The burden of one

Each of us has a burden to carry.

A thing to be rid of.

A brokenness to rend and mend.

And we were never meant to carry it alone.

To be sure, the burden we carry can only fit into one set of arms. But we were never meant to walk with full arms without someone to walk alongside us.

Problem is, our armloads flow over our elbows, which all-too-often jab and push away fellow travelers, leaving us alone and afraid. 

Ironically, the same fear of traveling alone can cause us to resist friendship. The burdens which overflow our hearts make it near-impossible for some of us to accept love from someone else. We’re just too full of pain to accept anything more from the world, even the blessing of someone who cares.

And yet, God designed us to need–even require–the company of another. He knew from the Beginning it is not good for man (or woman) to be alone. So it makes sense that evil finds ways to isolate us and cause us to resist fellowship with one another.

With the holidays upon us, loneliness hidden and silent morphs into pain, prickly and loud.

In the Old Testament, Israelites had many different offerings they’d present to God. One, in particular, was called the fellowship offering. It was the one offering where the animal which was sacrificed was then served at a meal for everyone to share and enjoy. Some scholars say it was a symbol of inward peace associated with a restored relationship.

This reminds me of a service at church a few weeks ago. I attend a pretty large church, where it’s easy to lose myself in the crowd and not really, deeply interact with anyone–a temptation easy for me to sink into, because friendship often scares me. Yet this service was centered around Communion. It wasn’t the typical Communion service, where the plates of bread and drink are passed along, no one looking at each other, no one talking. This time, giant round tables were placed in the front of the church, and row-by-row, congregants filed down and encircled the tables, held hands and spoke encouraging words to each other

Then they took Communion.

I sat near the back of the church and watched and waited for my turn. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched others connect.

I wanted fellowship.

But it terrified me, too.

Divine chance led me to a table with a young couple who were part of our first small group, and another couple I knew were terrific prayer warriors. The row of congregants facing our table were filled with some of my favorite friends from choir, and their voices seeped into my grateful soul. In a few rows behind them sat friends who’d lost spouses and friends in pain and friends who know about my pain and crud, but friends who choose to embrace me anyway.

I held hands with my husband and one of the prayer warriors. I ate the broken bread. I drank in the symbol of blood shed for me.

And I knew the burden of allowing just one person near my heart is worth it.

Fellowship.

A sacrifice.

But so, so worth it.

“We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!” I John 1:3 (TMV)

(This post was written today as part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival on Fellowship.)