Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Weight of Love

One of my daughters recently gave birth to twins. Though a few weeks premature (not unusual with twins), they arrived healthy and without complications. After a couple weeks of observation in the infant care section of the hospital – which was stressful in its way but could have been a lot worse – the twins were brought home, and the fun truly began. At first the impact was buffered by the presence of some extra help. One of my other daughters stayed and helped for a couple of weeks, and then my wife for a couple more weeks. But eventually all the helpers went home, leaving mom and dad with “four under five”.

My poor daughter has been feeling the weight of this, as everyone expected she would. My son-in-law is a superb husband and father, and does everything he can to lighten the burden, but having even one newborn added to a home that already had a four-year-old and a two-year-old would be a tremendous burden. Two newborns seems unbearable; and indeed, my daughter's online posts both short and long indicate that the incessant demands of the babies are stretching her and her family to the limit.

And yet, deep down, even my stressed daughter and her husband understand that it isn't really the babies that are the burden. They “weigh” nothing at all. What is so heavy is the love. They love so deeply and so truly that they will give nothing less than everything they have to all of their children. It is that compulsion, that intensity of love, that is the real burden.

This is a burden they have taken up voluntarily, and take up again every time one of their children needs care. They lay down their immediate preferences, die to themselves a little more, and shoulder the burden of love and service. It is the love that is the burden, not the babies.

Of course, they don't have to shoulder this burden. They could simply not respond to the need, or give it cursory attention. They could love their children less, and spare themselves some effort. But they will not take that route, for even the thought of that weighs much more heavily than any task. They could not bear to think of their children being less-than-completely loved.

Parenthood is an extreme example of this principle, but it is what comes into play every time we care for others. The burden is always the love. It is not the cry of our child from the next room, or the late-night phone call from the distressed friend, or the sleepless spouse sitting in the darkened living room with a burdened heart, that is so hard to bear. It is the love, or it is nothing. We can always pull the pillow over our head, or let the call roll to voice mail, or pretend we don't notice the empty bed. But if our love is great enough, those options will not even occur to us, and we will again shoulder the burden of love.

We were warned of this. The One who loved so much the He left perfection to come down to shoulder the burden personally was crushed to the ground (thrice, according to legend) before He was broken for love. He told us that following Him meant shouldering the burden of love every day. He also assured us that we would have help with that burden, because it was His burden, and He would help carry it.

But we won't get that help unless we step up and agree to take on the weight of love. Perhaps it will help if we remember what's so heavy: it isn't the baby, or the friend, or the spouse, or whoever. It's the love we have for them that weighs so much, that drives us to expend our scarce personal resources for another. And let us pray for one another (particularly my daughter, her husband, and their children!), that we can share the burden of the weight of love.


Lauren said...

Beautiful post, Roger.

nina said...

one beautiful post, Roger....& so well expressed! Thank you for that...& Dave raved about your home & your sandwiches w/Roger-made bread!!! xoxoxo