As summer is wrapping itself up and autumn is coming around, a few friends and I decided to go camping – to see all the beautiful colors. After some planning and packing, we headed up to the mountains. Getting out the car, we started putting on our packs. I strapped in my sleeping bag and made sure I had enough water to survive the weekend.
After walking for an hour or so, I started to feel the weight of my pack. The sleeping bag was so large and clunky. It made me feel like I was falling backwards. At the same time though, I kept looking forward at my friend Chris’ pack. I knew he was carrying the tent and that his pack was probably a lot heavier than mine. Behind me, Elizabeth had a normal backpack. And behind her, another friend, Molly, had a pack – the weights unknown.
“How heavy are their packs?” I asked myself. “I want to swap, because mine is quite awkward and it feels heavier. But what if theirs’ are just as heavy and uncomfortable? Maybe I should ask?” Mulling this over in my brain, I thought about how I’d packed. “Why did I take that extra sweatshirt? Are those two extra pairs of socks going to make the difference between a poor night’s sleep and a great night’s sleep? Am I really going to eat all that food? Will I really need the gloves for the fire? Or could I just find a stick?” At the same time, I rebutted those statements with “You’ve done this a lot and know how it is to go camping. You packed the appropriate tools for the situation and for the people that you are with. Just keep going because you know yourself and how you camp. The things you brought are all individually important.”
Reaching the lake, we dropped our packs by a tree and started setting up camp. Soon the fire was up and going. We unpacked our bags and found that there were many differences. I’d packed less food, but more warm clothing articles. Elizabeth had packed lots of food. Chris had the stove items and Molly had the newspaper. Each of our packs complemented each others – not perfectly, but well enough that we were able to have a good trip.
Sitting around the fire, I started thinking about the packs again. Not only just my tangible pack that I’d been carrying, but also my metaphorical pack. The many different things that I’ve been experiencing recently. My challenges. My weaknesses. And my strengths.
Just like I had to pack for the camping trip, I decide what is in my pack on a daily basis. While the pack that I carry is heavy, I realize that I have packed lots of different tools. I have good relationships with good people. I have my prior experiences. I have a relationship with God, and I know how to communicate with Him. I also have talents that God has given me. These talents are also tools that we can pack in our bag.
I use the tools in my pack for so many things. For situations I choose and put myself in, but also for situations that I find myself in. Some of the tools in my pack are used in only happy moments and others are used more often in un-happy and hard situations.
Though I don’t actually have to carry the tools around everyday, I carry the experiences that got me the tools. These can be hard to carry. Learning how to use the tools is something that is crucial to being able to progress. Often times when I’m developing a skill, it is hard and I want to give up. My brother’s mission experience often comes to mind and keeps me going. One day he wrote home and said:
The work has been hard. We thought we’d made no progress and we’ve tried to do everything we can… But today I saw how the Lord had worked through us. In the small moments. The little conversation. The phone calls. And in the smiles. The ward is alive again. It showed me how my companion and I had been looking down, concentrating on one step at a time. And finally we looked up. Around us we saw the valley far below. The Lord had helped us climb up the mountain.
My brother used his tools that he’d developed throughout his life and on his mission to do move the work forward – even if he didn’t realize it until he looked out and saw the valley. Sometimes he had to rely on the skills and talents of his companion. Other times they relied more on his – their packs complemented each other.
So, what do I really want to say with this massive metaphor? We are here to develop ourselves. The experiences we have and the talents we have been given are to our benefit. In the moment they seem to be the hardest thing we could be experiencing or developing. After it though, they can become our greatest asset. If you are going through something right now, keep your chin up. You’ve got this. There is nothing in the world that doesn’t have something to be gained from it. Develop yourself, your relationships, and your talents.
Will you write about the mountains that you’ve recently climbed?