My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. 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. Galatians 6:1-5 (NRSV)
Susan Wakefield Dal Porto lives in Illinois. One sunny autumn afternoon, Susan and her adult son hiked through a local forest. They stopped at a tree that had a large hollow near the ground. When Susan stuck her head inside the hollow, her son cautioned that animals might be living in there; but it was completely empty. They were amazed that even with its core missing, the outer part of the tree remained strong.
Similarly, even when people appear stable and strong, they may have a broken heart or troubled soul. One Sunday their pastor invited them to pray with someone near them. Susan was sitting next to a woman with whom she frequently had casual conversations, and asked if she needed prayer. Her face crumpled in pain as she said, "Pray for my daughter - for our relationship." It was a rare moment of vulnerability when a private heartbreak was revealed.
People Susan crosses paths with each day may be like hollow trees. She is rarely given a chance to peer into the hollow and offer grace or support. Further, Susan is rarely vulnerable enough to reveal her own hurts and heartbreaks to others. But as part of God's love for us all, God encourages us to look into the hollows in ourselves and others and to respond with love.
Prayer: Dear God, help us to bear one another's burdens - to give others a space to reveal their hurts and concerns, and to trust enough to reveal our burdens to others, in Jesus' name. Amen