The Weakling

burden

I am a weakling. I am a burden on my loved ones.

The thought crosses my mind so often, it gets fixed in the back of my brain. I can see the text of it when I close my eyes. It is written in wrinkles on the piles of laundry I haven’t put away and spelled in crumbs on the counters I haven’t wiped.  I hear it when my two-year-old asks, sweetly and anxiously, “You feel good today, Mom?” I contemplate it when I lay in bed, too depressed to make dinner.  I think it when my husband misses a practice or social event to soothe my anxiety or do “my” chores.  I feel it every time someone does me a favor or lightens my load out of love.

Secretly, I try to keep score with those who have helped me. Some are easy: that friend who babysat for me–I’ll be able to get her back in a week or two. Others are harder: my husband has done so much that short of carting his elderly future self around in a wheelchair, I’ll never repay him.  The thought fills me with desperation. No matter how hard I try to do it all on my own, because of my weakness and illness, there are people I will never pay back and favors I will always owe.  I am the cause of extra work, the source of annoyance, and a burden on those who know me.

If this toxic attitude sounds familiar, raise your hand. Now, repeat after me, “Dear God, help me let go of my control, my perfectionism and my pride.  Help me to allow others to work in service to me. By doing this, I will find Christ in their mercy, and they will find Christ in my weakness.”

What does this mean?

As Catholics, we believe that both faith and good works are necessary for salvation.  We are to work for the kingdom of God, not just pay lip service to its existence. What this does NOT mean is that our deeds can earn us salvation or that anything we do can come even close to repaying God for his gift of grace.  So why do we insist on the importance of good works? True acts of mercy and Christian service have the ability to change the giver and the receiver at the same time. Both parties are given the opportunity to love one other, to humble themselves enough to help or be helped, and to catch the tiniest glimmer of the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice. We cannot keep score with Christ who died for us. We’re the ultimate “burden” to the ultimate loved one. No matter how hard we try, because of our weakness and sin, we will never return the favor of salvation. But Christ doesn’t ask us to repay him.  Instead, his power is made perfect in our weakness.

When we obsess over the inconvenience we represent to our loved ones, when we try to shoulder our weakness and sickness all alone, when we keep constant tally of the favors that help us, we are missing out on the graces of weakness and vulnerability. We are denying our families and friends the chance to be and see Christ in our lives. And we’re keeping ourselves from the great freedom that St. Paul discovered when he triumphantly announced, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

If you are a weakling, embrace it. If you are a burden, rejoice. Like all other hardships, it’s nothing but another chance for the power of God to be made manifest in you.

RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}