Thursday, January 28, 2016

Does Everything Depend on You?

When I was in college I didn’t appreciate the poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams. When I first read it in Literature class I thought, This is famous poetry? I could have written that! But as the years go by, the first line of the poem has come to mind repeatedly.* Suddenly, I can relate to the red wheelbarrow and feel compassion for its plight (if indeed a wheelbarrow can have a plight).
When I became a mommy, I began to understand what it means to bear the weight of responsibility. It wasn’t just me, or even me and my husband anymore; I had little human beings dependent on me—for sustenance, comfort, love—to learn about God and the meaning of life. I remembered the little red wheelbarrow.

Now that my kids are grown and I have grandchildren, it seems like the responsibilities have multiplied. Why is it, I ask myself, that I feel like so much depends on me?  As if things won’t get done if I don’t do them (or they won’t get done right). I worry about other people and take on their stuff as if it was my own to bear. I’ve learned this is codependent behavior. Who knew that the little red wheelbarrow was an enabler? 

One of my favorite texts, that always makes me sigh with longing, is Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.”

This is Jesus talking, and I want to believe Him, because He doesn’t lie. I trust Him wholeheartedly. So why is it I still feel weary and burdened? I think the secret’s in the yoke. Not like the yoke’s on you, but the wooden harness the animals of Jesus’ day wore.  It was always shared by two—one stronger, lead animal, and the lesser one to walk beside. 

If I’m in a yoke with Jesus, He’s definitely the stronger individual. If I walk beside Him at His pace and do what He has for me to do, my burdens will be easy. He’ll be doing the bulk of the work! However, it’s when I strain to go at a different pace, or in a different direction, or try to carry more weight than He intends for me—this is when I become weary and burdened. 

I read another verse recently that seems to bring in further understanding. I was worried and burdened, yet trying not to take on a load that is not mine to bear. God spoke to me through Zephaniah 3:16-17, “Do not fear…do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.” I don’t have to bear the weight of this situation, but that doesn’t mean I just let my hands hang down in defeat. There is still much I can do.

My work is to lift my hands in prayer and give this situation to the God who saves.
If you feel like the little, red wheelbarrow left out in the rain, envious of the chickens nearby who don’t seem to have a care in the world, there’s hope. That’s not the life God intends for us.

Everything does not depend on us! Isn’t that a relief? Our God is big enough to handle our load, as well as everything and everyone else that concerns us. Our job is to get in the yoke and keep in step. We can talk to Him about everything and leave it with Him. I hope that encourages you like it does me. I just breathed a sigh of relief.  

*For the full text of “The Red Wheelbarrow” click on this link:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I Miss You

“I went in and sat down at the door. The sermon was on the prodigal son, but there is only one word I remember: ‘You are not forgotten or cast off,’ the preacher said. ‘You are missed.’” (Flora Campbell quoted in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them by Ruth Bell Graham).

This quote has comforted me so many times as I have prayed for my own beloved prodigals, many of them far beyond my reach. Today, it reminds me what I need to communicate to those who have wandered away from God—whether to a far-off country, or just beyond the fringes of the faith community. What they need to hear from me is not condemnation, words of shame or judgment, or I told you so’s. What they need to hear is how much I miss them. How much their heavenly Father misses them and longs for their return.

Of course sin is wrong. Of course there will be consequences. Restitution must be paid, and trust earned, and healing will take time. They know that. And there will be a time to communicate those things, even as I seek God’s help to forgive them for the harm done.

But initially, what they need to hear is, “I miss you. I miss the fellowship we used to share. I miss hearing your laughter. I miss knowing what’s going on in your life and sharing my life with you. I miss your sense of humor and the special place you fill that no one else can. I miss discussing the scriptures and comparing what God is saying to us through it.” 

Isn’t that what brought the prodigal son back home in Jesus’ parable of Luke 15? It was the knowledge that he was missing out on good stuff going on at Dad's. It was the shining hope, that despite everything he had done, his father might still take him back. 

As you pray for the prodigals you know—those who have relapsed into destructive habits and beliefs, who have been lured into unhealthy relationships, who have disregarded your warnings and advice, who have idolized people or things instead of God, who have become discouraged or disillusioned with God’s people, and even God himself. Pray for opportunities to speak these words: I miss you. You are valuable. You haven’t been forgotten. Please come back.
And if you are a prodigal, wondering if anyone has even noticed you're gone, let me reassure you, you are missed. God sees you there in your pain and confusion and need, and He is calling you back. He misses the fellowship He once had with you. And He is calling people to reach out to you daily—in prayer, with a smile, with a word of comfort or encouragement they didn’t even know you needed. But He did and He’s speaking to you through them. 

You are missed.