So it’s spiritual high time! We just had an awesome session about sharing our burdens with each other. At the beginning of this retreat we each received a beautiful coffee (or tea) mug. As an illustration for tonight’s session we were asked to hold it out at arm’s length for two minutes and to think about how heavy we thought the mug was. Some people had coffee or tea in their mugs and others didn’t, but all agreed that the longer we held the mug (think burden) the heavier it seemed.
Two wonderful ideas came out of this exercise as we came together in small groups to discuss. First, because we were asked to really focus on the mug and think about how heavy it was, it seemed much heavier than it actually was and was more difficult to hold up. In the same way, when we focus on the daily challenges and difficulties in our lives, on our burdens, they weigh us down and become difficult to bear. But if we focus on others our burdens do not seem as heavy.
Second, if another woman supported the arm holding the mug, either at the hand or the elbow, it was much easier to hold it out for longer. In the same way, if we help each other when we are burdened with life’s challenges and difficulties, those burdens become lighter and easier to bear.
And yet, we all recognized that it is often difficult to ask for help when we have a burden that is weighing us down. It is much easier to help others when they are burdened. We pondered and discussed why that is. Several ideas surfaced. First, our culture honors strength, we are told we can do it, we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get through it. If we ask for help, we feel like we are admitting weakness and are ashamed of our weakness.
Second, we suffer from the sin of pride, and that pride gets in the way because we don’t want to admit that we can’t overcome our burden on our own.
Third, we are afraid we will break down and cry if we share the specifics of our burden with others. We don’t want to appear emotional over the whole thing. (Imagine women getting emotional over something!)
Thinking about this session, it occurred to me that this is the wrong attitude for Christians. As followers of Christ, we must allow Him to carry our burdens and our sins. We have to admit that we cannot save ourselves and cannot atone for our own sins. If we could do it all ourselves, we might as well adhere to one of the many other religions in the world and work our way to heaven or nirvana or a better position in our next life. We wouldn’t need the gift of grace that God has offered.
But we do need that gift of grace, just as we need our friends, family, pastors, and fellow Christians to help carry our daily burdens and lighten the load. And we need to help carry the burden of others when we are able. Just as we might share a meal, we need to share our burdens.