Bear one another’s burdens; and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. - Galatians 6:2 (NRSV)
At the Owl Diner the other morning, I eavesdropped on some old guys from the early mass at St. Joseph’s. They were making a genial racket, joking about aches and pains and body parts.
One guy told the table about a recent prostate scare, but he pronounced it “prostrate,” and the guy next to him snorted coffee out his nose.
Then the prostrate guy confided that the possibility of having cancer wasn’t what had worried him most. It was that he might end up being a burden on his kids, the last thing he ever wants to be.
He’s not alone. Many of us dread being a weight on others. We don’t want to impose or inconvenience. We want to spare others the stress, exhaustion, and resentment of caring for our needs. No one should have to make sacrifices for us.
Not to be a burden. It’s an understandable desire. And in our self-sufficient culture, it’s a cardinal virtue. But it raises questions for Christians.
If you always insist on relieving others of the burden of you, how will they get a chance to fulfill the law of Christ? If you never let anyone bear you, how will they bear witness to the Love that’s bearing us all? If you won’t ever allow anyone to shoulder you, how will they receive the singular grace that only shouldering you imparts?
Never to be a burden—it makes us feel good, but it deprives someone else.
Don’t let us rob people of the grace of bearing us, O Christ. It’s often hard, we know, so when others take us on, help and bless them abundantly.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.