When our oldest two sons were small, I joined Mothers of Preschoolers at a nearby church. MOPS, as it was known, proved to be an excellent opportunity to learn from other stay-at-home moms. I had just turned twenty-four a couple of weeks before our oldest was born, and I had much to learn.
So the children were whisked off to their classes and playtime, and the entire morning was spent listening to more experienced women sharing their hardships and victories by way of encouragement. It was water to my thirsty soul. Plus, I made friends which led to play dates and trips to the park. It was a sweet time.
One day, the speaker was a former business woman. She had dabbled in the stock market and succeeded. She loved the bustling world of business and when she discovered she was expecting a baby, it dampened her plans and her spirit. This was not what she and her husband had chosen. The Lord then surprised them with a second baby eleven months after the first. They had accumulated so much wealth that money was an afterthought. She and her husband decided that for a few years she would stay home and raise their sons. She was not joyful in this decision, and a seed of bitterness began to flourish. She complained continually, which pushed others away, thus creating a miserable web of loneliness. Her own undoing.
As she was speaking, I had difficulty relating. We were constantly struggling to make ends meet on my husband’s salary, and my deepest wish was to stay home until my babies left for college. The business world? No thank you.
But then her tone softened. The business talk was a precursor for what she shared next.
Having our sons has been the best and hardest thing I have ever done. Laying down my life has been painful, but God is showing me that it is the most important thing I will ever do. Life is not about money. It is about people and pleasing God. I realized this when our oldest almost died.
She had our attention now. A few months earlier, her son, not yet two, came down with a horrible stomach virus that lasted for two days. Dehydrated, she took him to the pediatrician, who encouraged fluids and rest. After a couple of days, her younger child came down with the same, and then the virus appeared to be over. After several days of rest, the boys were back to normal.
A family trip had been planned to the west coast: a family vacation with relatives plus a business meeting with investors, as she still dabbled in stocks. She was looking forward to it all, and packed and planned with gusto. At the last minute, her husband was called away for his work, which meant she would travel across the country with two little boys, alone.
She was up for it! How hard could it be? They would probably sleep a bit. It was only five hours.
The plane took off, and the boys fussed a bit and held their ears. Rocking the little one in her arms, he fell asleep on her shoulder, while her older son held a toy in his lap. Things settled down, and she closed her eyes and tried to relax.
She was awakened by a cry. Her oldest son, wide-eyed with fright, began projectile vomiting. It was actually worse than it had been the week before. As she held her baby in one arm, she told us that she tried to comfort her oldest, but she did not know what to do. A mess was all over her clothes, both sons, in the aisle, and on the people in front of them.
As the stewardess attempted to clean up, another round of illness began. One stewardess took the baby, and another brought a large bag.
This scene continued for the duration of the flight. She told us that through her fear and tears and eyes boring into her back from disgusted passengers, she realized something.
She was the mom, and no one was going to rescue her from this nightmare. She was stuck on an airplane, 38,000 feet in the air, and forced to endure.
While comforting and cleaning up after her son as best as she could on a cramped plane, she prayed through her growing fear and helplessness for the next several hours. When the plane landed, her little boy was weak and feverish. Rather than going to her family’s home, she high-tailed it to the hospital where her son was diagnosed with a severe case of Rotavirus. The doctors expressed concern for his life.
Here she paused from speaking and her voice wavered. I knew then that my sons were a gift directly from God. No one could carry this load of motherhood for me, nor should they. She repented and her heart became softened to the Lord’s will. Her son eventually recovered.
I have thought about this story time and again over the years. Galatians 6:2 tells us to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” However, Galatians 6:5 says that “each one should carry their own load.”
How do these two directives work together?
In the book Boundaries Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend explain.
“The Greek word for “burden” and “load” give us insight into the meaning of these texts. The Greek word for burden means “excess burdens”or burdens that are so heavy they weigh us down. The burdens are like boulders. They can crush us. We shouldn’t be expected to carry a boulder by ourselves! It would break our backs. We need help with the boulders–those times of crisis and tragedy in our lives.
In contrast, the Greek word for logo means “cargo,” or “the burden of daily toil.” This word describes everyday things we need to do. These loads are like knapsacks. Knapsacks are possible to carry. We are expected to carry our own. We are expected to deal with our own feelings, attitudes, and behaviors, as well as the responsibilities God has given to each one of us, even though it takes effort.
Problems arise when people act as if their “boulders” are daily loads and refuse help, or as if their “daily loads” are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry. The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend (p.33)
I believe each of us tend to fall in one of these two camps: a pride in refusing help in order to appear self-sufficient and strong, or a perpetually whiny attitude towards our lot in life: “no one can possibly understand what I am dealing with.” According to the Bible, both are wrong. Neither one displays a heart-posture of trust in God.
The Lord gives us daily grace as we submit to his plan for our days. We are not given grace in advance to store up for future challenges; it comes in fresh waves precisely in measure with our needs. But we may practice a daily surrender to him; and in this, our muscle of faith will gradually strengthen to aid us for the future. Faith builds upon consistent obedience regardless of ultimate outcomes.
And carrying our own knapsack with joy strengthens us for the journey of life.