As my four little people turn into four not-so-little people, it's interesting to watch their personalities take shape in the midst of every day events.
My oldest is a helper, steady as a rock, caring and careful and peaceful.
My second is, at six, a bit of a whirlwind. He's emotional and perceptive and slightly unpredictable. But funny.
My four-year old is strong, in her will and her personality and her desires.
And the youngest delights us with her sweet ways, with the way she voices her affection ("Love you, sister!" and "You are my Isaac!") and the way she sings. Constantly.
And all these different shades play out in every activity. In the way they each come to their school work or their friends or their fears, there are four distinct approaches to behold. It is, in itself, a bit of a miracle to watch them grow into themselves. And I wrestle with how much to shape them, how much to prune away, how to help them grow into the healthiest version of who they are meant to be.
Last night as I laid in bed, I was thinking about my life, about how to think on several situations in my life. Lately I've felt like I'm distancing myself from the burdens of others. I don't think it's because I don't care, though it is so easy to get caught up in my own life and lose sight of the realities of people around me. I think, instead, it's a feeling that if I really engage the pain of those around me, my heart might just crack in two.
It occurred to me, as I tried to figure out how to carry these things, that there are different ways to carry burdens. My mind went to the example of how my kids carry in groceries, particularly my middles.
My six year old is all reactionary; if you hand him a bag that takes effort he will immediately declare it too heavy and hand it back. He will help, but he wants to carry something that is effortless, that does not take too much work, that he can easily carry and maintain his usual springy step.
My four year old, on the other hand, believes herself to be the strongest person in the world. Seriously. So she will declare, "Give me a heavy one! I can carry two. Not that small one- that's for babies!" She will then turn with her bags, which are more than her four year old frame can carry comfortably, and lug them towards the house. And without fail, she gets ten feet from the door and can no longer continue. She freezes in her step, unsure how to cover the last distance but not wanting to ask for help, and then she usually drops something as she is deciding what to do.
These two approaches- the "carry the minimum" and "carry the maximum"- these are ways I approach the hurt around me.
Like my six year old, I want to help, I want to be present in the heaviness of others, but I would prefer to be able to do it without cost to my life. So I'll hear the details, I'll begin to feel the depth of confusion or hopelessness or weight of what my friends are experiencing, and my reaction is often to simply set it down. Declare, in my mind, that it is too heavy for me. To reach for something else, some other way to help, that does not weigh me down so much.
Mostly I do this my letting myself be distracted by my own life, by pushing thoughts of pain out to the perimeter of my mind.
My other response is, like my Strong One,to carry it all, pile it on, plod through my life with everybody's baggage weighing on me. Put it on. I can take it. I'm strong. Ten feet from the door, I am overcome with the feeling that I don't know what to do, that all this is too much, that my heart might actually break if I don't put some things down.
As I laid in bed last night, I thought about the heaviness that is present right now in the lives of so many people that I love.
Loss, grief, disappointment, fear, heartache.
As a feeler, I struggle to engage without getting lost, to be present without becoming depressed, to enter in and not despair.
As a 2, I live with the constant need to help. And in situations where "help" is impossible, where to love is to simply be present...I feel out of my element.
What does it look like to feel, to walk with others, to offer genuine hope in times of genuine pain?
How do you offer hope without it feeling like, "Hey. Stop being sad. Here are some verses to make you happy"?
How do you keep the reality of others with you, to pray and love and keep their weights on the forefront of your mind, and still do the dishes and hum to your kids and try to laugh at the days to come?
I don't want to shy away from pain. I don't want to live in denial of the world around me, don't want to pretend that all is as it should be when we can feel in our bones that it isn't. But I still turn off the news, still sigh when I read headlines, still scroll past the articles shared on facebook that have taglines of outrage. I want to care and I do- I just don't have the energy to care for everything or the ability to turn it off.
Guess that's it for this evening. Carry on, carry well, friends.