Burdens

I remember waking up after my rotator cuff surgery and being/feeling pretty wasted and confused. And in quite a bit of pain. The nurses were struggling to get my blood pressure down. I muttered something like, “my wife…” and then fell back asleep. When I woke up again, she was standing there. I was dazedly watching them drain off some of my blood into something like a little squeeze ball, and the pain was lessening.

Somehow, my pain became more manageable, and my blood pressure went down. I don’t remember getting dressed, but I became aware I was wearing sweat pants or pajamas or something and a button up shirt about 4 sizes too big was sort of draped over me with only one arm through the sleeve. It was time to go home, which was very close, but I couldn’t walk very well.

I got to my wife’s car courtesy of a wheelchair, but I didn’t know how I was going to make it into our apartment. Jenny ended up calling her dad to help, because she couldn’t lift me. I am no lightweight, but Ken held me up and helped me walk into the apartment, my arm over his shoulder. I was leaning quite heavily on him. He helped me to the restroom to pee, and I was afraid (probably he was, too) that I would need help with my pants. Thankfully, I didn’t, and I was able to do my business and get to the couch, where I would spend quite a bit of time over the next month.

I remember being grateful for his help; that he was there when we needed him. Ken and Linda have always been like that, and probably always will be, so long as they are able. They are always willing.

I remember my sisters pretty much taking over parenting duties after my dad was gone and mom was really starting to get sicker. I was a teen, and it couldn’t have been easy. But they all helped with whatever care I needed, and I’d like to think I turned out OK.

I remember when my gall bladder crapped the bed a couple years ago (on Valentine’s Day, no less) because of a gall stone that felt like the size of a watermelon jammed into the neck of my gallbladder. It hurt like the devil was poking me with a pitchfork. Jenny slept in a chair next to my bed for two days, and Ken and Linda kept the boys for two days while I was in the hospital.

I remember also texting with my best friend, who is also a pastor. He asked me if I was ok (because I was the one who messaged him first to tell him I was in the hospital and why). Told him I was a little scared because I had never gotten surgery. He said he’d grab his chaplain’s badge and be right there, which he did and was. And sat with me all night.

Those are just a few of the times I have felt like–and probably actually been–a burden to someone. Today I was thinking about that, I don’t know why. And it occurred to me that helping the people you care about isn’t necessarily a burden, even if in actuality it’s sometimes a  hardship.

Today, our pastor posted a meme on Facebook about hardships, and how they involve (roughly translated) ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Certainly they have in my life.

I don’t know how good I have been at doing similar things, but I hope the answer to that is “ok.” I am, after all, an ordinary person. I am no pastor, no bible scholar. No hero. I am just a man, a person like you are, and I do my best to serve God, to whom I feel like I must also be a burden.

Yet there I go back to my statement a few paragraphs ago. “Helping the people you care about isn’t necessarily a burden.”

If that is true, then the God of the universe cares about me, which is an extraordinary thing. The God whose hands shaped the world and whose breath made it alive cares about me. He cares about you, too.

Don’t discount that, even it doesn’t feel true at times. Even if it feels He isn’t close. I promise you, He is near.

Time has brought me clarity and truth on a few things, and because you’ve stayed with me this long, please take another minute or so and don’t go just yet.

The first thing is that even when I stood in my mom’s hospital room when she was in a coma and weighed about 80 pounds, God was with me and with her in her haze of painkillers. I know because earlier on, I heard her ask him to be. The last two things I heard her say on this earth were “where’s Tommy?” and then “good” when I told her I was there.

He was with me when I was 5 or 6 and bad things happened. I saw and felt the truth of that as a grown man, kneeling at the side of the Colorado river.

He was with me when my friend took his life less than a half mile from my bedroom.

He was with me through relationships that ended, and jobs that were lost. He was with me when I was steeped in my sin, and had no idea he was even there.

My shoulders may have sagged, and I may have felt like I was alone.

He was there, much like when my father-in-law helped me walk from our car to the house, helping me walk with my arm draped over his shoulder.

He was there for me, carrying my burden. Carrying YOUR burden, in the form of a roughly hewn cross.

I wasn’t a burden to him, because helping the ones you love isn’t a burden.

You aren’t, either.

Maybe a more accurate statement would be to say, you don’t mind bearing a burden for someone you love, or helping them bear it. Even when that burden IS the person you love.

cross

Top 6

So today I want to take a few minutes and not think about a few things that really have been bugging me lately, and concentrate on what I feel is really important, that I am so very grateful for.

  1. For some reason, God sees my usefulness, even when I do not. He has seen fit to allow me to be part of an amazing and spirit filled congregation, at a bible-believing and bible-teaching church, with a pastor I have known for nearly a decade, and consider a personal friend. I get to serve with people I love and respect, and that’s awesome.
  2. At this moment, I have two young men I get to be dad to in my life. They challenge me greatly. They frustrate me sometimes, but at the end of it is a blessing—always, always a blessing and a reminder of God’s love for me. That he chose me to be their father. Me, with parental relationships cut drastically short by life, and only a couple of good, effective fathers (my brothers-in-law) for example in my younger years. I struggle at times, but I know it, and I can pray through it. That’s what I plan to do—concentrate my effort on that area in a way I haven’t always done.
  3. My wife—my lovely, talented, and inspiring wife. I say lovely not just because she is a pleasure to my eyes, but a pleasure to my inner self—to my heart and to my soul. God sent her to me in her boldness, and in her faith. She believes in me, even when I don’t believe in myself. Who does that? Jen does. Even when I’m a giant hairy toolbag.
  4. My job. Everyone who works out here complains about it at times, and that’s understandable. The elements are unforgiving, and the hours are sometimes long. So long that eventually it wears on every part of your life—except maybe the checkbook. And that’s what happened to me. I got weary, complacent, ungrateful, and laid off. Three days later, I was rehired. In a job capacity that suited me and my skill-set. Working for a boss that is a very decent and family oriented man. Working with people that are 4 oddballs, and very colorful characters, but quite the team. I really like them, even when they tick me off with the pranks.
  5. Similar to my first point, for some reason, I was extended a hand to help pull me from the muck my life had become. This hand from a God who welcomed me into the family, but first defeated me in my rebellion, which so desperately needed to happen. See, the thing about abject capitulation; the thing about supplication, the thing about crawling to his feet, with the world dragging behind you like a parachute, is that when you get there—head down—he tells you to look up. He sees you, the real you. The you of addictions, and sin, and meanness, and sarcasm, and misuse of your gifts, and he tells you to look up. He reaches down and lifts your head. He lifted my head—he does whenever it goes down. (this last one is partially inspired by the poem linked at the bottom)
  6. My life, without changing anything

Today, this very morning, I felt like God told me to start living my life with more abandon, and less inhibition. So I’m going for it. Life is pretty good. Make of it what you will. Believe it or not, and any other cliché you want to insert here.

I don’t know how the execution of this inspiration will work out, or how successful I will be. But I do know that while I am not perfect, I also don’t want to be the guy who gets to the end and wishes he’d tried harder.

I’ll leave you with this poem. It’s wonderful, and powerful, and means a lot to me.