This piece is an excerpt of a sermon I delivered on August 8, 2022 at the historic Madison Avenue Baptist Church in NYC. The video of the full sermon can be seen HERE starting at minute 37:30.
I grew up in a North Carolina high school where football was a big deal, which is ironic, considering that in North Carolina, basketball is the state religion. But for whatever reason, in my high school, it was football. I remember the players in the gym lifting weights with the football coach—a drill sergeant if ever there was one. There was this one exercise they would do—maybe you’ve tried it—where you take a dumbbell and hold it straight out to the side for 60 seconds. Then you hold it out to the front for another 60 seconds. You could see those players wincing in pain, but the coach was right in their faces, yelling the same phrase over and over: “Feel the burn; find the power!” As goofy as it was, it appeared to work.
It's not unlike Moses in Exodus 17. There’s Moses standing on a mountaintop, watching Joshua and the Israelites fight the tribe of the Amalekites. Moses is holding out the staff of the Lord. When his hands are raised, the Israelites are winning. But when he lowers his hands, the Amalekites start winning. At some point, Moses’s arms get tired, so Aaron and Hur stand beside him—one on each side—holding up his arms to ensure that the battle is won. When Moses felt the burn, he found the power to go on.
This is such a visceral image. It can bring tears to your eyes—really—if you’re being honest. Picture someone standing in solidarity with you, side by side, holding you up when you are at your most vulnerable.
Like Moses, we’ve all felt the burn while holding up the weight of the world. Maybe some of you are feeling that right now, especially if you are a caregiver.
Perhaps, you are caring for a relative or friend. Maybe you are a nurse, doctor, or other medical care provider. Perhaps, you are a foster parent, therapist or hospice worker. Or maybe you are a teacher, coach, or mentor to someone who needs guidance. Bottom line: If you offer support to another human being, you are a caregiver, and I want to dedicate this message to you. To all those who hold others up. To all those who assist, who support, who help. To all those who step in and provide the power when the burn gets to be too much.
Being a caregiver is holy work. As Galatians 6:2 says, “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Or as 1 Corinthians 13:7 puts it, “Love bears all things.”
I like to think of this idea in architecture terms. Being a caregiver is like being a cornerstone in an arch or a buttress on a great cathedral. You share the burden; you support; you steady; you stabilize. In caring for another human being, you become the essence of love—someone who bears things up.
Caring for others is holy work. It is also bone-wearying work. When we feel the burn, we must find the power. Sometimes that power can be found in others who stand by our side and hold us up. And, like Moses, we must be willing to accept that support. It’s the only way the battle is won. Of course, those who are caregivers are also the embodiment of an even greater power. As Isaiah 53:4 tells us, God is the ultimate one that bears our griefs and carries our sorrows.
When it comes down to it, some days we’re Moses, and some days we’re Aaron and Hur. Some days we need help, and some days we give help.
Who in your life is feeling the burn right now and could use your power? And, equally important, who steps in and holds up your arms when the burn gets to be too much?
Everyone in this life is fighting a hard battle of some kind. I pray that we are all inspired to aspire to the mighty and difficult calling of caregiver. As inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wrote, “To love just may be the fight of our lives.” When you feel the burn, find the power. For it is only then that the ultimate battle of healing and wholeness can be won.
Reposted from Susan's newsletter, Shiny Side Up! To connect with Susan, click here.