Thank goodness I didn’t wreck the car when I saw them…I was staring so much.
They were three men walking in a line like ducks toward the school, one following another, on the sidewalk opposite me as I pulled out of a parking spot on a one-way street in historic downtown Annapolis.
They were slowed by the bumpy terrain – a place where bricks placed in a herringbone pattern are made uneven by centuries of wear and large roots of trees busting through at sporadic intervals.
Or maybe it was the men’s daughters who shortened their steps.
Tucked behind each dad, sheltered from passing cars and just barely in view, was a little girl holding her father’s left hand. In his right hand, each dad carried a tiny backpack.
And that last precious little girl? Oh – she was engulfed in story, her left arm waving around as she kept her face toward her dad’s, looking up for his responses. And he was nodding and smiling – fully focused, fully present to whatever it was she was telling him.
Three men. Three daughters. So beautiful.
I still remember being small and holding my dad’s big hand. It was warm and soft. And I knew I was safe when I was with him.
And I still remember what it was like to have help from others when I was vulnerable. Friends hauled my backpack for me in high school on more than one occasion when I sprained my ankles.
Perhaps your experiences are similar.
The truth is, we’re all still children at heart. We want two hands to be there for us. One to hold, and one to carry our stuff.
Hours after seeing the fathers and daughters, a dear friend of mine called and shared some concerns with me about one of her children.
In the beginning of our friendship, she used to apologize for taking up my time, but now we have an understanding. Our relationship has matured and we know – we are here to help carry one another’s burdens. We are here to hold each other’s hands.
I tell her my fears and she tells me hers. She admits her mistakes and I reassure her that I’ve made them, too.
We metaphorically link arms, and while one of us protects the other from the world’s traffic, the one who’s feeling vulnerable and small waves her other arm about and tells her story for as long as it takes.
We walk together over the uneven path.
As you’ve probably witnessed, the world consistently fails to appreciate the finer points of real, lasting, and genuine adult relationships. They are tender, sacred domains where vulnerability, weakness, and heart-to-heart sharing is not mocked and scorned, but cherished.
Only in admitting to one another that we are not perfect can we find communion.
Real love means letting down our guard with someone we trust, and offering to guard one another in return.
Our hearts are made for Love.
We crave it.
We want it in its purest form – born in perfection from the place where it is, was, and always will be – safe and eternally trustworthy, from beginning to end.
And to get more of it, we must give it away.
The next time you feel frail, weakened, or exposed – will you turn to a loyal friend – and better still, your Father in heaven – and say, ‘Show me where I can lay down this heavy load?’
And when someone comes to you with a backpack of worry, regret, or just fatigue from too much responsibility, will you help him or her carry it for awhile, while holding out your tender hands, offering your strength and protection?
Yes, we can do this. We can travel the jagged landscape of life, making one another’s burdens lighter with the love of God working through our hands.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)