A friend once told me a story of two Buddhist monks walking down the road. They reached a river and found a wealthy woman searching for a way to cross without sullying her fine clothes. Being celibate to the point of abstaining from contact with women, the monks were tempted to pass her by; nevertheless, one of them picked the woman up, carried her across the river, set her down, and continued on his way with his companion.

After some time, the second monk turned to his friend and said, “As monks, we aren’t permitted a woman. How could you carry that one on your shoulders?”

The other monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

This story really drove home for me how much it’s in our nature to carry around things we should’ve left behind a long time ago. Human brains are like sponges—capable of absorbing much, and often indiscriminate in what we soak up, the good and the bad. To put it another way, we load our backpacks with rocks and try to keep a good clip moving down the road. We don’t often pause to think of what we’re still carrying with us that we should’ve left behind.

I don’t know about you guys, but when I stop to look I often find I’ve been carrying a lot of burdens a lot farther than I should have—be it stones of guilt, grief, embarrassment, self-doubt, grudges, anger, you name it, I’ve probably carried it! I think we all have!

Take a look at your life. Open your backpack. What are you toting around that’s weighing you down? Lift up your arms; what are you carrying that you should’ve put down beside the River of Living Water long ago?

We have great capacity to serve God even when struggling under heavy burdens. But how much more can we do for Him when we’re thriving at capacity, unburdened by dead weight and things that we no longer need to carry with us? What can you release that will allow you to become a better servant for the Lord?