Last week during one of my many scrolls through Facebook I came across an older article shared by a friend that talked about “finding God by welcoming the disabled”. A quote she shared from the article caught my eye and has stuck with me since.
“So whether it is the disabled, the unborn, the elderly, the poor, the refugee or anyone else, our attitude is often the same: We did not agree to this. This was not part of the plan. They are burdens. And they are. But we are all burdens. We were once burdens, and we will be burdens again.”
The piece was written by comedian Jeremy McLellan, and his point was that we have constructed a society where our relationships are all by choice, not chance, and as such, we do not tolerate those who intrude into our well planned lives.
I kept thinking of that article as I sat in one emergency room with Fulton, then another. As I watched the hours tick by in which I did not get to eat, or sleep, and occupied myself by answering a continuous stream of medical questions or staring into my phone as the spotty wi-fi allowed.
When people think of why they “could not handle” a special needs child, I’m sure it is times like these that they are imagining. The thought of having their lives disrupted by emergency room visits and hospital stays, of watching their child suffer through an ailment or uncomfortable procedure, is too great a burden to bear in their minds.
A burden is defined as ‘a load, especially a heavy one’, and at first glance Fulton’s needs are a burden. However, carrying them is not an intrusion into my life. In fact the more I take on the burden of loving Fulton, and Teddy, and their obviously great needs, the stronger I become.
You are a burden to someone. Sometimes in great ways, like when you were an infant, or when you are sick, or as you age and become unable to do things for yourself. Sometimes, you’re a burden in small ways. Never assume people aren’t simply tolerating your presence because your needs aren’t as great as someone elses.
We point fingers at the disabled, the elderly, the young, the poor- “Look at them! They’re a drain on society! They’re burdening our resources! Why should I take care of them?” As if because we are not yet a burden on someone, we shall never become one. I hear people talk of their fear of becoming a burden on their families, as if we cannot expect them to love and care for us when we can do nothing for them, as if our value to them and society rests solely on our ability to provide and not our inherent worth as a child of God. Where would we get that idea?
We ignore all the small burdens we thrust on people and expect them to be tolerated because “That’s just how I am.” “I’ve always been this way. I can’t change.” Your anger burdens your children as they move through the house uncertain of what will set you off. Your materialism burdens your spouse as he stresses about the budget and where the money will come from to pay for your newest purchases. Your impatience is a burden on your coworkers who can never please you and who will leave your department at the first opportunity. We are capable of turning away from these sinful attitudes and behaviors, yet insist we cannot, while not tolerating the limitations of the disabled, sick, orphaned, widowed, etc in situations in which they have no control.
Despite having amazing healthcare and medical technology at our finger tips, we resist using it to help the elderly or disabled, instead wanting to save it for the able bodied who may fall ill. Despite our country’s wealth, we balk at the cost of making buildings, public transportation, and community services more accessible. We expect those who are considered the greatest inconvenience to fend for themselves, make do, and accommodate us, rather than share their burden and make their load lighter.
St. Paul wrote:
Bear ye one another’s burdens; and so you shall fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Our Lord spoke:
For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Matthew 25: 35-36
If we leave the care of the unplanned and unwanted to a secular society, we get abortion, euthanasia, and jails serving as psych wards and homeless shelters. As Christians, we need to welcome the stranger, the poor, the sick, the disabled, the elderly, the prisoner and carry their burden with us even when it is inconvenient, remembering the strength that comes by loving the burden; knowing that the load becomes easier in time, and more than we could ever imagine can continue to be added. A professional weightlifter would never say ” I can’t lift as much as another contender in my division.” He would simply work harder until he could. As Christians, we don’t get to say, “I can’t bear the burden of [raising a special needs child, visiting my elderly neighbor, welcoming refugees to my neighborhood, etc]. We need to welcome and love everyone, knowing the shared burden is lighter amongst us all. We learn to love one another despite anger, pride, impatience, sloth and whatever other sinful burden we bring into the mix.
We are not animals who leave the weakest behind to be picked off by predators. We are followers of Christ who commands us to “Love our neighbor as yourself.” It’s not an inconvenience to practice this, though we sometimes choose to feel like it is. Don’t sell yourself short and believe yourself incapable of loving someone enough to help share their burden. And don’t confuse a person created in the image of God with an inconvenience- a title rightly saved for a traffic jam.
How can you bear your neighbors burden? Who’s burden do you resist loving? What load is God asking you to carry for someone? What burden do you place on those around you?
Feel free to answer those questions, or ignore them and write down something else entirely. Be sure to link it up below and include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!