Big Shoulders

By Michael Gallup

What does it mean to grow up? I often ask myself this question. As I probe my heart and mind, to this one word I keep returning: responsibility. As a child I had little responsibility outside of a few chores that I always undertook begrudgingly. Then, if I didn’t finish unloading the dishwasher, the worse consequence would be a spanking; now, I don’t have anything of which to eat off.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up because I could do whatever I wanted. Little did I realize the freedom I experienced as a kid would never be matched again. This wasn’t a freedom that allowed everything, but a freedom that because I was my parent’s responsibility, I had no need to worry and could simply have fun. While I was limited in the available actions, I was limitless in freedom of spirit. Now that I am experimenting with this whole grown-up thing, I realize that while I have limitless options, my responsibilities limit me. I cannot stay up all night because I have to go to work in the morning. I cannot eat lobster everyday because I have to pay rent at the end of the month.

Being a grown-up is not quite what I imagined.

Responsibilities are great things, they give us passion, purpose, and direction. But they can also deliver worry and stress. All my life my actions only seemingly affected me, but now there are several people at least partially dependent upon me keeping it together and to be honest, I’m not so sure I’m capable.

And yet, I find the courage to get out of bed each day and at least attempt to be productive, to put on a happy face that betrays the heavy-laden condition of my soul. I fear less that I will fail as that I will be found out. And with each day a new role or task or worry or fear adds to the mountain upon my shoulders. How can I hold it all, how can I, of all people, be that strong.

I can’t.

What being a grown-up has taught me is that it is about responsibility but not just my own. I share my load with you and you share yours with me. Each of us was meant to carry each other. And above all, I believe, God is there, not to heap more on us, things like shame and guilt, but to carry our burdens. This is perhaps the hardest thing to not only believe but to live. Somehow I make it up in my mind that I have to be perfect, not let God down. But I am reminded that I do not hold Him up but that He holds me up.

Jesus taught His disciples to pray as such: “Father, Reveal who you are. Set the world right. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” This is not a prayer that assumes much at all on behalf of the one praying. We see a simple series of commands, not flowery requests but demands. We go bold before the maker of all things and demand that He make this world right, that He feed us, forgive us and protect us. We will settle for nothing less.

Core to this is that we need Him at every level especially the most basic. Our lives as grown-ups are not about making sure we take care of our responsibilities, but rather coming to a point where we not only know but live by the truth that we are utterly incapable. It is in this moment of emptiness that we are filled. It is in this confession that we find strength. When we release our responsibilities to the only one capable of shouldering them, we finally have that same freedom we knew as children, to be free in our souls. And it is in this freedom that we can truly live, that we can truly shoulder the days ahead.

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Big Shoulders

  1. All of your blogs should feature pictures of MG.

    Isn’t it ironic–and part of the “bentness” of our hearts–that as children we think we want what adults have, always stretching to the next year. “I’m seven-and-a-half,” kids say. And yet as adults we yearn to go back to younger years. And in it all what we need lies in the enormous hand of God, held out to us in the person of Christ.

  2. elna

    Personally, I believe one becomes a grown-up the first time you have to pay tax on your income

  3. Georgie-ann

    I’ve never been a man, and grew up in a time when women still leaned rather happily on men being in a “responsible role,” comparatively speaking. This has some of the benefits you refer to in the life of children. But, unfortunately, our society has become extremely chaotic and without form (quite godless?) since those times.

    At the first sign of breakdown, where men were going AWOL from presumed societal expectations (& women, too!), there was panic and confusion, and desperate attempts to regain the old footing, but to no avail,…the momentum of dissolution and spin was “in force” and too great to overcome by simple references to past patterns. “Ridicule” is too kind of a word to describe the response of the rebellious in those times to such suggestions.

    For me, it didn’t take long to decide that “going with God” was going to be way preferable to “going it alone” or falling into the new/(old) social abyss of wanton dissipation and self-gratification, blah blah blah,…

    So “leaning on God” became the default setting. Leaning on myself was absolutely “out of the question” — I was quite aware that I didn’t have the strength to carry the whole load, nor the feeling that I needed to “prove” anything in this way either. And thank goodness for all the “good folks” in the Body of Christ as well! We helped each other! We found joy, and survived!

    And for this reason, I love to say that “God is Good!” He “makes a way where there is no way!” (Think: the Red Sea!)

    When we (women and children) were in the habit of leaning on men, and expected courteous, consistent, and responsible behavior from (most of) them, — (Think: the Old Days!) — I think we also felt that (besides God, Who might have been somewhat “taken for granted” in those days!), men really had each other and an understanding of how to work together to get things done and keep life going on.

    A lot more people came from farming backgrounds and close knit communities, and practicality, respect , cooperation, and commonsense still existed, more or less unquestioned and unchallenged. (Seems like a dream now, doesn’t it?)

    As a mother of sons, I appreciated each and every responsible man who set an example for my sons along the way. I’m happy to say that they still exist, but the squeaky, leaky personalities “doing their own (foolish) things” make so much noise (and trouble) society-wise these days, that the “good guys” have become the precious rare jewels and unsung heroes among us. My mother’s heart sorrows over these conditions.

    God does have the Big Shoulders that we ALL need to lean on, and only He can “teach us the way.” Surely we need to support one another, take our “cues” from the godly, and reject the false paths and patterns displayed by the “world.”

    We can find Strength in His Word and in joining with those “of like precious Faith.” We were never meant to “go it alone.” And God is Faithful to His Promises to be with us “through it all.”

  4. Georgie-ann

    I learned something along the way that was true for myself, and I think might be true for some others.

    God has planted His true image and His Wisdom deep deep in our hearts. At Creation, He made us “in His image.” When we read His Words, they strike a chord of affirmation somewhere within us, and so are like no other words that we read and hear, which only have passing reality in pertaining to the temporary surface conditions of our lives and how we are reacting to them.

    When we are lonely, or feel that we are missing something or someone very important to our lives, instead of just stopping with the condition of lack, or emptiness, it is possible to look a little further into the situation. For example, having lost my father at an early age, I missed HIM. I missed him as a particular person, who could never be exactly replaced, but I also missed him for a role he would have played in his own way in my life.

    I had a choice. I could always just bemoan the “blank spot” as an incurable “done deal” and permanent loss, — (creating a “me” with a resulting damaged and crippling self-image), — or I could go “soul searching” inwardly to identify and discover the missing qualities and traits that I wished “were there for me,” and go on the spiritual journey to where they could be found. I took the journey route, which led me to God and the fullness, the answers and the realities that “my earthly losses” led me to seek.

    Not only did I find answers, truth, and reality, but I found God, Himself, Who IS the Answer, and Everything we need. He IS “more than enough,” “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” The Joy of the Lord surely “is our Strength.”

    As Eugene is suggesting: “Put your hand in the hand of the Man who parted the waters.” When we very seriously humble ourselves before Him, and continue to do so, He WILL lift us up. And He will fill us with Himself, His Strength, and His Understanding. Perseverance in prayer works wonders.

  5. Georgie-ann

    A small addendum: one acquires “a taste” for “goodness,” for “being responsible” (to the best of our ability), for making even small “unseen choices” that eschew evil and create positive and beneficial momentum in the earth. In making noble — even sacrificial — actions, we often find ourselves blessed in the process! And small positive efforts add up. Soon we are stronger than we ever imagined we could be!

    Goodness is its own reward. This is something I learned very well at my mother’s knee. She was a master “example setter!” — (Thanks, ma!)

    1 Corinthians 8:1 ” … We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”

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