“Hi, my name is April. My best friend is a squirrel.”
I am currently forming a friendship with a squirrel that lives in my yard. I really feel that the friendship is mostly one-sided, but I suppose that’s to be expected. After all, I’m the one with the job … and opposable thumbs.
My squirrel’s name is Chickpea. How did I come up with the name Chickpea? Thank you so much for asking … It’s perfectly logical. Squirrels eat peanuts. Peanuts have for many years falsely purported themselves to be nuts, when they are in fact legumes. Beans are legumes too. A chickpea is a type of bean. Hence, the name Chickpea. Makes perfect sense, right?
A couple of weeks ago when I was driving home from work, I saw a dead squirrel in the road. My heart plummeted … was that Chickpea? It took several days for me to see Chickpea again, but I was relieved when I finally did. I gave him a stern lecture about watching out for cars and also checking in with me occasionally so I didn’t worry about him, and I gave him some peanuts.
In the days of wondering whether Chickpea was dead, I had to remind myself that it’s not my job to care for this little squirrel – the Bible says that God takes care of the birds and I don’t think it’s a big leap to also apply that to all of His creatures. But as I was further contemplating, a light bulb went off … while God doesn’t need my help feeding a squirrel, He has allowed me to be a part of His provision for Chickpea.
I love peeking around the corners of life and discovering God’s goodness in the everyday things, and it’s really cool to see how God lets Christians be involved in His work and enables us to glorify Him through these works.
One of the ways I see that God lets us get involved in His plan is by bearing someone else’s burdens.
Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)
That sounds suspiciously like a command, and there aren’t any qualifiers. Like if you’re feeling good, bear others’ burdens. Or if you have your life all together, then by all means, share your wisdom and insight with others so they can be perfect too. It just means bend down, pick up the weight from another person’s life, heave it onto your own shoulders, and carry it. I picture it like a massive boulder balancing precariously in my little red wagon while I pull it up a hill and you come along and help push!
The truth is that this isn’t just a command, it’s a privilege. God sustains His children, and He does a perfect job of that, but He also allows His children to be instrumental in sustaining each other, too. That’s what a local church is all about. It’s a body. We all function better together.
But doesn’t that sound messy and intrusive? Yep! It sure is. BUT. SO. WORTH. IT. And it’s a command, so then there’s that. So, what does bearing burdens look like (besides putting people’s stuff in your little red wagon)?
The book of 1 Peter talks about a woman being adorned with a meek and quiet spirit. I love that, as if a meek spirit is jewelry or a tiara! If you Google the definition of meek it says “quiet, gentle, easily imposed on, submissive.” Easily imposed on. That’s the perfect description of hospitality. That means I’m there to meet someone else’s needs with no regard for what effort it costs me or for the inconvenience to myself. How often do you–or I–resent the hospitality that we’re showing on the outside? Would you say that you let yourself be easily imposed on?
What an opportunity God has allowed us, to use our little bit and ease the burden of someone else. The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is a perfect example. A boy had a lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish. Instead of sneaking off to a corner to eat his own food, he decided that even though God didn’t NEED his food, he wanted to be part of whatever was going to happen. He gave the disciples his meager lunch, God multiplied the food, and the disciples passed out food to 5,000+ people … all from a little boy’s lunch. I’m guessing that boy never forgot such a huge life lesson, and I anticipate that that miracle was only the beginning of the things that boy got to see because he allowed himself to be easily imposed on.
I am not a very open person by nature. [Insert Gasp]. I see the irony of writing for all the internet to read and yet struggling with sharing information with people. It’s a work God is continually doing in me, but in a way my own struggle helps me to identify that reticent quality in others. I’ll be the first person to tell you I’m “fine.” That word has come to have no meaning really. Everyone is “fine.” No one wants to say how they really feel. Part of bearing other people’s burdens is to learn to sift through the “fine” and discover the “depressed” and the “lonely” and the “stuck in a cycle of sin” and the “definitely not fine.”
The way to penetrate the taciturn facade is to be purposeful in getting to know people. You can’t bear a burden you don’t know about, and very few people are going to be so open to share a burden with you if you don’t know them well. For me, I need people to know me who can call, “Shenanigans!” when I say I’m “fine” when I’m obviously not fine.
Part of being purposeful will be making yourself vulnerable to others. That lady that you want to help may be timid to share her heartache with you until you share your own heartache and show her how God sustained you and increased your faith.
Let people obey God in bearing your burden.
Letting people help me or me asking for help has always been a huge struggle for me, and it just boils down to plain old unadorned pride. I want to seem as if I can do it all myself and that I need no one else. God really opened my eyes to this pride, and it is something I battle with often. I’ll be the first in line to help someone else, but it’s had to be a real discipline to let others help me.
So if you’re a similar person, let others help you. If someone wants to come alongside you and help you carry that heartache, let them. I’m a visual person, and I see it like a yoke of oxen. The oxen pulling the plow only works if both of them show up and do their part. And the perfect example of this is Jesus who bids us to come taste of His rest and take His yoke that’s easy.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 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: 28-30)
So, by all means, feed the squirrels. But let that simple act serve as a reminder of the privilege and responsibility it is to bear another’s burdens…and go bear someone’s burden!