Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jesus, My Burden-Bearer

One day this past week, after a morning spent having fun with a great group of kids at Vacation Bible School, at St. Andrews, I stopped at the IGA to pick up a few groceries.  As I was walking back to the car carrying my bags, a heard a familiar voice.  One of the leaders of the VBS was walking into the store, and as she saw me, she called out, "Kelly, it's time to relax now!"  I laughed and waved to her, but as I juggled the bags so I could unlock the car, I realized that I had been thinking about some troubling things in my life, and apparently frowning so openly that it was obvious across a crowded parking lot.

It reminded me of years ago when Grace's dad and I were breaking up.  For a while, as our lives were feeling so unsettled and upsetting, Grace would crawl into bed with me at night.  A few times, as I lay with my eyes closed, trying to shut off my mind and go to sleep, I would hear a small voice in the near darkness.  "Mommy are you okay?  You're frowning again." 

Too often, in my life, I have felt like what a dear friend of mine recently described as a pack mule, carrying too many burdens, for too long, across too many miles.  And yet, I am a disciple of Jesus, and a long time ago, He said these words,  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  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 11:28-30

So, why do I feel so burdened at times?  Why is my worry frown so obvious that it can be seen in the dark, or across a busy parking lot?

When I read Jesus' words, I see promises.  A promise of rest, of an easy yoke and a light burden.  But there are also directions that lead to the fulfillment of the promise, directions that I have to follow.  "Come to me."  "Take my yoke." "Learn from me."

I mentioned in an early post that I have been seeking lately to "practice the presence of God".   Inspired by a sermon at Burke camp, preached by the very passionately-in-love-with-Jesus,  Nathan Johnson,  I have been really trying to turn my mind to God repeatedly, every day.  While I understand and fully believe that God is with me always, I am aware that there are times every day when I tumble into feelings and behavior that indicate a forgetting of God's presence in my life.  Practicing the presence of God is a simple effort to remember Him, over and over again, until His presence becomes a given in my heart and mind, until I begin to even think of us as a "we", not just a "me".  If it seems radical, it's not.  It is simply trying to line my mind, heart and experiences up with the truth of God's constant presence with me and attention to me.

This practice is an important one for me, in many ways.  Just think, if Jesus is my burden bearer, if all I have to do is to go to Him, take His yoke and learn from Him in order to have rest, why wouldn't I want to?  I have experienced the peace that comes with acknowledging the presence of Jesus, and of handing over a burden to Him.  He really takes them.  Like, seriously.  I've handed Him bills, medical reports, angry personal letters, court documents, my church, friends and family, and myself, more times that I can count.  I've even handed Him my pets.  If it's important to me, it's important to Jesus, because I am important to Jesus.

The neat thing that happens, when I allow Jesus to carry my burdens for me and to give me rest, is that my heart becomes less preoccupied with myself.  I am left free to love and care for others, even to help carry the burdens of others.      It's important to remember that this is not about condemning myself for not practicing the presence of God better than I am.  Brother Lawrence talks about simply turning to God once he recognized that he had forgotten God again, admitting his weakness and asking God for help.  After all, this is about a graceful God wanting to relieve us of our burdens, not a vengeful God waiting to smack us for not following the rules.  This is not about rules.  It is about love, and freedom, and hope and life.  It is about a lover saying to His beloved, "Here, my darling, let me carry that for you."  His hand, gentle on my cheek, makes my hand gentle on the cheek of the ones I love.  It is intimate and sweet, kind and hopeful.  It is love.  

And nothing takes care of a worry-filled frown like love.  

Just a thought.

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