This is How to Carry the Weight of the World

Recently, someone wrote a blog post about a terrible injustice happening in our world.

I hear your deep sigh of recognition. Who wrote the post? What was the injustice? You know it almost doesn’t matter.

Aren’t our facebook feeds and blog readers and twitter accounts spilling over with painful stories of injustice? There is so much darkness. In our own small towns. In our own familiar cities. And in countries so far away we sometimes forget that they are more than just the names we hear repeated on the radio news.

When this blog post popped up in my email inbox, I read the title and then quickly shut my laptop. I told myself, I do not want to feel this. I cannot handle any more grief. Any more anger.

Especially when there is nothing I can do.


My daughter has been learning about the Holocaust. What began as a teacher-assigned classroom project has shifted into a personal obsession. Her bedroom walls are pale pink, there is still a doll on the center of her bed, but the bedside table is stacked with The Hiding Place and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl.

After a difficult beginning, she has been processing it all fairly well. Stories of heroes and rescuers, especially, are helping her navigate the deep waters of our history.

But I am not doing so well.

It is a terrible thing to watch a child’s eyes being opened. Opened to terror. To darkness. To some brokenness in our world that began, I suppose, with Cain and Abel but simply Will. Not. Quit.

She would like to visit the Holocaust museum. I’ve told her no. Not yet. It is possible that she could handle it, but I feel sure that I cannot.


Is it ever okay to look away? To close the laptop? Plug up our ears? Maybe yes. Maybe no. I’m not really sure.

I did go back and read that blog post. It was as horrific as I had imagined, but there was also a clear call to action. There was a way for people to help, and many responded with a yes.

As I confronted my own feelings of powerlessness, I remembered that no one who prays is powerless.

I may never be able to rush around the world dispensing sure-thing solutions, but I can pray. And that is not a little thing.

Even prayer gives me hope. I have seen, again and again, that when we feel a tug to pray then God is already at work. He is the source of that tug. It is his invitation to join him in the great and beautiful thing he is already doing.

And as overwhelmed as I am, as weak as I feel, I hope I never say no to that.


My daughter’s eyes have been opened. But they have been opened to more than darkness. She is beginning to recognize the seed that has been planted inside of her: the seed of a rescuer. A lover of justice. A champion for rightousness.

Her mother is not those things. You do not want me to lead your campaign.

I am an observer. Once, I might have written that I am only an observer. But I have come to understand that those of us watching, quietly, from the edges, we are the ones who, when the moment is right, climb the high mountain and shout the good news of what we have seen: “Here is your God!” (Is 40:9)

We are unique, and our responses to suffering will be unique.

But may our prayer always be the same:

“… let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:24).


There is a river. How does that stream flow through you?




It is summer.

Like the season itself, there is no ambiguity in this statement. It is a fact as plain and self-evident as the sun that now rises straight up to the top of the sky or the green tomatoes waiting on their vines.

In one of those rare congruences, the academic calendar and the moon calendar and every kind of calendar we might consult in this house agree that it is now summer. And most convincing of all, the fireflies are back. In the evening, I can see small, dancing pinpricks of light everywhere I turn. They flash and flash, and I imagine a crowd of fairies practicing their nighttime photography.

All month long, I have been tempted to use one particular word. I am tempted by the low humidity and the cool breeze. I am tempted by the first blooms on the rose bushes I planted in March. I am tempted by the orderly lushness of the green garden. Broccoli and carrot tops and kale exploding along their neat rows.

I want to say, but then I do not say: It is perfect.


I talk myself down from that word every time. Because tomorrow it will be hot or because the beetles will begin chewing on the rose leaves any day now or that lettuce will surely bolt (and turn bitter) in a week.

But I have confused perfection and permanence. Whoever told me that perfect is only perfect if it lasts?


My son and I share a June birthday. He is, has always been, a good and perfect gift. I can remember him at six months old and how I wanted him to just stay. Like that. Forever. I had already seen my daughter, my firstborn, turn from fussy baby to fierce toddler to fiery preschooler, and I had celebrated and mourned each beautiful transition. But I wasn’t sure I had the energy to do it all again. I thought my chill little baby boy was just perfect. Today, he is eight, and that, too, seems just about perfect.

But perfect isn’t permanent.

We celebrated our birthday with a canoe ride down the Brandywine River. The Brandywine River is as sweet and magical as it sounds. We paddled, we drifted, we observed the round stones of the riverbed through a few shallow feet of clear water, and I watched the back of my little boy’s head. From where I sat at the rear of the boat, I could hear him whispering over and over, “This is amazing. This is just great.”

This is perfect, I wanted to say. But I didn’t.




I used to think that earth was the place of imperfection and heaven the place of perfection. I used to think that this life was imperfect and death was the door toward perfect. I used to think that this world was change and impermanence and that other world? That’s where everything stays the same, forever.

But I no longer think it is quite so neat. I no longer believe the lines are so thickly drawn. And this is good news.

Today, I think that the kingdom of heaven Jesus spoke of so powerfully is more like a river. And that river is breaking out in deserts all over this place. And in so many corners of my shifting, changing life.

And I am determined. When perfect bubbles up, I will no longer avert my eyes. I will no longer bury it in a flurry of doubt and pessimism (it won’t last, it isn’t real, nothing is ever perfect).

Instead, I will dive in. I will say, this river is leading me home.

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