Exploring a construction project behind my Dad’s house one Saturday afternoon was an exciting adventure for a nine-year-old kid. I had never walked through an unfinished building before. It seemed so strange to imagine where walls and furniture would be, and what it would look like when it was done. We got to the end, where a door would open onto a patio, just across from my Dad’s back door. There was about a foot-wide gap between the new building and the existing patio. I knew I could jump it, but just to be sure, I gave a little extra umph to my leap. I more than cleared the crevice but overshot my landing just enough that my knee scraped a cement block sitting on the patio. The sharp edge sliced deeply into my skin. My dad whisked me into the kitchen through the back door where my stepmother shook her head and said, “That’s a six stitcher.” She was right.
What I remember most from that day was my dad carrying me. He had picked me up off the patio and carried me into the house. Then he carried me to the car and drove me to the hospital. He lifted me out of the car and carried me into the emergency room, where he never left my side as a doctor sewed my knee back together with six stitches. What I don’t remember is anything he said. He was a quiet man, so maybe he didn’t say anything. But if he did, I don’t remember it. I remember the feeling of being held tightly and carried by him. Sometimes when I’m feeling especially low or vulnerable, I recall that feeling.
Years later, as a teenager in the 70s, my room was adorned with inspirational posters. My favorite was “Footprints in the Sand” by an unknown author—I would love to take credit for its prose. It is summarized like this: we walk through life alongside Jesus, but in our most difficult times, he carries us. I have found that to be true. There are so many crevices to jump, mountains to climb, raging waters to traverse, sand to slog through. The dangers and obstacles can seem insurmountable. But then I remember that feeling of being carried.
A few years ago, I participated in what I’ve come to call “that stupid Spartan race.” If you are unfamiliar, it’s an endurance/obstacle race for the more hardcore athletes among us. I am not one of them. I do enjoy exercise and challenging myself to a degree, and I find ziplining and rock climbing a lot of fun. But I do not find any enjoyment in carrying a 5-gallon bucket of rocks up a mountain. And crawling under barbed wire should be left to boot camp trainees. What I did like about the Spartan race were the spartans. They helped each other. If someone was having trouble getting over a wall, another spartan offered them a hand. Sometimes they connected themselves to become living bridges or steps or whatever was needed to get their fellow spartan to the finish line.
I think that is how Jesus sometimes carries us. He uses the hands and feet he has here on earth, each of us helping the other when the strain of this life becomes too great. We lean into him, and he carries us. Sometimes it is through the peace only he can give. But sometimes it is through the loving arms of his body, the church (individually and corporately), helping each other over the obstacles and around the pitfalls and finally across the finish line, even if they have to carry us.