Sunday, April 18, 2010
Carrying Jesus - He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother.
This afternoon we went to visit my sister-in-law in Toronto. This is always something of an adventure and something both of us approach with some dread because E. suffers with schizophrenia and we really never know what will happen. The last few years E. has been in a nursing home and things have dramatically improved. She is getting regular meals, regular medication, and has a clean, safe room to live in. That being said, medicating someone who has suffered from mental illness for many, many years, on top of her current physical complications of diabetes, high blood pressure, and increasing vision loss, is not an easy task. So we're never sure if she will be having a "good" day where she will be almost lucid and only moderately insulting, or a "bad" day when she will spend the vast majority of the visit vacillating between bizarre laughter and her "woodpecker speech," a term my husband has coined for the "rat-a-tat-tat" rapid, never-ceasing, verbal diatribe that characterizes many of her conversations.
Needless to say, I usually try to find something of interest in Toronto, or along the route, to inspire me into feeling like the trip has been worth the effort. Sometimes we stop for a nice meal at a new restaurant that looks interesting, or at an old stand-by (like the Pickle Barrel at Sherway Gardens, or the Firehall in Bronte). If the weather is nice, we might stroll along the waterfront at Queens Quay, or take a drive along Bridal Path to gawk at the beautiful homes. I always hope that something nice will happen along the way to make up for the exasperation that generally accompanies our visits.
Today we actually had a rather good visit! E. was almost 100% lucid. The only time she got insulting was when my husband asked her if the large rock in the gardens at the nursing home had fallen from the moon, to which she replied, "No, it fell from your ass, stupid!" Even my husband had to admit his question had been silly, and we both laughed at her response. But E.'s medication was starting to wear off and before things could take a rapid decline into woodpecker territory, we decided to end our visit and head out.
That's when it happened. The neat thing I was hoping for came along. We were sitting at the intersection of Dunn & King St. W., waiting for the light to change and there she came - a petite, frail-looking elderly Filipino lady carrying an immense and cumbersome statue of Jesus! She struggled across the intersection with the statue hugged close to her body, and may I clarify here that the statue was easily 3/4 as long as her entire body. I have no idea how heavy he was (cue music: He ain't heavy, He's my brother), but obviously she was having some difficulty and kept glancing up at the walk signal with a certain amount of desperation in her eyes as she wondered if she could get herself and the statue across the intersection safely before traffic started up again with the light change.
And yes, before you ask, my mind did immediately go to the lyrics of "Plastic Jesus" - but only for a split second before in the next instance, I began to wonder who this woman was, and why she was carrying this statue, and where she was going with it? And naturally (being an English major) my mind began to ponder the symbolism of the moment - shouldn't we all be carrying Jesus, moment by moment, everyday? And what does it mean to carry Jesus everywhere we go? Is that a difficult task? Do we struggle under the load, anxiously rushing to cross intersections safely with our cumbersome load?
Two different scriptures came to mind. I looked them up and meditated upon them when I got home. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus does invite us to "carry" Him with us. He says:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
As I pondered those words, I thought about how they make me feel inside -- not overwhelmed, not frustrated, not anxious, but the complete opposite. Christ's words fill me with peace and contentment. They are a reminder that "carrying Jesus" is not an impossible, overbearing task, something done out of duty whilst gritting my teeth, but rather an easy task that will replenish my weary soul, not deplete it. He's not an inanimate statue, after all, but the Son of God, who loves us with an everlasting love, and carries us from the very brink of death into eternal life!
The other scripture that came to mind is one that our pastor referred to this morning in his sermon. In 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, the apostle Paul encourages us with these words:
"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing."
This week I have been amazed by the fragrance of blossoms in our orchard - apricot, plum and cherry trees have burst into the most beautiful blooms and to take a stroll through the orchard is the most amazingly decadent experience! Imagine that God chooses to use us, in all of our human imperfections, with all of our human failings, to spread everywhere the fragrance of Jesus! Not only am I carrying Jesus with me, but I'm carrying His fragrance! Astounding! How can this be? What an amazing responsibility!
So today was a reminder to me that I am carrying Jesus wherever I go, and I shouldn't be doing that out of a sense of duty that weighs me down, but out of love for the amazing Saviour whom I serve. Even when it means spending a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon visiting with a mentally ill relative when I'd rather be outside enjoying the nice weather, or a Monday morning sitting behind my desk working on accounts receivables when I'd rather be enjoying a good book, or scrubbing pots and pans in my kitchen when I'd rather be cooking up a creative meal. I'm carrying Jesus wherever I go, and I want others to recognize His fragrance in my life.