We finally opened up Pilgrim House in July 2014. Hurray! At times I’ve felt overwhelmed thinking that now that we’re open we’ll be actually caring for the pilgrims that come to Pilgrim House. This has been the goal all along, of course, but these days the burden of caring for other people – hearing their stories, re-living their moments of loss, seeing some of the impossible situations they face back home – feels really real, and really heavy.
Recently, I was half asleep one morning and started to pray. There was a lot on my mind. I felt like God gave me an image: he had a blanket, and I was just dropping anxieties into it – burdens like opening up Pilgrim House, our huge to-do list, critically ill children of friends, and so on. Anything I was worried about, I dumped in there. Afterward, he wrapped up the blanket like a bindle, tied it to a stick, rested the stick on his shoulder, and we started walking off. All the burdens were in this bindle, and it didn’t sag or weigh him down at all. He was strong enough to carry them – and he was actually joyful as we walked off, him with all my burdens, me with none. Like I said, they didn’t weigh him down at all.
Sometimes when Nate and I travel, Nate carries some things for me. I often feel bad for him, that my things make his load heavier. He always says the same thing: “It’s fine! Don’t worry about it.” That’s how God is, and yet without limit – my worries will always be fine for him, and they will always feel light to him. And yet sometimes we think, “We don’t want to bother God with our problems; he has enough to deal with.” I’m realizing that attitude doesn’t trust in the strength – literal strength – of God. He is The Strong One. He is strong enough to carry our anxieties and cares, and he’s powerful enough to actually do something about them according to his will.
This is one of the most important lessons I’ve been learning recently, especially in the face of all the delays we’ve gone through to get Pilgrim House open – I need to stop striving and scrambling, careening from anxiety to anxiety. So often I let my anxiety drive my reactions, emotions, decisions, and even conversations.
Instead, God is teaching me to go to him first, give him my burdens, and then turn around and face whatever from a place of peace and rest. He wants me to actually operate – always! – from a place of stillness and rest. Not because what I’m going through isn’t a big deal – sometimes it really is – but because he’s strong enough to carry it. I still have to deal – I have to have the hard conversations, do the 10,000 pieces of paperwork, go to the doctor and go through treatment, and seek wisdom in solving problems. However, I can do all that from a place of peace, not from a place of high anxiety.
The older I get, the more I see that God’s goodness is not in always removing the hard times, but rather in walking closely with us through them. He’ll always be the stronger one, and he can carry the emotional stress, frustration, desperation, and worry so we don’t have to be weighed down by them.
A friend brought to mind Psalm 138:3 recently: “When I called, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.” It fit perfectly with all of this: what would it be like to go through life boldly, without any fear or anxiety because The Strong One was always with us? I hope the more we all go, the more we can all find out.
And, as we celebrate the opening of Pilgrim House, our prayer is that we’ll all operate from a place of stillness and rest as we spend time with pilgrims, allowing God to make Pilgrim House a true oasis of peace and hope – because we lean on Him.