Listening to the news on my way home the other day, I switched off the radio when tears were falling down my face and I could not carry any more of the world’s suffering. Six families in Quebec are fatherless this weekend. Refugees all over the world will wait longer with more fear that the violence that forced them from their homes will also make them lifelong suspects. Neighbours and friends are spitting vitriol at each other over political divides at home and concerning other nations. It is exhausting and the world is heaving with a weight I cannot carry.
Fifteen minutes later, my littlest was chattering away in the backseat. My eyes were dry and the sun was shining into the car. I was thinking about the pumpkin muffins I would make to take to a friend and put out for bedtime snacks. Turning toward my life is not avoidance of the trauma; it is my response to the suffering.
In the midst of pain and struggle, we are tempted to choose cynicism, despair, checking out, revenge, giving up, or getting mad. These are normal reactions, and sometimes the only things we know how to do. But I feel God pushing me towards another way: reaching out for my people, for more life, for more connection and another way. Pain is a cry for more love, not less.
Lighting candles and hugging my kids tighter and making more time for Lego is a political act of resistance against a senseless shooting. I am changing the world with each choice to buy less stuff and get to know my neighbours (born in Canada and abroad). It is enough to grieve by shedding tears and calling a friend to say that I cannot do this alone. It is good practice to ask my mom to carry my heart for a few minutes when it is breaking.
A friend is struggling through underemployment and a lack of purpose. Day after day, putting oneself out there and receiving rejection takes its toll. His hope is long-since depleted. But my phone call, my listening, my sharing in his frustration, none of it is wasted. We were talking just yesterday, and the conversation ended with our gratitude that I can hope for him when he cannot anymore.
In the silence, and often in the darkness before I fall asleep or just after waking, I ask God to carry me once again. More often, my words and silence are a recognition that I have been trying to do it all myself. I have forgotten that I belong to God and to these people given to me to do life with. And so I pray to remind myself that I am carried.
My little people have such little problems, compared to what life will ask them to face in other seasons of their lives. I am helping them to navigate the devastation of toast cut the wrong way, the disappointment of not being able to go to both a birthday party and a swim meet at the same time, and the eternity that is having to wait for the little one to be in bed to have Mom’s full attention.
Our home is a school in carrying each other’s burdens and pains. Mostly we do this imperfectly, with too much sighing and stomping, and we are learning how to do it together. How we handle these little frustrations becomes the habits we will lean on when the world threatens to flatten us.
My middle boy is getting too heavy for me to carry, and so I have told him that the piggy-backs to bed will end when he turns six. He is relishing the fourteen sleeps he has left to be carried on my back to his bunk. So am I. But when we say good-bye to the nightly rides, I hope he knows I will carry him forever. He will never have to bear his sadness, frustration, anger, and pain alone. I will carry it with him, and when it gets too heavy, I will take a turn holding it all while he rests, if he will let me.
Every month, for two hours, Marc and I connect with three other sets of adults trying their best to raise families and love each other well. It takes some effort and energy to get a sitter, to leave the house and chores behind, to stay up a little later on a school night. And when we get there, we visit and eat, and then we check in. Every time, I am startled to discover that we are not alone.
Other moms cry out for more patience from their exhaustion. Our friends are carrying health concerns, difficult work situations, grief, kid worries and fears, tragedy, and the imaginary owies that can be fixed with a lifetime supply of band-aids. The weight of the world is not actually resting on our shoulders alone. We laugh and tear up and hold hands and pray. We are carrying each other.
God is with us, and we are with us. It does not feel like enough sometimes, but it is the only way I have found to fight effectively against the evil that threatens to overtake us. That evil grows and thrives when we are isolated, cynical, and disconnected. It wins when we ignore the burdens of others and refuse to carry the exhausted, wounded, and lost. Call me an idealist, rail against the insufficiency and impermanence of frail human relationships, or tell me how I have failed to live what I whisper. It is all true. And love, practiced with our people, is still the only answer.