Loads and Burdens
“Mom!” My daughter was grinning at me, with a raised eyebrow. “Is it gonna be video only for you? No in-person games so you can shout what you want?!”
I grimaced. “I know, I know! I was reminding myself earlier . . . “
We were at Jefferson Park in Seattle, at a soccer game of first graders - four on four, no goalee - watching our grandson play on team Lightning. I had been cheering and yelling the whole time. But, at this particular moment, one Lightning player was dribbling the ball carefully towards what looked like a cavernous opening in the defenders and a direct shot on the goal. “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!” I yelled.
My daughter said gently, “He has to make his own decision on when to take a shot.” Of course. The Lightning are the ones playing the game!
My thoughts turned to an old sermon message that I had been mulling. A few years ago, a guest preacher spoke on the following passage:
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load. Galatians 6:2-5 NASB
The words “load” and “burden” mean pretty much the same thing. But, in the passage, there is a load that we bear alone and burdens that we share because this is the law of Christ. Surely the law of Christ includes that commandment recorded twice in the gospel of John, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (13:34, 15:12)
Bearing one other’s burdens does not intrude on the essential autonomy of the individual, his or her load. At the soccer game, the players play the game - that’s their load. Coaches coach. Grandma’s load is to show up, cheer enthusiastically, distribute hugs and give high fives.
When my grandson got hit in the face with the ball, my instinct was to reach out to him. But, his dad (also coach) took care of him, leading him off the field, sending in a sub, finding him a chair, wiping off the dirt, checking for injury, giving him water, speaking kind words. His dad was the front-line burden bearer; grandma was an alternate, ready but not called on. My grandson had his own load of responding to the hit in the face.
There are perhaps an infinite variety of ways to bear burdens, because we have a near infinite variety of burdens and a near infinite variety of capacities for bearing burdens. For me, prayer is one non-intrusive way to share burdens and a starting point for discernment of when and how and what help to offer.
The soccer coaches weren’t yelling “Shoot!” But, I did hear things like: “Get back behind the line!” “You’re not the goalee, move up!” “We’re playing a game here!” “Leave the net alone!” It’s all part of the coaches’ work to equip the players to play their best game while respecting the player’s autonomy. It’s a balance.
Christ is an amazing model of this - for we are to love each other as he loves us - because His willingness to bear our burdens is immense, even to the point of the cross, and yet He does not intrude at all on our autonomy, perhaps less than we wish he did, at times.
One prayer I resort to for myself and others in this business of carrying loads and sharing burdens is borrowed from Paul:
Fill us with knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that we may walk in a manner worthy of You, to please You in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work . . . (Colossians 1:9-10 NASB paraphrased)