by Julie Davenport
I recently remembered the lyrics of a well-known Gaither song¹ describing the sweetness of holding a newborn baby and thought of holding my own. How easy it was to cradle them in my arms during those early days. As they got older, I had a wonderful "baby papoose carrier" I could wear and be hands free to wash dishes and still keep my baby calm and comforted next to my body.
As my two daughters grew, I read an assortment of parenting books on issues from raising toddlers to teenagers. What about books on issues with our adult children? I know there are some good books out there, but sometimes the struggles with our adult children are more complicated than when they were little.
The truth is this: As our children get older, we learn to carry them differently. We go from cradling them in our arms to carrying them on our hips to them walking on their own into independence and adulthood.
As much as I would like to carry and keep my two daughters who are now in their thirties close to my heart and body, it would look really strange to put them in that same baby papoose carrier with their legs dragging on the ground. They would be too heavy. We can't control or fix the things our adult children go through. We can pray and love them and offer advice when asked, but we cannot carry them in the same way we did when they were babies.
So often, not only with our children, but with many things in life, we try to carry things that are too heavy for us.
The Bible says in Galatians 6:2 NIV, "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Then in the same chapter, in verse 5, ". . .for each one should carry their own load."
So, which is it? Carry others' burdens or carry our own load?
Yes. Both and. Between the above two verses, verse 4 says: "Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else."
How can we apply this to our own lives, to raising our children, and to our calling and ministry?
As an "older person" past the age of sixty, or as I prefer the designation of a "mature person," I have been through many seasons and stages in my life. I have been through a season of miscarriages and unable to have children, through a season of raising children into adulthood, and now a wonderful season of being a grandma. I had a season as a pastor's wife, a season of being on staff at a church, a season of travelling and speaking, and a season of writing and publishing a book. I am now in a season of having more time to invest in my local church and minister to my neighbors.
Yet, I still struggle with learning the best way to carry others’ burdens.
I still struggle with comparing myself to others.
I still struggle with learning to carry my own load.
Rather than saying I am struggling, a more positive way would be to say that I am still learning.
This is what I wish I could say to my younger self or to those of you who are in the thick of the middle stages of family and ministry. These are a few things I am still learning:
I am still learning life will always have loss and sorrow often at the very same time that we are experiencing joy in another area. We often carry others’ burdens of loss along with our own load of loss. We compare our loss to others’ loss. Loss will never go away. We have to learn how to carry it.
When I first lost my precious Mother to Alzheimer's disease over two years ago, the weight of the loss was so heavy at first that I could hardly stand the pain. The pain of the loss is not gone, but I am learning better how to carry it. I remind myself of how thankful I am for all the wonderful ways and joys of having my mother for almost sixty years. The pain is still there, but it has been softened. At the same time of the deep sorrow, I have experienced the great joy of having a new baby grandson and watching him grow.
I am still learning that we are to carry others’ burdens, but we are not necessarily called to carry them through their entire journey. Sometimes we are meant to plant a seed or to water, but we don't always get to see the harvest. We are to minister to those who come across our path each day.
I am still learning to not compare myself to others as I pass through different seasons. Our callings sometimes look different, and we are not called to please others. We are called to please only the Lord.
I am still learning that we must ask the Lord for wisdom to know how to carry our own load. We need wisdom to know exactly what is the load we are supposed to carry. Sometimes He asks us to lay the load aside and rest. Sometimes He asks us to divide the load into portions instead of carrying it all at once. Sometimes He asks us to roll the load over to Him.
I am thankful the Lord continues to lead and teach us how to carry others’ burdens with our own load.
I am thankful, most of all, when any of it gets too heavy, He promises to be with us and to help us.
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:7 KJV
¹Gloria and Bill Gaither, "Because He Lives," 1971.
If one word could depict a life, Julie Davenport’s would be “redemption.” As a child, Julie’s character was forged within a legacy of faith, godliness, and ministry, so when she married a charismatic young pastor on the fast-track to prominence, life was everything she’d dreamed it would be...on the outside. But inside, alone and hidden from view, Julie endured abuse, betrayal, and infidelities that spiraled to include miscarriage, cancer, divorce, mental illness, and eventually suicide. Julie is now an ordained AG minister who through speaking engagements and two daughters continues the legacy of ministry, God is using Julie’s life-story to validate His immeasurable grace and prove His power to redeem what Satan tried so hard to destroy.
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