NATIONAL PARK CHURCH blog
The young man strained beneath the weight of the boulder. He had worked long and hard. The area of ground was now almost cleared, and he could begin to build. It had been an arduous task, and he was glad to see it near completion. He could have chosen another spot, he knew. But this was the old homeplace. His grandparents had lived here and his great grandparents before them. After decades of being deserted, it had become overgrown with thorn bushes, briar vines, and weeds. The few remaining scratches on his arms and hands were evidence that the thorns and briars had not given up their habitation easily. Indeed, his blood, his sweat, and even a few tears had ‘watered’ the ground beneath his feet.
He walked to his pick up truck and sat on the tail gate as he wiped the sweat from his face. Reaching into the cooler for a bottle of water, he heard before he saw the car driving slowly toward him. He recognized it as belonging to the closest neighbor; an older man who had offered several times to help him clear the spot of ground. Mr. Tom is what everyone called him, and that was the only name the young man knew for him. It wasn’t that he couldn’t use the help or appreciate the offer, but he didn’t feel right accepting help from the older gentleman.
“Mornin’ to you,” Mr. Tom called as he got out of his car.
“Good morning, Sir,” the young man answered.
Mr. Tom looked around him. “You’ve done a mighty good job, Son. Looks like you’re about to wind up this part of the work.”
“Yes, Sir. It’ll be good to have it all done. I’m looking forward to starting my house before winter sets in.”
Mr. Tom nodded. “Well, Son, let me tell you somethin’. I’m a might older than you are, and I learned a long time ago that it pays to have some help when it’s offered.” Before the young man could protest, Mr. Tom continued. “Now, don’t start tellin’ me I’m too old to be doin’ this kind of work. I’m well aware of my age, Son. But, I’m also well aware that if you try to move that big boulder all by yourself you’re likely to end up being a lot longer startin’ that house than you want to be. Strained back muscles take time to heal. Trust me, I know from experience.”
The young man dropped his head for a few seconds. Then, meeting Mr. Tom’s gaze, he said, “Thank you, Sir. I really could use the help. But…”
Mr. Tom raised his hand to silence the young man. “No buts. I’m stronger than you might think. But, you see, the thing is I’ve got two strappin’ grandsons in the back seat of my car there. They’re here visitin’ me and the missus, and they’re more than willin’ to help out. How’s about you just swallow that lump of pride and let us help out? What’a you say?”
The young man took a deep breath as he choked back the tears. “I say I’d be awfully grateful for the help."
At the wave of his hand toward the car, Mr. Tom’s grandsons got out and walked to join them. They were indeed strappin’ young men, as Mr. Tom had said. Both were in work clothes and wearing leather gloves. Without fanfare or introductions, Mr. Tom also pulled gloves from the pocket of his overalls and put them on. One of the boys brought a crow bar from the trunk of the car.
“Well, let’s get to it,” Mr. Tom stated. With that, they began the task of moving the large boulder. Even with the four of them, it wasn’t an easy chore. The young man knew, that on his own, he would likely have had extreme difficulty in moving it, and he also suspected that he would have, as Mr. Tom had said, suffered from a strained back.
As the sweat poured and the muscles heaved, the large boulder finally was moved and the four managed to roll it far enough out of the way that it would not inhibit further work. The young man dropped to the ground and let out a loud sigh. “I don’t know how to thank you guys. Those two words seem kind of small payment for such a huge help.”
Mr. Tom and his grandsons all smiled and sat on the grass beside him. The young man walked to his pickup and returned with the cooler chest. As they all drank the cold bottled water, they sat for a time exchanging friendly conversation. Soon, Mr. Tom told him they had to go.
Shaking his hand, the young man said, “Thank you, again, Sir.” Turning toward the boys, he continued, “And thank you both. I appreciate all of you.”
The boys shook his hand and went to the car. Mr. Tom stood for a brief time and then said, “Always remember this, Son. There are some burdens we were never meant to handle on our own.” As he walked toward his car, Mr. Tom called, “You remember that now, Son.”
The young man nodded. “Yes, Sir, I will.” As he watched Mr. Tom’s car drive away, he said to himself, “I will.”
Many a man and woman, weighed down with burdens too heavy to handle, have suffered in silence and shame. It seems to be our nature to try to handle things on our own. We all like to be perceived as strong and self-sufficient. But I don’t believe God meant for His children to bear their burdens alone. So, too often, we suffer in silence. We’re ashamed for our friends and neighbors to know that we’re struggling financially or that a family member has strayed away. What will my church family think if they know I’ve done the things I’ve done in my past? What will they think of me as a parent if they know my child is in trouble? Will they blame me if they know my husband is cheating on me? What about that child I had out of wedlock? What will they think if they find out I was a promiscuous teenager? So, too often, we suffer in silence. We suffer alone because pride and shame stand in the way of allowing others to come alongside us; praying for us and with us, crying with us, bearing our burdens with us.
We must also be burden bearers to those who need our help. Too often, I fear, we label others instead of sharing in their burdens. We label them as adulterers, as irresponsible parents, as lukewarm Christians who should have been more dedicated. Or worse.
I can’t be seen with her. People will think I’m wild like she is.
I can’t go there and help him out. If I do, other people will think I’m just like him. He’s got a filthy mouth and he’s probably never been inside a church building.
Who invited her to church? She’s never been married. She’s got three kids, and they all have a different dad.
Who is that, and why is he here at our church? He’s got tattoos all over him! We don’t need his kind here.
We judge. We compare. We hold grudges. We point fingers. We look down on instead of walking beside and looking up.
The Apostle Paul admonished us in Galatians to ‘Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2
May we always remember that there are some burdens we were never meant to handle on our own. May we always be aware of when we need the help of others; being willing to receive realizing that in so doing we allow others to be Jesus to us. And may we always be aware when we need to help bear the burdens of others; and in so doing to be Jesus to them.