I probably shouldn’t have looked back, but I couldn’t help myself. Sixth grade boys don’t need a parent to make sure they get inside the front door of the school. And the middle-school principal and school counselor have issued repeated warnings to us about being “helicopter parents,” hovering. “Step way from the child,” they say.
But I did it. I let him out of the car and then I looked back.
It was Monday morning and the day’s events meant that my son was loaded down when he got out of the car. I pulled up in the carpool line and when we had rolled to just the right spot John executed a deployment worthy of a Marine hitting a beachhead. He slipped out of the back seat, deftly pulling with him a book-bag, a laptop computer case, and the small backpack filled with his cross country clothes.
He quickly went to the back of the vehicle and opened the hatch, grabbing his saxophone case and slamming the hatch shut before I could get a good look at him in the rear-view mirror. At that moment he was on his own. Plenty of parents behind me had patiently sat through these maneuvers and they were ready for me to move on. The teacher monitoring carpool that morning seemed ready for me to move on as well. And so I did.
But I looked back. I looked back because he had so much stuff – books, cross country, laptop, saxophone. I looked back because I wasn’t sure he could carry it all. Like David wearing Saul’s armor, he would surely stagger under the weight of it.
I looked back because I thought he had more than he could bear.
“God won’t give us more than we can bear.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say it, and I do believe it’s true. But I wonder sometimes.
For one thing, I don’t think you’ll find those exact words in the Bible. It’s a truth that the Bible supports, but doesn’t explicitly state. The closest thing is something about how God helps us bear up under temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).
And I also wonder about what it says about God and the things we bear in this life. “God won’t give us more than we can bear” makes God sound like the gate-keeper who checks every hardship the way TSA agents check your shoes in airport security lines. Some burdens seem bearable and God lets them pass. Others are just too much so God confiscates them. Maybe the truth about God and our burdens is something other than that.
When Paul told the Corinthians they were not yet ready for “solid food” he implied that they should be, as if being a follower of Jesus meant becoming ready for more substantive things. When Jesus told his followers that he had more to say to them but they could not bear it now he implied that at some point they would be able to bear it. They just had to get ready (John 16:12-15).
Maybe the life of faith means that in some way we are constantly being made ready for more, prepared for the next thing. God is not in the business of guarding our comfort, protecting us from the heavy burdens. Rather, God makes us ready for the burdens we will be called upon to bear. Growing strong in the Spirit means being made ready.
You may be especially weighed down today. We step into every day encumbered by something, pulling all kinds of baggage with us. But God our Father turns his face toward us. God is ever watchful and the Spirit is ever present, making sure we can bear what we have until we’re ready for what comes next.
Work in us today, O God, and make us equal to the burdens we bear. Strengthen us with power by your Spirit so that we might be ready for all that you have for us – both blessings and burdens. We would become people who are ready for solid food, who are ready for more of your truth. We thank you for your faithfulness and ask that in all things we might be a faithful people, through Christ our Lord. Amen.