Saturday, August 13, 2022
“A young boy came across a butterfly cocoon and brought it into his house. He watched, over the course of hours, as the butterfly struggled to break free from its confinement. It managed to create a small hole in the cocoon, but its body was too large to emerge. It was tired and became still.
“Wanting to help the butterfly, the boy snipped a slit in the cocoon with a pair of scissors. But the butterfly was small, weak, and its wings crumpled. The boy expected the insect to take flight, but instead, it could only drag its undeveloped body along the ground. It was incapable of flying.
“The boy, in his eagerness to help the butterfly, stunted its development. What he did not know was that the butterfly needed to go through the process of struggling against the cocoon to gain strength and fill its wings with blood. It was the struggle that made it stronger.” https://www.lifeandwhim.com/first-moments-blog/2018/the-struggle-makes-you-stronger
The point of that story is that sometimes “helping” someone doesn’t really help them. The first few times you try to do something new and different it’s quite probable that you won’t be very good at it. Sometimes you need some extra help to get you going. When a child is learning how to ride a bike they usually start with training wheels or a parent walking alongside them to keep them from falling. They have to get used to the feel of peddling and how to get up to speed. But eventually, the training wheels need to come off or the parent needs to let go. Often, that may result in a wobbly ride or the child might even fall. They might even skin their knee and that hurts. But still, even at the risk of falling and skinning a knee, the training wheels need to come off if the child ever wants to learn how to ride the bike. Sometimes, the loving thing to do is give the person the freedom to struggle, to fall down, to make a mistake.
This is true of children learning to ride a bike, and it’s true of Christians learning to live by the Spirit. As we live as spirit-filled believers in the spirit filled-community, the Church, we will live fruitful lives. We will love, be at peace, be patient, kind, good, and gentle among other things (see Galatians 5). We will live by the spirit, not by the flesh, except when we don’t. Unfortunately, there are times when love gives way to hate, we become impatient, we aren’t kind, we do bad instead of good and we are harsh instead of gentle. There are times when we fall down in our faith and we need a hand to get back up again. When a member of the community falls beneath the weight of a burden, Paul says that others in the community should gently lend a hand and help them back up again. We should not be harsh with the one who has fallen and remind ourselves that we too could also fall and need a hand up.
Sometimes Christians do dumb things that are completely against what we believe. Sometimes the best of us let temptation get the worst of us. Think of King David, the man after God’s own heart, who committed adultery with his neighbor’s wife and then arranged to have her husband killed in an attempt to cover up the sin. Certainly not the finest moment for an otherwise godly man.
Paul doesn’t want us to be morally lax and intentionally sin against God. He just finished telling the Galatians to walk by the spirit and not by the flesh. But when we do fall, we need others to help us back up again. And the rest of us need to be ready to help the one who has fallen to get back up and on their feet. Paul here balances burdens and loads. We are to help others with burdens, but we are to manage our own loads. Sometimes people get handed something overwhelmingly heavy that they can’t carry on their own, we should help them. At the same time, we each have normal daily loads which we are expected to carry. We have jobs to do, and responsibilities at home to do. We have ministry responsibilities to carry out. We each need to keep up with our daily loads. I should not expect you to do my regular responsibilities. If I’m the pastor and it’s my job to preach, then most Sundays I need to be preaching. Once in a while, I take a Sunday away from preaching- vacation or other ministry responsibilities may take me away for a week here and there and I’ll need someone else to do the preaching for me that week, but most Sundays I carry my preaching load. The only exception to this for me was after I had surgery for cancer a few years ago. I took off about 4 Sundays in a row while I was recovering. That was an unusual burden. I was not able to carry that burden for a few weeks and others helped.
We shouldn’t do other people’s daily loads for them because it keeps them from flourishing and getting stronger. It would be like cutting a hole in the cocoon. Our “helping” is actually hurting when we don’t allow someone to carry their own daily load. But when a load becomes a burden, then the loving thing to do is help carry the burden. Sometimes, we need to practice “tough love”. Do what is your responsibility to do and give others space to do what is their responsibility to do, and when special circumstances arise and extra burdens need to be born, we help each other.
Questions for discussion:
- When was a time that you had a burden you could not carry yourself? Did someone help you and how did they do it?
- Was there ever a time when you just didn’t feel like carrying your daily load? Did someone hold you accountable and tell you to carry your own load? How did that feel?
- Have you ever thought you were “helping” like the little boy with the cacoon? Is it sometimes harder to watch someone else struggle with their daily load than to step in and carry it for them? Why is it important to resist doing that?