It’s hard to start a new week with a load of worry.
I’ve been carrying quite a lot of it lately. It’s heavy and uncomfortable. It’s giving me bad posture – it has me looking down instead of up.
I shrug my shoulders, try to bear up under it, shift the weight around trying to find a comfortable carrying position. Shoulder blades aching, back chafing, my body sends an S.O.S to the brain – “Do something already!”
Brain reaches into its recesses and comes up with a memory. A lesson learned from my favorite cousin-sister-mother-best-friend combo. Kim, I think of Kim and start to feel my way back toward freedom.
That’s us – what feels like a long, long time ago. Pete, Kim and me – all covered in her kids.
She and her husband, Robin, waged a war of worry that’s hard to forget.
Robin is a doctor and several years ago he suffered an accidental needle prick; it comes with the territory in the medical field. But Kim and Rob live in my homeland of South Africa. And my beautiful country has the desperate rank of highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world. And for a long, terrible while Robin didn’t know if he had been infected with the virus or not.
It was a hard load to live under.
They didn’t tell their kids the source of their worry. But children internalize their parents’ anxiety. And their small frames and hearts walked stoop-backed under the weight. So Rob and Kim intervened.
They lined up all three children (aged 6 and under) after supper one night. A game of pretend was initiated and each kid given their school back pack to put on. And their parents followed them around the house and garden slowly, methodically adding rocks to the backpacks.
Big, hard, heavy stones. They kept filling the back packs with these rocks.
At first the children enjoyed the challenge. They could do it. They could still run and play with the heavy packs. But rock after rock had them slowing down. Until all three were at a standstill and the game had lost its fun.
“We can’t do this, dad,” Natalie says (or maybe it was Ryan).
“Why? Why can’t you,” her father pushes back.
“Because they’re too heavy. We’re just kids; they’re too heavy for us.”
Tired worried eyes look out from scrunched up faces at their parents. And the parents? They do what parents do.
They begin unpacking their children’s anxieties.
They acknowledge the ominous dread that has entered the house. And that the kids have taken to carrying upon themselves. They say slowly and surely that this is not a weight designed for children. It is too heavy for them. It is not up to them. They are not required to bear their parent’s fears.
And with that they reach into backpacks that have been dragging on small shoulders and begin to unpack. They remove each of those heavy, hard rocks and hurl them into the back garden. The children get in on the spirit of the thing. Satchel straps slip off small arms. Eager hands grab at ugly burdens and throw, throw, throw them away.
I remember. I remember that story vividly – as if I had been standing in the garden of that ranch house in Welkom when it happened. I can hear the laughter of release.
I slowly slip the straps of my own back pack off. I open it – look inside. I see hard, sharp rocks of worry staring back at me. And I know that I can’t keep carrying them indefinitely. I am too small.
I ask my Father to help me unpack them.
He does. He reaches deep down into my heart and lifts out the anxieties one by one. Lifts them out, names them and then throws them away. I breathe in and out. My ribcage loosens; my lungs start to work better. My back straightens.
And He reminds me that He is happy to come back tomorrow and repeat the process. And the day after that. And the next one.
I know I will take Him up on His offer.
“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 11:28-29 (NIV).
His yoke is forgiveness and grace and gratitude. And those are all the weight I want to carry.
#41-50 on my gratitude list:
Hope of a new beginning
Friends to hope with me, over tea and chocolate covered pretzels
Emails from far flung lands
A spider man board game
A husband who always, always unloads the dishwasher.