That's what it comes down to.
My sixteen year old daughter was done with classes for the day. It was a fine late-summer day, sunny and hot, and she was ready to drive home. She got in my pickup, started it up, and waited in a long line of cars all wanting nothing more than to get out of the parking lot. While she waited, she turned the air on and cranked it up. She inched forward a little at a time in that interminably long line of cars, politely letting others go in front of her from time to time. She turned onto the access road that led from the parking lot toward the street. Foot constantly on the brake, transmission in "Drive," the engine never got to rev up and the air conditioning unit continued to put a heavy load on it. The depths of that engine began to get very, very hot.
I'm sure somewhere along the way, Dad-like, I have mentioned that the A/C puts a heavy load on the engine. In fact I know that topic came up this summer when we were on vacation. But my daughter didn't know that idling the engine when you're in gear and having the air on is a terrible combination that can make the engine overheat very quickly.
So when, just before she got out onto the street where she'd have been able to rev the engine a bit, the steam started pouring out of the engine compartment, she was quite panicked. She shut the engine off, thinking it must be on fire (steam looks a lot like smoke to the inexperienced) and I got to make the Dad trip. Of course, by the time I arrived the pickup had been cooling off for a half hour or better and she felt a little foolish when I just started it up and drove it back into the parking lot to check it out. It really wasn't her fault; she didn't know what kind of a burden she was placing on that engine.
I wonder how often we do this without realizing it. We place heavy burdens on other people without really meaning to. We just don't realize what a load we're putting on them. I'm convinced we do this to all kinds of people -- to those we love most, like spouses and children and parents. We do this to those we barely know -- the lady behind the counter at the DMV, or the grocery checkout clerk, or the driver going under the speed limit in the fast lane. Who knows what kind of a load they're already carrying? Do you suppose it might be a good idea to find out before we add to their burdens?
When you are tempted to stand up for your rights, to demand attention, to let off a little steam because you've finally had it; when you are ready to dispense some wisdom (without kindness) to a few well-deserving people; when you are ready to share a piece of your mind with someone who seems to need your help to get their act together -- stop. Think for a minute. What if they are loaded down already? What if the day has been unbearable? What if they just received bad news? What if life is more than they can bear? What if that saying about "God will never give you more than you can handle" seems to them like terrible irony, because they're overloaded?Do you want to be the voice that sends them over the edge?
What if we learned to speak gently, whether we need to or not? What if we learned to love mercy more than getting our way? What if we treated the people around us with tenderness, rather than demanding a self-focused version of justice?
What if we took burdens off those around us, instead of adding to their load? There are a lot of places in the Bible that describe this kind of attitude and action. Galatians 6:2 is good for starters. Luke 11:46 shows that Jesus understood this kind of loading-others-down all too well.
Oh, that Jesus' followers might be known as those who ease the burdens of others, as those who, like Jesus, long to give relief to the overloaded! (See Matthew 11:28-30, especially if you feel today like you are one whose burdens have brought you to the breaking point!)