I like plays on words. I tend towards alliterations. And I have been known to accidentally slip rhymes into everyday speech. Lately I’ve been playing around with one particularly interesting word play, caring and carrying, and I’m finding that the ramifications of choosing the best of these two words are not a matter of fun and games.
I first linked these words together in a discussion over poverty (see previous blog, “The Answer’s in Your Heart”), when I suggested to my high school girls that perhaps as Christians we are called to care for the whole world (because God does), but are only called to carry that specific part of the world that He places specially on our heart (because we are not as big, strong or capable as God). It is tempting in the face of massive world dilemmas to either not care at all (because it is too overwhelming), or to try and carry more emotionally than one person possibly can (a savior complex). Whether you fall off one side of this tight-rope or the other, the consequences to your communion with God can be dire.
A more pressing issue for me at present is that of caring versus carrying the people right in front of me. Are we called to do both? As I reflected on my months in student ministry, I realized that there were certain students that didn’t just want to be cared for—they wanted to be carried. Perhaps in some instances they needed to be carried. And when I look at my own heart and relational attempts I see many instances when I have tried to force others to carry me—to hear me inside and out, to have the answers I don’t, to fix or in some way shape or form, save me. When I can’t handle life on my own I’d rather opt out and let someone else take over. I need to be carried. And in those moments I often can’t even receive the loving care given by another person. In the face of a desperate attempt to be carried, caring just doesn’t feel like a sufficient response.
What happens to us when we demand to be carried by another? What happens when we try to carry someone else? Do we do each other more good or harm in our attempts? Is “bearing one another’s burdens” different from carrying them? Where exactly is that magical line between caring and carrying anyhow?
I don’t have any final answers to these questions, but I have a hunch. My hunch is that deep down we all need to be carried, but not by one another. We need to be carried by one who is sufficiently able to handle us and our problems. My attempts to make others carry me reveal that I have not developed sufficient trust in the arms that already hold me close. My attempts to carry others reveal that I don’t see those same arms holding tightly to them.
“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Psalm 55:22; Isaiah 40:11; 1 Peter 5:7