Embracing the Burden

It’s in our adolescence when we’re supposed to learn to appreciate the innate symbiosis that exists between privilege and responsibility – learning that the more latitude we’re given to explore our own adulthood, the more we’re supposed to take on the burden of our own actions. At least, this is how it’s meant to work – clearly, some folks never got that memo. While still others, strain and chafe under the coupling of privilege and responsibility, as if adulthood were an ill-fitting suit, binding them in all the wrong places, while being far too loose in others. No doubt, adulting is a process that takes a life time to master . . . and some never do.

Some people take on burdens of their own creation, burdens born of incubated fear and perpetuated self-loathing — burdens they’ve convinced themselves they must carry because the indiscriminate cruelty of living life somehow demands they live in a prison of their own making. While still others, choose to play hide and seek with anything that even remotely resembles the burden of obligation — happy to allow others to care-take them as if they were children. But God forbid you should actually treat them like children . . . for childishly wanting to escape what the rest of us have the maturity to endure.

These are but two manifestations of shame – feeling inept and overwhelmed, each one turns inward focusing on its own needs, convinced that life is a mine field of bad choices they’d rather avoid walking through . . . in this way, they have allowed shame to measure every step they take. This is what it looks like to imagine that you should be at the center of your own universe. It’s like being in a circus sideshow room full of distorted mirrors bending everything, until the way you perceive the world, and your place in it, has completely lost any sense of proportion.

In contrast, it is the life that is turned outward, to the needs of others, that often becomes the life with a more fully-formed perspective — willing to live a life shared with others . . . a life, by design, we were always meant to live. Learning daily to embrace obligation and responsibility as an essential part of living — because our journey from the narrowing preoccupied self, to the wider world that others occupy, is what best exemplifies imago dei in our world. For this is how the love of God is made known . . . each of us becoming willing servants of love’s summum bonum.

At first, these two quotes of Jesus, appear to be at odds with one another – “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23), And — “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). One describing the way of Christ as being a cross we must bear, and the other one seems to suggest that such a burden is easy and light. But how can this be? It can’t be — unless we’re willing to recognize that redemptive sacrifice is not only the calling of Christ . . . it is the way of Christ.

Jesus, God incarnate, lives a missional life of self-sacrifice culminating in the self-emptying choice to endure the cross, reconciling the world unto himself — showing us all what it means to be truly human. And how being truly human will always involve a willingness to enter into one another’s lives, embracing one another’s burdens. And I think this is precisely what Paul has in mind in Galatians 6:2 “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Because to choose Christ is to choose the way of Christ – to live fully-embodied lives where God has placed us, so that we might be a unique expression of his love. And even though it is a burden we must be willing to take up – it is actually Christ within us who carries it . . . as he carries us.

. . . and remember — you need to hold on to that heart.