In Galatians 6, we read this paragraph that begins with the phrase, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” This concept of stepping up to support your neighbor is not a foreign one to Christians. The church is well-practiced in the work of charity, of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, etc. We are skilled in shouldering burdens that are not our own and, more often than not, take pride in our own ability to sacrifice for the other. I venture to guess that there is someone in your life who brags about their displays of selflessness. I bet you can think of someone who is quick to talk about how busy they are for others, how much they sacrifice for others, how it is their nature to put themselves last.
Maybe that person is you. Maybe you find self worth and value in how available you make yourself to help everyone else. Maybe you work really hard to find burdens other people are carrying just so you can step up to help them carry it.
And maybe… just maybe… that’s not what Galatians is asking of you.
The text goes on to say that, “All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbor’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads.” This statement feels contrary to what we assume our Christian duty is, but I wonder if maybe this text is calling us to the holy work of setting boundaries. I wonder if Galatians is saying to us that we have not been asked to brutalize ourselves for the sake of helping others, but rather that we must know our limits and care for ourselves as such.
I have been working on setting boundaries in my life as a newly commissioned pastor appointed in the middle of a global pandemic. As far as a year goes in which to learn how to have healthy separation from work and intentional rest, this is not an easy one. However, creating space for yourself to find rest, to care for yourself, to make space to simply be is all part of the work of the church! How often have we heard it said that in order to pour into others, your cup must be full first?
And so I offer a challenge this week; discover places where you are shouldering burdens that are not yours to carry. Ask yourself why you felt like you had to pick this up in the first place and do not judge yourself for having done so. Then begin to consider setting it down and creating space for yourself to refill, recharge, and choose to find your worth not in what you can sacrifice, but in the simple fact that you are created in God’s image – and that is enough.