Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Heavy Burdens

wide open spaces

The other day I saw this little quote on a desk plaque:

Be kind
for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle

I actually think there is great wisdom in that one tiny little sentence. Most people (probably everyone) carry around all sorts of burdens, sometimes heavy burdens, although they often hide it very well. In my experience, I have come to believe that if I just scratch beneath the surface, it's probably quite true that everyone I meet is fighting a hard battle.

I am a "people watcher." I sat in a mall the other day and looked at the faces of the crowds passing by, imagining their lives underneath it all. I imagined that some were feeling financial burdens, some feeling inadequacy because they are unable to find work, others stressed by the jobs they have or their failure to perform in school, families in distress, relationships torn and tattered. 

I looked at the faces of people and I just knew that beneath the mask of apparent calm, and sometimes underneath the laughter, lots of people are weary, weighed down by some pretty heavy burdens - fighting a hard battle. 

When I am asked if I am a religious person, I usually respond by saying, "I am a follower of Jesus." I say that because I actually don't think Jesus himself was much of a religious person and he certainly didn't establish a church. 

Instead of giving people solace and comfort, the official established temple religion of Jesus' day added to the heavy burdens of life, making the "hard battle" even harder. There were 613 temple laws that everyone was expected to follow -laws governing how to think and act, what to eat and how to dress. The temple authorities taught that God "expected" everyone to rigidly adhere to the law.  If you kept the law, God would love you and would favor you. The law breakers were cast away.   

When Jesus came on the scene, he announced that God has no expectations of anyone, ever.  The only thing that God desires is that every human being would live a "fully human" life.  Jesus taught that in the eyes of God, no one is an outcast, no one outside the law, no one loved or favored more than anyone else.

Instead of placing heavy burdens on the shoulders of people, Jesus said:

Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.

Jesus taught his followers to say this very same thing to all whom they would ever meet. The motto of a Jesus' follower is: "Come to me and I will help to lift the burden, I will give you rest."  In essence Jesus taught his followers to "be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

As I sat in the mall the other day and watched the people walking by carrying their heavy loads, I once again called to mind the lives of my spiritual ancestors, those 4th century Desert Mothers and Fathers. Every day I think about these simple and yet extraordinary "followers of Jesus" who lived together, guided by the clear teachings of Jesus: "no one is to be cast away; live your life in such a way as to lift the burdens of others." 

This morning as I watched the sun rise in my meditation garden and looked out to the wide open wilderness outside our home,  I was once again reminded of a wisdom saying from the tradition of the Desert Mothers and Fathers that I have often quoted in my posts. For me, it pretty much expresses what a follower of Jesus is "expected" to do:

When an Abba was asked how he dealt with any brother 
who fell asleep during public prayer, he replied:
'I put his head upon my knee and help him to rest.'

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