Stewardship of a Backpack:
Can a backpack be an example of stewardship? It’s not easy taking little kids on a strenuous hike. My wife and I have five kids and when our oldest son was 3 or 4 we decided to take our young family on a hike to Hanging Lake, outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The signage stated the trail was a little over a mile but that it would take at least an hour-and-a-half to get to the lake. That should’ve been the first warning sign. The trail was extremely rocky and hiking it required careful foot placement. It was steep too. And it had rained that day, so it was muddy. I was struggling, we had little water (it was only a mile, after all!) and no first aid kit. The autumn sky was getting darker and our spirits were getting darker still.
And then my son all but gave up. Who could blame him? This was a tough situation. Knowing that my bride would not give up (she never gives up on hikes!), we had to figure it out. As my son was losing steam and starting to complain. I tried all my pep-talks without success. We kept going. Then I had an idea: “Eli, my backpack is getting really heavy. Could you carry it for me? Just for a little bit?” He looked puzzled and ventured a “sure?” He put on the backpack and I adjusted the straps for him. It was light without water or a first aid kit. And he started hiking. And didn’t stop until we got to the top.
Stewardship Explained in Sacraments:
At its heart, this is a story about stewardship. The Christian understanding of stewardship is to receive something, care for it and return it with interest. The bread and wine consecrated at Mass into the Body and Blood of Christ demonstrate this concept perfectly. God provides wheat and grapes. Man takes the wheat and makes bread; takes the grapes to make wine. At the Mass, we give the bread and wine–cared for and improved–back to God. God blesses our efforts by transforming them into spiritual food and drink. We take this gift in communion with Him and each other and allow it to live in our bodies and lives.
This cycle of stewardship is transformative to us as individuals and to our world. And it’s so simple! Let’s view another Sacrament in the context of Christian Stewardship: marriage. As Catholics we believe that the married couple bestow the Sacrament of Marriage upon each other. The priest doesn’t give the Sacrament to the couple at the wedding, nor does the state declare it through the marriage license. Rather, the husband and wife give it to each other.
The Church instructs us how to steward the gift of marriage: honor the wedding vows and be open to life. Unitive and procreative stewardship. Marriage, looked at through the lens of stewardship, leads to children. (For couples who struggle with conceiving, God has initiated a different stewardship journey, one that might be difficult and painful, and perhaps not resulting with biological children. God is still walking with these couples and being open to life has a very different meaning.)
A Good Steward to Your Children:
If so blessed, we receive children, love them, care for them and return them to God with increase. In practical terms, this form of stewardship is parenthood: loving the kids received from God and providing for their needs. Most parents–Christian or not–are stewarding this most precious gift from God. To steward children is simply to prepare them for their own vocation. This preparation takes many forms: they need to go to school and learn to read. They need to receive the Sacraments and encounter Christ. They need to respond to their own call to Christian Stewardship. Children need to grow in both wisdom and strength.
At some point their own call to Christian Stewardship will lead them to give of themselves to another. This is the process of receiving, caring and returning. Stewardship therefore is what we do as Christians: it’s the relationship we have with God, the people he put around us, and our physical environment.
Returning to the hike: when I put the backpack on my son he had a choice to receive it and walk with it. He chose to do both. In so doing he began his own small stewardship journey. For the duration of this hike, his act of stewardship gave him purpose. It was exactly what he wanted to do in that moment. It was what I wanted him to do in that moment. I think it’s safe to say that as a three-year old, he was doing God’s will in that moment.
Christian Stewardship at it’s Best:
Christian Stewardship is a simple concept, like bread and wine. Stewardship is all the actions that define our relationship to Christ, to His Church and to each other. When we treat each other with love we are committing to stewardship. When we pour ourselves into our spouses we are acting as stewards. When we love and care for our kids, our friends and family and our world, we are receiving God’s gifts, caring for them and returning them back to God with interest. The amazing news about Christian stewardship is that everybody is a good steward in some way. Even if we don’t know it, if we are people of good will, we are likely good stewards of God’s gifts.
Take a few moments today and consider just some of the gifts God gave you. Recognize how you’ve been a good steward of them–and give God thanks.