Hikes in the woods serve as a balm to my weary soul. The quiet slows my busy mind. The smells and sounds of nature bring me back to my childhood, to simpler times. I wonder why I allow so long to go without these times of refreshing. Last weekend, my husband, three kids and I were thrilled to get to spend a few days in the wilderness. Each year my amazing aunt graciously opens her home to my cousins and I for a fun-filled weekend. My oldest daughter loves that she gets to spend quality time with her second cousin, who is just a year younger than her, while the younger two love the freedom to explore the outdoors. We all enjoy catching up with my aunt since we don’t get to see each other often enough.
On our last day visiting, my cousin led us on a hike through the woods on their property. We’d done this hike the year before and the kids were looking forward to the views at the top. My youngest even promised that he wouldn’t ask me to carry him at all this year. We started off great, trying to identify tracks and scat along the way. We even saw a skull of what seemed to be a squirrel, or at least something of similar size.
As we ascended the last hill before arriving at our destination, Crystal Rock, my middle daughter tripped and fell. I stopped to see if she was okay and then heard my youngest cry while simultaneously feeling a pinch on my leg. I swatted away a bug from my leg and turned to realize my youngest had just been stung by a bee on his leg, while my middle daughter scraped her leg. My middle has always been tough and recovered quickly from the scrape, but my youngest feels pain more. We all took a breath, and everyone tried to calm him down. I gave him some ice from my water bottle and we asked if he wanted to turn back or keep going. He opted to keep going (so proud of him!) and so off we went. We made it there and sat atop the rock, looking at the views.
The way back was more difficult. Each time my son’s calf brushed against something, he was reminded of the pain of the bee sting again. I tried to distract him, trying to use math which is one of my favorite ways to distract my brain. I even taught him to multiply by two’s and then three’s, but his patience was wearing thin. I promised to carry him once we got to flatter ground and that I did. Off and on for the rest of the hike, I’d carry him in the flat parts and put him down when I tired or it got steeper.
As we were nearing the end of our hike, one of my cousins said I was reminding him of a story he learned in school about a god that carried its child around and became stronger and stronger. And with that my mind busied again, trying to glean the wisdom that God was showing me through this circumstance.
I began to wonder what ways I’m carrying my child, building my strength while stunting his growth.
Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, struggle often plays a key role in our growth, but struggle is also meant to be shared (Romans 12:15).
How do I know whether I am sharing a burden too big for another or just bearing a load they are meant to carry?
All too often, it’s easier just to do things than watch a loved one struggle. But it’s a fine line between helping and hurting. My brother had limited mobility due to his physical disabilities, and we emphasized how important it was for him to do what he could for himself. I’d get angry when others would take away the little independence he had. And yet, there were times he needed to be carried, to be pushed, to be helped. Navigating those choices about when to do something for someone and when to let them struggle is hard. I am sure I fail to recognize which is which more than I get it right. And so, I will continue to pray for God to give me His wisdom in these circumstances and am incredibly thankful for his grace when I get it wrong.
P.S. I tried to find this story this week but the closest I found was Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Does anyone know if there is another story closer to my cousin’s memory?
Galatians 6:2-5 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.