Posts Tagged ‘burden


Invisible Burdens

Just the other day, I had to make a trip to Home Depot. Not a terribly unusual occurrence in the life of most homeowners. Some days even call for more than one trip to my “home away from home,” as Joan also calls it.

As I pulled into the parking lot, scanning for an empty parking space, a figure caught my eye. It was the figure of a man struggling with a large package. Because of the distance between us, I could not tell what was in the package, but it was definitely something heavy and unwieldy. 

That guy needs help,” I thought, and hurried to park my car so I could give him a hand. 

As these things usually go, by the time I parked and made my way back to the site of the struggle, the man and his package were gone. 

It was a quick, relatively meaningless episode in my day. And yet despite its utter mundanity, the moment somehow managed to impress two different, important lessons into my skull.

The first lesson concerned our (that is, “guy with package” and my) respective places within the width and breadth of human community. The man in the Home Depot parking lot was a guy who needed help. Period. It didn’t occur to me to stop and ask whether he was a Republican or a Democrat before helping him. I didn’t try to discern whether he REALLY needed help or was just PRETENDING to struggle with his package. His race, his gender, his religious preference, his sexual orientation, his NFL rooting preference, his education, his income, and his citizenship status were all irrelevant in that moment.

He was a guy who was struggling, and I was in a position to help him. Much later, the passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians came to mind: “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2, NRSV). 

I couldn’t help but notice that nowhere did Paul include the caveat, “… IF they are worthy.” 

The other thing I learned from my Home Depot parking lot moment had to do with the idea of the “season” for compassion. 

What I mean is, I am sure that most of us in that situation would respond and do exactly what I did… Step 1.) See a person struggling, Step 2.) drop what you are doing and rush over to help. 

Nothing heroic. Nothing super-special. It’s just what folks do.

But then, in the very next breath, I realized that burdens can be both VISIBLE and INVISIBLE. There in the Home Depot parking lot, I could easily see what the guy was wrestling with. It was a big, awkward, probably heavy, cardboard box.

But what about his – or anyone else’s for that matter – INVISIBLE burdens? I don’t know… maybe there are tensions in his home because of COVID, or finances, or obnoxious in-laws. Maybe he was also carrying the burden of trying to shake an addiction of some kind. What if he was weighed down by a mountain of guilt over the way he had treated a son, a daughter, a co-worker, or the Home Depot clerk just now? Maybe he is at the point of not being sure what the real purpose of his life is anyway and is beginning to lose hope. 

Sure… I’m just making all of that up. But isn’t it just as likely to be true as not?

The truth is every person you meet – whether in person or on Zoom – is carrying some kind of invisible burden. 

And so the question then becomes: why wouldn’t we feel just as immediately compelled to rush over and help someone with their INVISIBLE burdens as we are to help with the VISIBLE kind?

Good question. The answer is that we probably hesitate because of fear of not being knowledgeable or trained enough to offer that kind of help. I mean heck, anyone with a broad back can pick up a cardboard box for someone. 

The good news is that we really don’t need to be a trained psychologist or counselor in order to offer that kind of “burden carrying” help. Our help might be as simple as introducing them to the One who said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NRSV). 

Because as we know, the One who carried the cross can also carry anything – and everything – we choose to give him.

Abundant blessings;


The Empty Chair

Empty Chair pictureIt is hard to miss… sitting there over on the left side of the family dining table.

The empty chair.

A silent witness to a place that will never again be filled… a testimony to the part of our story that will remain untold except in our hearts.

How is it possible to so desperately miss the predictable comebacks and cornpone comments that once came from over there?

What I wouldn’t give to be able to roll my eyes in mock anguish…

One. More. Time.

Of course, the empty chair is there every day. But it somehow looms larger this time of year… the time when traditions are unpacked and festive gatherings abound.

My eyes search that place, aching to see the face that once sat there,

Yet seeing only the emptiness.

Today I pray the empty chair might coax me into stillness,

Might encourage a silent conversation with a realm too often ignored,

Might help me see the bridge that stands between my solitary island of grief and yours,

Might somehow weave us invisibly together.

Will the day ever come – I wonder

When I am able to see and give thanks for the strange gift

Of the empty chair?

May God’s peace enfold and surround each of you who approach the Christmas season with an empty chair in your lives… whether it is for the first or the 50thtime.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”                        (Matthew 11:28, NRSV)

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