At the Risk of Robbing Tim O’Brien

There are things I carry. Cumbersome things like a satchel full of work that needs doing. Things to put away and up, out and down. Armfuls of things from this store or that.

And there are weightier things too. The grief that hangs over me at the thought of my grandfather’s death. The worry that comes from lingering too long over world news. The dull panic that only an adult can know, the kind that comes with the understanding that success and security are ephemeral—the line between them and their antonyms thinner than the logical edge of Occam’s razor.

I pick them up each day and place them on the shelves of my shoulders, bear their invisible weight like Sisyphus once did his stone. And even at rest, I never quite manage to put them down. Instead, I brace myself and pick up new burdens in an attempt to lessen those I already have. A freelance job to cover the cost of that new whiz-bang-gotta-have-thing that might make life easier, safer, better, or more pleasing. A relationship that should make me feel less vulnerable. And in these things I put my trust, though they’re as costly and as ineffectual as Maginot Lines. The peace I crave is not in them, and yet I soldier on, dragging them behind me, leaving ragged scars in the earth.

But I’m not the first to think such madness wise. The prophet Isaiah (46:1-4 ESV) says:

Bel bows down; Nebo stoops;
    their idols are on beasts and livestock;
these things you carry are borne
    as burdens on weary beasts.
They stoop; they bow down together;
    they cannot save the burden,
    but themselves go into captivity.

Old gods of Babylon—deaf and dumb as the gold that bore their image—can do nothing for the men who made them or the flagging beasts who lug them to their hollow temples. But then there is the promise of the One who tells me His yoke is easy and His burden light.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
    carried from the womb;
 even to your old age I am he,
    and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
    I will carry and will save.

I was borne—carried, supported, held up—before the world began. Sustained eons before I took my first lungful of air. Borne before I was born. And until my hair turns gray and brittle as old paper, until the very moment I wheeze my last, He will bear me still. Why? Not because He owes me. Not because He needs the challenge. Four simple statements make the reason plain.

I have made, and I will bear. I will carry and will save.

No if you… conditions, no because you… stipulations. “You are mine,” He tells me. “Mine to carry from before birth and beyond death. And I do so because you are my treasure. I loved you before I knit you together in your mother’s womb. Before I gave you brown eyes and long fingers, a love of words and an ear for music. I carried the weight of you, light as an eyelash, in my righteous right hand.”

And so—for the moment, until I stubbornly and disobediently pick up my load again—I bask in that love. And it is so beautiful I can hardly bear it.

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4 thoughts on “At the Risk of Robbing Tim O’Brien

  1. Jamie, my husband has the Scripture on a sticky note on his dresser and we look at it often. One of our favorite promises. Our God is so awesome.

  2. Thanks Jamie. Great reminder for those of us who sometimes forget to defer to the Burden-Bearer. He not only loves us (as if that were not enough); but, He INVITES us to share the REST He gives as He carries the weight. So appreciate your thoughts and enjoy your writing style.Keep them coming!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, David. I’m a load-bearer who takes pride in something I should not. I just read this passage along with Psalm 103 (everlasting to everlasting, I am he) and the passage from Matthew and I could almost hear God telling me to chill out.

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