We take it for granted that God is always standing there with arms wide open, poised and eager to receive our burdens.
Eager to receive our burdens.
Who in your life is truly eager to share your burdens? Eager to gather all your hurt, your pain, your fears, your worries, shoulder them, carry them away, and all you need to do is let go?
But we don’t.
We cling stubbornly to our ways. We try to make it on our own. The world feeds these desires, telling us that independence is the height of satisfaction and success. That dependency, vulnerability, and weakness can be conquered if we just ignore them and push on.
But this type of pushing will drive you insane.
This type of pushing will deny you your true self, will keep you from honest relationships with others, and will keep you from a God who merely wants to share your burdens.
So try it this morning.
Try letting go.
Let God see your fears, your pain, and your hurt. Let God walk alongside you, accompany you in the darkness. And finally, let God take all those things to which you’ve been clinging and bear them, as Jesus did the cross, so that you can be free.
You may weep.
You may weep because this type of grace does not come easy. Not because God is not willing but because our flesh is weak. You may weep because this grace is deeper, wider, bigger than the satisfaction we may feel at our own successes. You may weep because to be in the presence of God is holy, astounding, and awe-inspiring.
You may weep because tomorrow God will be standing there once again with arms wide open, eager to receive our burdens.
If we were having coffee this morning, I would tell you that we’re entering the fourth week of my course at the seminary, and it’s already been such an incredibly rewarding, exciting experience. The most fulfilling part is that I don’t feel like I have to sell the students on the fact that culture, family, and ministry go together. They believe that twenty-first century ministry is all about embracing and negotiating difference, and they’ve been so affirming over email, coffee, and in person that this is a course that they need: praise God!
I would also admit that when it comes to my dissertation, I’ve been working hard, but it feels like the writing is being cobbled together, and all the cracks are showing. I’m trying to be brave and believe that even in academia, we can let some of these cracks show, learn from one another, and find grace in life’s seemingly most unyielding moments. I’ll let you know how that one works out…
It’s Chinese New Year in my other home these days, and despite the fireworks and the fanfares, for the foster families in Guangxi it’s often a difficult time of year as the weather turns wet, cold, and unrelenting. A wise NGO worker I knew once pointed out that for children in orphanages this is the loneliest time of year, when they’re reminded they have no family to celebrate, no grandparents to travel home to. I’m praying for protection and warmth and possibility for the foster families and healing, love, and peace for all the children. Happy Year of the Snake!
As for me and God, we’re just hanging out. No agendas, just me accepting and reveling in God’s unconditional love.
This week I realized that despite how wonderfully God is integrating my academic and my spiritual lives in this course at the seminary, in conversations with colleagues and professors, and even in my dissertation writing, I had become restless. In my prayers, I was setting an agenda for the time I was carving out. Instead of simply rejoicing with God, I’d moved on in my mind to what was next, to how this all could possibly be so neatly integrated in a future in which I’d be forced to choose between academia and ministry.
But it’s not my job, it’s never been my job, to hold all those pieces together…it’s God’s.
And I hear God saying firmly, let me do my job and just let me be with you. (It’s a thrilling revelation by the way, when you realize the almighty God just wants to be with you!) And when I let God pour God’s peace into me, filling me to the brim, I’m not only reminded that my plans and agendas are the stuff of this world, but also that God’s peace makes me a better pastor and professor. It’s funny how God volunteers to carry our burdens but we’re the ones who keep snatching them away.