Spiritually this week I was reading another adoptive parent's blog and she was talking about the lessons she has learned while waiting for her girls to come home. One of the things she talked about was the way others have rallied around her and her husband to share their burdens. I really have hung on that idea this week, with the words "the fellowship of shared burdens" rattling around in my head.
In America, we have so much and we are so independent that we hesitate to ask for help. We balk at letting others carry our burdens for us or even even letting someone carry one side of our burden. We want to do it ourselves. We don't believe others really care for us and are willing to help. We are afraid of inconveniencing someone. The reality is, God designed us to fellowship around shared burdens.
Fellowship may seem like a wierd word if you're not "churchy" but it really just means "togetherness and connectedness." Often church people host fellowship dinners or have a Christmas program with a time of fellowship afterwards. Usually, that means time to talk with Christian friends. Often, that fellowship revolves around the plans someone has for next week, how much someone enjoyed an event, how lovely someone's dress is, etc.. Sometimes that fellowship can go deeper than just a conversation about what's on the surface of life and people do feel comfortable sharing their hurts and joys. But even if it does go that far, rarely do we deliberately let others shoulder our burdens. We don't ask for the things we really need both physically and emotionally. We pull back inside our selves and let a wave of logical thought rush over us. Our brain somehow recruits our mouth to say "I couldn't possibly accept this. It's all right. We'll be okay." And you probably will be, because usually life has a way of working itself out. But by glossing over our needs, we miss out on the fellowship of a shared burden.
There is something amazingly sweet about having a friend lift your burden for you. Sometimes you don't even know how desparately you really needed someone to hold on with you, until your hindsight sees just how valuable that friend's actions were. I'm not advocating whiney, what's in it for me behavior. But I do think we often dismiss opportunities to be helped and to help.
We have personally experienced many examples in the last year where others have shared our burdens, instances where others have crawled into whatever pit we were in and stood beside us, gritting their teeth and pushing our burden up. That is fellowship at its finest; true fellowship that has strengthened us and helped us at times when we didn't even know we needed strengthening. My best friend from high school sent me beautiful flowers in September when she first heard that my mother in law had cancer. Her own mom has had multiple battles with breast cancer and she said she knew what it was like to need someone just to love on you when you are so busy worrying about someone else. At my mother in law's funeral, seven friends from our church traveled over two hours to be in attendance, just because they knew we were hurting. A few weeks ago, a couple from church gave us a card with $500 enclosed, saying that they wanted to be a part of brining our kids home. They knew that our upcoming trip to Haiti was unexpected and a strain on our finances. They knew because we said so in passing conversation. Not in a lengthly one, just a quick two minute deal where I mentioned how expensive traveling was. They heard our need and took action. And the funny part about this latest gift is that it was one of those situations where I really didn't feel like we had a huge need. Yes, I was unsure of how we were going to pay for the trip, but I had just resigned myself to putting it on our credit card and paying it off. Instead, our friends shared our burden.
I encourage you to not hide your hurts and needs from your friends. And to take the time to really think about your friends and their needs. Partake in the fellowship of shared burdens.