By the Rev.
Larry and Laura Rorem
Larry became a minister during a period of catastrophic political, social and racial turmoil in the late ’60s/early ’70s. In 2020, it feels like we are reliving that period with much greater intensity. Larry sought to find common ground in the congregation, even when he personally disagreed with some parishioners. He felt the need to move the parish from fear and denial to growth, empathy, faith and service.
Again, we face catastrophic times. Our country is burdened with a plethora of challenges: COVID-19. racism, authoritarianism, social media, homelessness, poverty, wealth, sexual orientation, politics, substance abuse, aging, physical and brain disabilities, imprisonment, religious beliefs, immigration, illness, intolerance, etc.
We never envisioned reliving events of half a century ago. This year is even more frightening because 50 years ago, democracy was not in question. Realities that were societally and systemically swept under the rug have resurfaced with great intensity. They are heavy burdens that humanity has faced for centuries that have become too much of a burden for us individually and corporately. These difficult times bring out the best and the worst in people.
How do we deal with burdens, individually and collectively? Society frequently blames people experiencing burdensome realities. The burdens of others, including our own, are often met with denial and fear. We fail to recognize that a shared burden is a lighter burden. When we practice understanding, compassion and love, it becomes safer to share, learn, and grow through our burdens.
Bearing one another’s burdens is too frequently replaced with judgment and blame. We can become self-righteous and insensitive toward those with heavy burdens. Blame relieves us of caring and encourages us to find fault with another’s persons circumstances, which builds a wall between us and those who are burdened. This discourages us from taking responsibility for our attitudes and actions, and prevents healing.
We all experience burdens. Sharing burdens across the barriers we create opens us to understanding, compassion and love. Negative attitudes toward people with burdens prevents much needed caring. Burdensome realities can create learning opportunities that bring growth and understanding. Excluding the burdened from our life experiences deprives us from a more complete understanding of humankind.
By entering into someone else’s pain, they become a gift that gives us greater insight and growth into meaningful life, compassion, understanding and love. At the same time, we can become resources for others as we invite them into our painful experiences. It is tragic when we choose to deprive ourselves of opportunities for growth.
Galatians 6:2 says: “Bear one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Burdens are a reality of life.
As 2020 draws to a close, do we cower in fear, deny the realities of 2020 and transfer our anger and fear by blaming others and longing for the past and the way things used to be, or do we make ourselves aware of the realities of 2020 and seek to deepen our understanding of the legacy of 2020 by adapting to change, finding new purpose and proclaiming hope for our unfolding life to come beyond 2020? May we learn from and bear one another’s burdens, and grow by using our skills to serve others with empathy, compassion and love.
• The Rev. Larry Rorem is the retired pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. Laura is a self-described “professional” parent of kids born with neurobehavioral disabilities. They are members of Resurrection Lutheran Church and advocates for all who belong to God’s diverse family. “Living Growing” is a column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.