Embracing the Burden

Two weeks into Lent, and things are starting to feel a little heavy. I’m guessing it’s not just me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love this season. I read a post yesterday called Summer and Winter Christians, which basically makes the point that there are different types of Christians; some of us are more prone to see the “dark” side of things than others, and it doesn’t make us any less faithful. In Scripture, like in the old Spirituals, lament and praise often go right alongside each other, Psalm 22 being a good example. For the believer in Christ, sadness at the way the world is and hope in its future renewal are often two sides of the same coin. Just as there are differences in how different individuals experience their faith, there are different seasons of the Church year, feast following fast like spring follows winter. There’s a certain balance to it that appeals to me. We need times in our life to unreservedly celebrate the good as well as times to take a long, sobering look at the not so good.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to see past the darkness to the dawn. The mirror into which we look just seems so dark, the shapes so shadowy and unclear. I pray the same prayers, day after day, for change, and no change seems to come. This loved one still struggles daily with physical pain, that one is still encaged in addiction, another measures her soul’s worth by the number on a scale, and I myself am no more free, repeating the same mistakes day after day, as though I didn’t know better.

There is a certain joy even in being honest about all this. Growing up in a family that carried on a generational cycle of mental illness and substance abuse, my sister and I knew things were not infrequently Very Very Wrong, but felt powerless to change them or even to acknowledge our feelings to adults who wanted us to say everything was fine. So even in my tears over things that so badly need healing in my heart, in my relationships, and in the world, there is a certain joy that I am not blind to the wrongness, that I can honestly express my sorrow, and that there’s still time for change.

Still, the lifetime work of following Jesus is made up of a lot of days, days that are often dark and frustrating in their lack of change. With so many voices in the Hebrew Scriptures we cry, “How long?” How many more days will we stay in darkness before the light? How many minutes must we watch our loved ones in pain before their healing comes? How many days of struggling yet again to break free from judgementalism and apathy?

I hear an answer to this question in my heart. God says gently, “You said you wanted to learn to embrace suffering. You said you wanted to live with your eyes open to the pain of the world. You said you wanted to become new. Well, it’s not a pain-free process, but I am with you every frustratingly long day. Every step of the way I am sharing your burden. When your soul feels weary and heavy laden, I will give you rest. If you don’t give up, I will give you the gift of patience, even though like all fruit, it takes time to grow.”

I thought this Lent would be about saying the big fat sacred No to things, but it’s turning out to be more about the big fat sacred Yes. Yes, I will hope, even when my heart feels heavy. Yes, I am strong enough to look into the dark glass and see the glimpse of light.

What is heavy on your heart right now? Is there anything you feel you need to say yes to?

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