Taking weight is a term backpackers sometimes use when hiking with a group. Often the skill level within a group is varied. Those guiding or doing most of the planning usually have the highest skill while some others could be going for the first time. At the beginning of a trip the gear or weight is probably distributed fairly evenly based on the size, skill level, and fitness of those hiking. At some point on the journey however one or more of the hikers might show themselves weaker than the rest or perhaps someone twists an ankle. At that point some or all the weight from that hiker’s pack needs to be redistributed so the hiker can continue with the group. Those getting the extra gear are taking weight.
Redistributing gear is not just a matter of spreading the extra supplies out evenly among the remaining hikers. Some in the group may already be at capacity and adding weight to their pack could cause them to be the next to drop out which would cause an even greater burden on the group as a whole. Those who have done a lot of hiking or have proven themselves as the strongest hikers are usually the ones to take on more weight. Even so, the hikers face the danger of over taxing their strongest members and putting the group in jeopardy. Wise guides may decide to leave some gear, non-essentials, behind either to pick up on their way out or to abandon forever.
I have enjoyed the little backpacking I have done and hope there is more in my future. But at this point in my life, I need to get in much better physical condition if I am going to do more than a day hike with a book bag type pack. And, while I may have some head knowledge others do not have, my physical condition says I have NO business leading a pack trip. No matter how many books I read about various wilderness areas, no matter how many survival skills I learn, if I do not get my physical body in shape I will only be a liability on the trail.
Lately I have tried to understand Church dynamics in terms of backpacking. Maybe it is the earth mother hippie side of me, my new global thinking, or just that I have been walking outside the Building for nearly a year now but the concept of weight has taken on new meaning for me. I used to understand weight as all the programs and duties leadership needed to accomplish week after week–with the Sunday morning service being the pinnacle achievement. I understood the qualifications for taking on this weight differently as well. One needed to have knowledge (primarily of scripture and church doctrine) as well as a proven track record (measured in terms of years as a Christian and practicing a moral lifestyle). The irony is the biggest complaint I heard from leadership was that 20 percent of the people were always doing 80 percent of the work. And, while that complaint was probably true the reason the workers were so few is because the criteria for service was so stringent and even for those who met the criteria the work was basically unimportant (AKA: under-valued), unexciting, and unnecessary.
Since catching a breath of fresh air outside the Building, I have begun to understand weight to have a lot more to do with relationships than programs. As scripture talks about in Galatians 6:2, I believe we are to carry one another’s burdens. When a brother stumbles, we are to help him up and those of us who are strong enough are to take weight. What does that look like? I am not sure. But just maybe, it means giving someone a ride to an AA meeting, instead of “church” because the fellowship and message that friend needs is not found in the pews this week. Maybe it means making sure she is our friend in the first place.
I do not need to know all of what the Bible says in order to start practicing it. Nor do I need to be “sin-free” in order to high five a friend who is celebrating 24 hours sober! Or give a change of clothes to a friend who just soiled her own because she had too much Tequila. What I need is a willing heart and the faith that God will use me because my heart is willing. God uses the least of these–both to give and to receive–so that His presence is made known.