Monday, December 16, 2013

Who Carries Your Load?

Do you have a pack mule? I’m not asking if you know what a pack mule is or if you know someone who works as hard as one, but rather, do you have one?  A human one? Is there someone in your life who carries a load that many (including you) should share? If so, then you have a pack mule – someone who will carry your load.    

In my estimation, the analogy of a pack mule represents one with a strong back, broad shoulders, who can carry a load that most aren’t capable of carrying.  We’re most apt to take advantage of them and take them for granted. Over time, we reach a point where we’ve heaped tasks and responsibilities onto one person, our pack mule, until she is barely able to stand. Most of us know someone we might consider a pack mule at church, or in the workplace, or the home school co-op, or among the elementary school volunteers, or in the homeowner’s association, or in the kitchen on Thanksgiving.  When they first started their given role, they felt like the donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem. Joyful. Honored. Chosen. Appreciated. (The donkey’s emotions aren’t Scriptural, just part of my imagination). But unlike Mary’s donkey, over time as more and more was added to the load, our pack mule began to feel neglected. Abused. Weighed Down. Weary. 

Let me give an example. A friend of mine attends a small church in another city and sadly, the church has continued to reduce in its congregational size. For each former volunteer who exited, my friend accepted more tasks because she’s capable, she makes herself available, and she is willing to help. At least she began with a willing spirit. I’m not so sure she’d consider herself willing at this point, because she’s so worn down and exhausted.

As things have progressed, my beautiful friend has not only carried much of the emotional burden of a church that’s been close to shutting its doors, she is also the person who picks up the work load and continues to ensure that everything is done and done well. Why? So that when guests enter, they feel welcome and see more than a struggling church, but one that loves and honors the Lord in all they do. She wants guests to see Jesus, not the distraction of a church that neglects important details.

Pack mules often go unnoticed because they refuse to complain and they carry their load quietly. But they’re often sinking into an emotional and spiritual pit. We don’t intend to make them feel this way, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we realize we’re the ones who allow it to happen. We allow the pack mule to accept too many tasks and responsibilities. Often we let ourselves relax believing that our pack mule has a handle on things. We know we don’t have to get involved because she’ll handle things so well, and often catch ourselves thinking, “that’s what she signed up for,” or

“if the load were too much, she’d say no” (the truth is, pack mules rarely know how to say no), or

“I don’t know how to do what she does.”

We might think, “I’ll help her after the holidays because I have a lot on my plate right now.” I promise you, our pack mule has a lot to do for the holidays, too. She’d love your help now!

When we see a need and meet a need, the work is soon spread out evenly and we can prevent making pack mules out of our sisters in Christ. Here are a few ways to put this idea into practice: 

1)      Take Notice.  (John 13:34-35; Philippians 2:3)
Everyone likes a little attention from time to time. Let’s do the math and realize that when we look at all of the “stuff” that gets done around us, it’s often done by one very faithful and very exhausted person.  When we realize what’s happening, we can take action.

2)      Show gratitude.  (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 10:24)
At the very least, we can express thanks for all that our pack mule does. Gratitude goes a long way in spurring on endurance and keeping a heart focused on what’s important.

3)      Lend a Helping Hand.  Often.  (Matthew 20:28; Acts 20:35)
Let’s stop thinking that “this is so-and-so’s job,” and start pitching in. If we don’t know what to do or how to do it, we can simply ask appropriate questions then get to work. The job is most often too big for just one. Once we learn how, we can help on a consistent basis and start removing some of the load from our pack mule. 

I’m very excited to report that my weary friend’s church is turning around. God is clearly on the move. He’s bringing new families through the doors of the church and has breathed new life and energy into the Gospel spreading within the community. The once alive and vibrant church that dissolved into almost nothing is growing again with new life. It’s exciting to see and, in my mind, is due in no small part to the faithful and diligent effort of a dedicated person - the one who remembers WHO she serves, and continues to carry the load, no matter how hard it is.

We serve that ONE, our Savior Jesus Christ, too, so why, oh why, do we let the faithful few carry such huge loads? If you know a pack mule, will you reach out to her today? Will you serve Christ by honoring her? And for heaven’s sake, will you help her?

Be strengthened today, by the Word,

Psalm 119:28

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