Carrying Each Other's Burdens

A dear friend of mine just defended her PhD.  In her final grueling weeks of finalizing her dissertation and preparing her defense, she hit a wall.  She had been working toward this goal for years, and now -- mere days from completion -- she doubted whether she had the stamina to go on.

I can only imagine that she was in a state of exhaustdepletedespairalysis -- an unfamiliar term, one that I'm just now coining, that tosses exhaustion, depletion, despair, and paralysis into the blender of your psyche.  On high speed.  And it's one of those painfully loud blenders that makes your eardrums bleed.

I realized that it was bad when she sent me an email that was pounded out in one long paragraph, a manner of writing so unlike her characteristically tight and witty prose that it immediately conveyed urgency.

My response was heartfelt: I will storm heaven with prayers for you until you defend.  Once she defended successfully, my prayers shifted that she'd have the wherewithal to finish her revisions.

She's made it.  She's officially a Dr. and I am so proud of her.  Intensely proud.

I hope that she gets to sleep for two weeks.

Her email came at the perfect time for me: at a point when I, too, was exhausted.  It's a point when the semester bears down with oppressive weight.  Final essays, presentations, and projects align like the perfect storm.

When I came home from campus and set my bloated work bag on the ground, the girls immediately came to me, needy, and my husband headed out the door for work.  For the rest of the day, I would be mommy who had to take care of dinner, give baths, help with homework, supervise the bedtime routine, all when my mind kept snapping back to the pile of grading that waited for me after bedtime that night -- and the next night, and the night after that.

I've heard that you never should underestimate the "point two" of the 26.2 miles of a marathon.

Finishing is hard.

Every time that I felt panic welling up about my own semester, I prayed for my friend.  When I woke up exhausted, I realized that she undoubtedly had been sleeping even less, and I prayed for her.  When I caught myself at the tail end of dinner still standing at the kitchen island -- my shoulders tight, my plate in my hand -- mindlessly picking at my meal without tasting it, I made a point to sit down at the kitchen table for the last few bites.  If my appetite was this bad, then I better pray for hers.

We're invited to carry each other's burdens.  You would think that adding another person's burdens to your own would incapacitate you, but I found it quite the opposite.  Yet another paradox of God's upside down kingdom where the last shall be first.

As I prayed for my friend's strength, my strength increased.  As I prayed that she would be able to think clearly, maximize her time, overcome anxiety, and silence doubt, my thoughts untangled into more manageable strands.

Now, I'm seeing the light at the end of my own tunnel.  I hope to have my final grades submitted one week from now.  I'm in a much better place mentally than I was one week ago -- especially since I just passed back that hefty stack of essays to my students. (Just so you know, I refrained from dramatically slapping my hands together as I stood at the front of the classroom and declaring Essays, I wash my hands of you.  But I thought it.  Oh, I thought it.)

So, let's bear each other's burdens.  Are you finishing something that's particularly tough?  A project?  A rough patch with a child?  The final weeks of a pregnancy?  A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?

Well, drop me a comment.  I'll pray for you.

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  1. smoothstonesApril 24, 2012

    I've been in your grading place...back when I had only my son. Horrible place. I can't imagine being there with three kids. I was teaching in a tech school, and we were on a quarter system. 6 classes every quarter. Ugh. I'm shivering just thinking of it. Glad you're wrapping it up, this semester. Glad, too, for your friend.

  2. Michelle ThuldaninApril 24, 2012

    And Alexander's book is a great one. ^--^

  3. Nathaniel is, blessedly, nearing the end of his Junior year.  I struggle with the faith that we can make it another year with no income.  On the plus side, God has ALWAYS been faithful and we have no debt from Nathaniel being in school.  My fingers are sore from pinching every penny until it squeals.   I am weary, and tired of sharing my husband with PSU.  All 5 of our kids are biting at the bit to see daddy again.  I too have the weary, long days of alone mommy, with no one coming to my recuse so I could at least visit the bathroom without an audience (lol).  "But let us no grow weary in doing good, for in due season ye shall reap" (Galatians).  This has been my goal-setter, my encouragement that someday I can hire a maid.  Someday I can afford a van that isn't held together with duct-tape :-)  Someday, in a year, my husband will be on the road to a job that he loves, can sink his teeth into, and find fulfillment.  Looking into the future and seeing a happy husband and the resources to bless others-It is a good vision.  But there are long days in the trenches until that fine day.  Thank you Robin for your post :-)

  4. What a blessing this post was for me to read today, Robin.  I truly needed to hear this message.  I am working on a project right now that is requiring 100% of my attention outside of work (it is a play that I am writing and acting in on May 19th). Please pray for me.  And I will make it my job, during this next 3 weeks, to pray for others as well.  Thanks Robin!

    Sincerely,Jan Green :)

  5. I should say, I will be especially focused on praying for others at this time (though it is something that I need to plan on doing all the time)!!!

  6. Becky AnthonyApril 25, 2012

    I am always enlightened and encouraged by your blogs.  And what an excellent reminder about doing things with a kingdom mindset, which is often so unnatural and, dare I say "backwards"....BUT, the freedom and clarity and peace that comes along reminds us how great our God is and His ways are always best.  Hope the rest of your semester FLIES by! 

  7. What a wonderful post-you really have a gift.  The timing was perfect for me... I'm finishing up my last week of maternity leave and not looking forward to returning to work. 

  8. Oh, Bridget, this is a hard time, indeed.  May the transition back to work be as smooth as possible -- both for your little one and for you!  Blessings!

  9. Thanks so much, Becky!  That's the nice thing about the end of classes.  It does fly by quickly -- faster than I can keep up with.  :)

  10. Jan, this is so exciting!  I love that you're using your talents and creativity.  I'm sure that it's been a huge crunch to balance this with work.  God bless as you're navigating this balance!

  11. NaomiBell, I think everyone will breathe a huge sigh of relief for you when Nathaniel is finished!  What a long road you've been hauling, but thankfully you are almost there!  Sending a hug! 

    I wish that I could also send you a nap, a maid, and a van.  :)

  12. great post today. i felt so connected to you! as a mommy of two boys under 4, and expecting my first girl this summer, i am also a spanish instructor at the local community college. my kitchen table looks exactly like the picture you posted today! it's such a great feeling to get to the end of the stack (i'm almost there!) and the end of the semester. congrats on handing back those essays! i can't wait to do the same tomorrow! anyhow, thanks for the inspiring messages, i've been following your blog for a couple months now. i'm actually launching my own blog this coming weekend, so if you get a chance, check me out at i'd love to hear any feedback you can offer me as an experienced blogger! :)

  13. I was completely overcome when you first told me this! I was absolutely sustained and energized and given hope through prayers like yours. Thank you thank you for selflessly easing the burden of my past several weeks. So grateful for you, girlfriend!

  14. Thanks, Sara, and how exciting to learn that you'll be entering the blogging world soon.  I hope that you're at the bottom of your pile!

  15. This is so true.  As usual, you write it so beautifully and concisely, weaving God's truth and grace so naturally into everyday life and prose. Thank you.

  16. I agree, such an undertaking can get very tiresome and burdensome. However, we must press on to do what we set out to do. Giving up is never a good option. 


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