One of my greatest fears is that I will be a burden. When I was planning to move to Mexico a few years ago, I mentioned this to the missionaries that I was going to work with, and they replied, ‘You are going to be a burden, but we’re willing to take on the burden of you’. Not very nice words to hear – although they were prophetic. And helpful, in a ‘dagger through my heart’ kind of way.
I am currently visiting some missionary friends in Portugal on my way home after the Moore College Mission in Gateshead in Northern England. After living in freezing conditions for over a week, it is not altogether surprising that I’ve come down with some kind of cold/flu bug. I have a sore throat, a cough and am sneezing all over the place. Today I slept in and then by 1.30pm I was so exhausted I went back to bed for a sleep (although curiously it is now 11.13pm and I’m wide awake). I didn’t come here to be sick. I didn’t come here to sleep. I wanted to encourage them in their ministry. I wanted this to be refreshing. I wanted this to be different.
I feel like a burden. Sure, I’ve played with the children. I’ve let them jump all over me and show me things and been the generally silly big sister to them. I’ve asked about their ministry. I’ve tried to understand the culture. I’ve learned a little bit of Portuguese. I planned to go to church with them tonight (Good Friday), but didn’t feel well enough. It’s not turning out how I planned.
Curiously though, I don’t think they feel like I’m a burden to them. Or maybe I am, but maybe I’m one that they’re willing to bear. And interestingly, if I was in their shoes, I think I’d be willing to bear them too. It’s lovely to have old friends with whom you can have fun (as we did yesterday), but also with whom you can just chill. Those people who feel at home in your space so that they can go to bed when they feel ill, or stay in their pyjamas til midday, or sometimes talk and sometimes be quiet. I don’t think I’m always delightful or that I never impose on people, but in this case, in these friendships, I think I’m loved. And I don’t think I’ve done anything to deserve this kind of treatment. There is no reason for these people to let me stay and be ill here.
Except grace. Sure, we have a history. I’ve known these guys for almost 10 years. I support them to be here in Portugal. I have benefited from their ministry in Australia, and am encouraged by all they do here. But I don’t think I have earned the right to such kindness from them. For a bed, and meals, and little kindnesses. No. I think it is simply that even when I am not feeling well, they choose to love me.
I hate feeling like this. Helpless. Poorly. Generally grumpy because my body has given up. But even now, even when I have come half way around the world to see these people, I can see that God is still teaching me that I am a burden. I am a burden on these dear friends. And I am a burden on God. As much as these friends love me, God loves me infinitely more. And I know this, because on this day, 2000 years ago, Jesus died. God willingly took upon himself the burden of loving me. He did it willingly.
So even though I’m ill, and not liking the chances of sleep tonight, today is a Good day. It’s a very Good Friday.