Not the Weight You Carry, But How You Carry It
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30) “He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)
We are all carrying burdens: griefs, fears, stress, and, in this long period of waiting until herd immunity against Covid is established through widespread immunization, a strong sense of our own mortality. Some of us are mourning the loss of loved ones; others suffer frustration, confusion, and dimming hope.
At times like these, the theology of the cross is all the more important: Our Lord became flesh and experienced mortality along with us, ultimately suffering an unjust death by torture at the hands of a wicked state. Jesus calls us to follow him, and this means, in addition to showing his love and service to all, “picking up one’s cross” and following him in his suffering. Jesus did not promise we would not suffer hardship, but he promised that God would give us what we need to get through it. He did not say that we would not bear any burdens, or that the burdens of mortality would be light. He did say, though, that his yoke, the burden he himself lays on our shoulders as we follow him, is light and easy to bear. After the cross comes resurrection, and to this we are called as well.
Mary Oliver says that the weight of the burdens we bear is not as important as how we bear them. There is still a possibility of joy and thankfulness even in the midst of suffering:
Heavy By Mary Oliver 11/8/2013 That time I thought I could not go any closer to grief without dying I went closer, and I did not die. Surely God had His hands in this, as well as friends. Still, I was bent and my laughter, as the poet said, was nowhere to be found. Then said my friend Daniel (brave even among lions), “It’s not the weight you carry but how you carry it - books, bricks, grief - it’s all in the way you embrace it, balance it, carry it when you cannot and would not, put it down.” So I went practicing. Have you noticed? Have you heard the laughter that comes, now and again, out of my startled mouth? How I linger to admire, admire, admire the things of this world that are kind, and maybe also troubled - roses in the wind, the sea geese on the steep waves, a love to which there is no reply?
Grace and Peace,