I sit here on a muggy night in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. It’s a picturesque town that was almost wiped off the map four years ago by Hurricane Katrina. I’m down here with my church, working with their team to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. It’s really incredible to see the progress that’s being made on the houses. (Follow the action at the Blitz Build blog if you’re so inclined).
While it’s an inspiring sight to see the houses and projects coming together, it’s even more inspiring to see the teams coming together. It’s truly incredible to see people supporting each other in not only building a home for someone in need, but in supporting one another. I experienced that tonight when one of the teammates was having trouble at home and some of us rallied around her, praying for her and helping her to feel like she wasn’t alone in her struggle.
It really brought the words of Paul in Galatians 6:2 home. This whole experience of a Blitz Build is really a microcosm of life, I realize. At each moment, I face a choice: either I can choose to open my arms and help someone carry their burden, or I can fold my arms and let them struggle alone. As I consider this, I am forced to admit that there are far too many times when
I have acted like their problem wasn’t mine, and went unconcerned. I know I will never have those opportunities back, and I lament them, knowing that I let a chance to show the compassion and love of Christ pass in the life of someone who needed Him.
I further wonder: why do I choose to fold my arms? Sometimes it’s fear that I don’t have what it takes to support the person, that I will fail them. Sometimes it’s just plain out not wanting to be responsible for whatever happpens, not wanting to involve myself. Sometimes something in me rebels, and says, “NO! I don’t want to carry another person’s heartache, another person’s sorrows when God only knows I’ve had enough of my own. I’ve seen too much, and I just can’t carry another microgram of suffering!”
It’s at those times when I bow my head in shame, and feel the tender hand of the Father drawing up under my chin, lifting it toward the Cross. I hear the words of Isaiah echo in my head, and see my sin there on His shoulders, as He carried the burden that I never could. It’s then that I repent of my selfishness, that cold-hearted refusal to help someone who needs me. After all, I know that He very well could have refused to carry my burden, or the burden of any one of us. Yet in His infinite love and mercy, He chose the nails, the crown of thorns, the disgrace to reconcile us to the Father, to take away the heavy load of sin and shame that on our own we never could have gotten rid of.
When I think about that, I realize that the best expression of my gratitude is to participate in carrying someone else’s suffering, whether it’s in a hands-on way like building a home, in a financial way, such as sponsoring a child through Compassion International, or whatever it is God is calling me to do in a given moment. Doing so is a fulfillment of the law of loving my neighbor as myself, and is itself an act of worship that glorifies Him. In that light, then, no burden is ever to be shirked, since I know that when I don’t have the strength to help that person, I can do the most important burden-bearing of all: carrying their needs and intentions to God in prayer.
My encouragement to you: open your eyes to the needs around you. Find something in your own neighborhood that you can do. Work as the Spirit moves you. Know that He will move you beyond your comfort zone, and challenge you to really enter into the lives that you’re being called to touch. But also trust, even a little bit, even if your “little bit is just to the right of none” (to borrow a phrase from The Shack) that He will guide you all the way, and strengthen you to do the work He has appointed for you. After all, He is the Master Worker, and He will never leave a job undone. And I hope this start of a poem I wrote Monday evening encourages you as well.
It takes just one pair of ears to hear the cry
One one pair of hands to wipe the tears dry
Ears and hands like yours and my own
Listening, reaching out, making His love known
See the face of the Father in the eyes of a child
In the fear of a man who’s suddenly lost it all
We are the ones the Father’s love has reconciled
We are the ones meant to heed their call
Indeed, we are the ones the world has been waiting for. Greater things are yet to come, and they will come through us, carrying one burden at a time.