brown lunch bag, but mixed in with this is a perfectly good juice carton and packaged granola bar. Instead of sorting through, I throw all of it away.

I’ve always thought that the primary lesson to this story was the heavy backpack preventing him from the joy and distance of the journey. If I just lighten my load I would go farther, make more of an impact and be freer to serve. But the symbolism goes farther.

This little six-year-old knew exactly where to go to remember who he was and drop off his backpack. He knew the way Home. He knew that Home was light, and love and Mom. He knew that there would be no condemnation, just warm chocolate chip cookies, cold milk and a listening heart. He knew that at home he could rest and move forward, his burden gone. He knew home was a place to be reminded of who he was. 

So as I think about the times I turn around because the backpack is too heavy I hope I have the sense of a six-year-old who goes back home, because the back pack was too heavy. I hope I can go back to where I am reminded of who I am, take out some of the load and journey on.

18 thoughts on “A Backpack too Heavy

  1. A little child’s German song has another angle on this – well in tune also with spiritual matters but from the other point of view. It goes:

    Little John goes off into the world alone… happy!

    BUT: Mummy will be crying her heart out cos’ her little boy has gone.
    He runs home like the wind.


  2. Thank you Marilyn once again for your insightful writing. These thoughts are not just for those in the beginning or middle of the journery but also for those of us who are further along. One would think that as we grow older (like I am doing!) we would have learned to carry lighter backpacks. While we might have relinquished some buderns, others are added. Creaking bones, tired & aching muscles, diminished vision & memory weigh heavily upon us. Matthew 11:28-30 reminds me of where to go when I need to unload: “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”


    1. It surely is a reminder to turn to our Lord and Savior when the “backpack gets too heavy”. Thanks for the beautiful illustration and reminder of the essential.


    1. Linda – As I’m writing I’m constantly thinking “why would anyone want to read this” but push the thoughts away and continue putting words on paper so this really is a vote of confidence – thanks.


    1. Thanks Judy – for your encouragement. Would love to correspond about your kids and the TCK piece as you all have adjusted to being back in the United States.


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