His carry on bag weighed 16.0 pounds.
When I put my own bag on the scale it read 10.2.
The difference is 5.8 pounds of leadership.
David Pitts is one of our team leaders. We're traveling with an organization called World Vision. Our group, in just a few minutes will board a plane heading to Malawi, Africa. Together, we'll see how the funds from the Nazarene 30 Hour Famine are working in Mutendere.
Why is the weight of our leader's bag important to me?
Because I'm not carrying it.
Over the past eleven years our youth ministries have traveled locally and abroad on mission trips and I know what's in that extra 5.8 pounds.
There are copies of identification.
Inside you'll find itineraries and back up itineraries. Deep in the pockets are things no lone traveler would store: band-aids, extra hand sanitizer and sunscreen, medications, contact numbers, and gluten-free snacks.
Where others are traveling light with a phone or an iPad, the leader brings the communicative laptop (aka, the backbreaking monster that's also your lifeline).
I know because I've carried that bag. But the weight is so much more than just a few extra pounds.
The weight is in responsibility and focus. The weight is in proactive thinking and trouble shooting. They weight is in flexibility and in tactful communication. The weight is in prayers both spoken and in words no one will ever hear. The weight is a love that can't be measured because it costs something of ourselves. It requires a "suffering with" of it's own that can easily go unnoticed because there is the necessary weight of calm--as the leader is keeping the group in a place of peace.
It matters to me, that today I'm being led.
It matters to me, that today I have the opportunity to follow.
It matters to me, that our church and my family believes that I too, need to participate in a trip that I didn't plan and am not ultimately responsible for.
I've been given a gift.
Three years ago our leadership at our church gave the pastors a goal to participate in a missional trip that had nothing to do with our own leadership.
Now I understand why it's so important.
It leaves me wide open to receive.
Not that I don't receive when I lead our youth group or others. But the receiving is different when there is nothing to distract me from being truly empty.
I'm grateful for our leaders as we head to Africa. I understand at a core place the weight they feel. And I support them.
It gives me courage to think that hundreds and thousands of leaders all over the world take this risk often, to carry the weight of leadership.
I walk with them in solidarity and in joy, knowing the fruits of this ministry.
But today I'm following. For the next eight days, I'm being led.
Expectant hope. I'm wide open.
Ebb and flow.
I can almost hear the ocean through airport sounds and humming of 747's.
Like the tide washing over me, pulling back the layers until the shoreline off my heart is exposed.
My favorite Psalm comes to mind. (131)
My heart isn't proud o sweet Lord.
I'm not trying to concern myself with too much.
I'm still. Quiet my soul.
Like a small child with her mom.
Like a weaned little one, I'm content.
I'm open to the moments. To whatever God wants to say to me, or show me, do through me, or develop in me.
How can I do this? Once every eleven years seems like too long to really unplug and open ourselves to the endless possibilities of grace.
I suppose we do this when we withdraw.
Withdrawing doesn't have to mean a flight around the world. It could just mean a flight to our favorite reading chair.
Breathing in hope. Breathing out peace, in God.
Lord, you know us. When we sit and when we rise. Help us to withdraw wherever we are to places of following and release of the weight of leadership so we can be led by you.And, when it's our time to lead. We'll be ready. Strong and courageous in the power of YOU.
How will you withdraw today? Can you imagine the weight being lifted and your burden getting lighter?