Each of us carries with us precious and not so precious items. We pack these items into our pockets and pouches and all this paraphernalia often says a lot about who we are.
If you carry a big diaper bag full of wipes and extra sets of tiny clothes, you might be a mom or dad. If you carry a bus pass, a laptop, a padded backpack, and wear earbuds, you might be a millennial. If you have to have an iphone and keep the ringer turned up loud so as to never miss a call, you might be a grandparent who shares hugs and kisses with their grandkids via facetime. If you have a Starbucks card—or a few—you probably need at least one dose of comfort and caffeine to get you through most days.
What you carry has a lot to do with who you are and what you do every day. There are not a lot of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ things to carry, it just depends on the things you really need—or think you do. Yes, if you carry 25 shades of lipstick at a time, or, if you can’t drive to work without a complete set of both metric and conventional allen wrenches carefully polished, sorted, and stored in your car, well, someone is going to tease you about that. But mostly the stuff we all carry is pretty similar. And, for most of us, there is often a lot of it.
With school upon us, it is a great opportunity to think about what it is we are carrying around and why. Take a minute to think about what you grab each morning as you head out of the house. Is there a poptart in your hand? Or a triple kale smoothie with wheatberries? Do you, like me, carry phone, keys, laptop. I also carry handfuls of pens, and there is usually at least three books in my possession at any given time, one in my briefcase, a few in my purse, one or two in my hands.
So take a moment to think. What are you taking with you? What do you have stashed in the car? What is in your ‘rucksack.’
I have been a student much of my life. I went to school, then finished college over a number of years as my children grew. Finally, I went to seminary. I got good at packing school backpacks.
As I got older, carrying extra things became harder. Backpacks are heavy! I sought out lighter and lighter loads. But there were things that I couldn’t compromise on. Internet access. A laptop. A cellphone. A water bottle. A latte. And some sort of healthy ‘brain food’ snack that would keep me from raiding the nearest vending machine in a desperate attempt to find that extra bit of energy I needed to finish the last pages of the paper I had to write that day.
I am pretty sure you could call that snack a ‘comfort object.’ Ditto for the small crosses I often carried. When you don’t get a lot of sleep you need a lot of comforting. Sometimes I would think wistfully of the blanket I carried with me when I was in kindergarten. I remember the little stuffed doggy my son carried in his backpack as a preschooler. Comfort is good for all ages. And for my son when he started school, it was a lot easier to be away from mom and dad when ‘doggy’ was around.
But the best part of every day in Seminary was when I could stash my backpack at the back of the chapel and be without it. I loved to be freed of all the ‘stuff’ I lugged around. The best part of the day was when I just got to be ‘me’ surrounded by friends, music, singing, and the Spirit.
This coming Sunday, September 11th, during worship, we will be blessing backpacks as our kids and some of us grownups head back to school. School starts on September 6th for Camas and 7th for Washougal, so by the time we do our blessing, those backpacks will be full of all the things we need and probably some homework, too. Those packs will probably also include some sort of comfort object, or a bit of ‘flair,’ as well.
I encourage us all to bring our backpacks, the whole thing. Come and bring the whole kit and caboodle before God.
As we prepare for the ‘Blessing of the Backpacks’ this is an opportunity to reflect on the fact that there is no perfect way to prepare for a blessing and no perfect set of supplies for any endeavor. We pick and choose from what we want, what we need, and what we can get. In addition to the practical stuff, we choose and include small items that help us get through our ‘every day’ days—pictures, pins, doggies, buttons, and snacks.
God sees our backpacks in all the truth of what they are—just as God sees us. And God blesses us, as we will bless those packs, exactly as they are.
Come on Sunday with your backpack freshly packed, or already a fresh mess. Come early for breakfast—biscuits and gravy—at 9am to celebrate the kickoff of a new school year. Come knowing that we show up with what we have just the way God made us. Come and be blessed. Come, be loved for who you are.
Photos: First Day Of School by Brittney Bush Bollay 2007 Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Bedroom West Wall by Sarah Marriage Flickr 2006 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Wall-eBackpack by Morgan 2009 Flickr CC BY 2.0; Whats in my bag by Do8y 2014 Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0