How are we going to carry all this?
Many summers of my college years were spent working as a counselor at Sugar Creek Bible Camp. One of the programs offered involved spending the week biking 100 miles on the Elroy Sparta bike trail and then canoeing down a significant portion of the Kickapoo river.
The kids would arrive at camp they would drop their luggage at their program sign. Some campers traveled lean with everything they needed packed in a stuff stack. Some had lots of bags full of who knows what. Once everyone arrived we would go to the kitchen and get our coolers, food boxes, fire supplies, first aid kit, tents, and tarps and bring them down to the pile.
It was A LOT of stuff. A LOT. We would sit near the pile and talk with the kids about the plan for the week, how many miles we planned to go each day, our meal plans, who was leading worship and devotions. As we talked about the journey ahead you could see their eyes drifting to that pile – that LARGE pile of stuff. Inevitably someone would ask what they were all thinking, “Um how are we going to carry all of this?”.
I’ve been thinking about that experience a lot in these two weeks. I don’t have a defined “this” or even a defined “we” but I sense that I am feeling what those campers thought “ Um, how are we going to carry this?”
I go back and forth between seeing the collective baggage and the personal baggage. Between feeling an ambiguous fear and a named fear. Between hearing a communal cry and the sound of my own voice – lifted both in sadness AND in joy.
Sometimes we would mess with the campers a bit and end our talk with “Okay, let’s pick this all up and get going”. Their eyes would get wide, and you could see their minds calculating the weight, the distance, the strain.
But then we would share the good news, first they needed to pick up what was theirs and put it in the van. Our shared supplies would be loaded into the trailer and another staff person would drive them to the site. They needed only to travel light on their bike with that which would need for the day. Each day, one of us would take on the additional weight of the first aid kit (bible included).
Our collective baggage looks huge right now. There is a collective grief. A collective fear. A collective brokenness. A collective cry. And in that collective there is power and community. However, it is also too much for any one of us to carry and so we look at the pile and say “What of this is mine to carry?”
What of this grief, what of this fear, what of this sin is mine to carry? And maybe you just pick up that for the day. And maybe someday you will be tasked with carry the first aid kit as well. And maybe some day you just get to ride shotgun with Jesus the supply runner because you can’t even carry your own stuff.
In the Latin mass – and in many liturgical worship services – we sing together what is called the Kyrie. Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
It is this collective cry out to God for mercy and it is beautiful in its universality. Other times in worship we say together a confession, acknowledging our shared sinful state within similar verbal constructs. There is also unifying power in this but sometimes it can be helpful to simply hold up “What is mine” of this confession. For in that we also hear more intimately and specifically “You are forgiven, and you are loved”
A Shared Journey
Similarly, we pick up “What is mine” in this pile of grief and fear and ask God to help us figure out what of that we actually need to pick up and how to carry it.
It is disingenuous and dangerous to shoulder more than we should and what we carry with other we don’t carry for glory, recognition, or pity.
Certainly, like my campers – some of us have more baggage to carry than others. But, we were all setting out on the same road and would be companions and assistance for each other on the journey.
As the days of quarantine accumulate faster perhaps than we are able to make sense of them….
May we take those moments to look at the pile and cry “Lord have mercy” and may we remember that we don’t need the strength to move the pile, just pick up what is our for the day and journey forward together.
Matthew 11:29-30 New International Version (NIV)
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 The Message (MSG)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 6:31- 34 The Message
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.