Gilbert Meilaender has an essay entitled, “I Want to Burden My Loved Ones.” Let me repeat that title: “I Want to Burden My Loved Ones.” Not what you would expect! Why would anyone what to be a burden, especially to those whom you love? But Meilaender asks this provocative question, “Is this not in large measure what it means to belong to a family: to burden each other–and to find, almost miraculously, that others are willing, even happy, to carry such burdens?”
Frederick Buechner expands this concept by asking, “What’s friendship, when all’s done, but the giving and taking of wounds?”
These are the types of questions that the church should be asking! How do we love one another? When the rubber hits the road, when some person is driving you crazy, when she is completely wrong, when he is obviously stubborn, are you still willing to remain in relationship? No matter how many times they mess up, no matter how many times they interrupt or even ruin your best laid plans, are you still reaching out to them? Do you love enough to bear burdens? Is your love strong enough to withstand wounds?
We ask these questions of ourselves while simultaneously stating what we believe to be true: in Christ, God bore the cross and was wounded for us. So, if the church is a reflection of God’s love, then it shouldn’t matter what changes are made to the building. It shouldn’t matter what you eat or who you eat with. It shouldn’t matter how the person in the pew behind you voted in the last presidential election. This may seem obvious . . .
But, the longer I am in the parish, the more C.S. Lewis’ observation rings true that people too often confuse Christianity with being polite. If we truly love one another, then we should burden each other–burden others with our troubles. When we come to church, we shouldn’t be expected to put on a happy face and pretend like nothing is wrong. We should be willing to share what breaks our hearts and what is going wrong in our lives. And we should be able to count on others–not to judge–but to go out of their way to help; not to fix the problem–but to be there for us.
Because they love us.
No matter how difficult the problem, no matter how difficult the person, no matter how painful the situation, we lay these burdens down so that the people around us can love us. No matter what.