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So Lisa and I are in Costa Rica. We met our three children here, Joshua (29), Jesse (27), and Casile (23). Josh treated us with the airfare and some of the arrangements which made it entirely possible for us all to do. We’re away a total of two weeks. What a wonderful and rare treat we are enjoying!

I’ve learned something very important for me, and I want to share it with you because maybe it’ll help some of you as well. It’s nothing new. It’s just a realization that dawns on you when you get away. Here it is:

Care without carrying.

That’s it!

I developed a terrible habit in ministry. I didn’t just learn it from ministry but from the Christian culture I grew up in and lived in for so many years. The guilt that was pushed on me for not carrying people well, and then the shame for inevitably failing was enormous. I’m obviously still learning how to deal with it.

How do I know? Because even just a few days after I was on this vacation I felt a huge burden falling off of my shoulders. I realized that I was still guilting myself into carrying people. It’s okay to care, obviously. It’s not okay to carry, obviously. One person can only carry so much. Perhaps I can carry one or two people for a little while, depending on how heavy their stuff is, but I cannot possibly carry many. The result is that I fail and then fall myself. Then everyone suffers, including me.

Many of us watched a Brené Brown video where she talks about the importance of setting personal boundaries because only then can we truly have compassion for others. If we allow others to invade our personal space and make unreasonable demands upon us, then certain things will almost certainly happen:

We will get exhausted.

We will become overwhelmed.

We will disappoint them.

We will get resentful.

We will feel ashamed.

We will feel like failures.

We will debilitate ourselves.

We will all suffer.

My best counselors, coaches, directors, mentors, leaders, and caregivers, have been those who have cared for me but haven’t carried me. Even refused to carry me. At first I would feel disappointment, hurt, resentment, and even uncared for. But after a while I realized they were teaching me to walk, ride my bike, swim, drive my car, or whatever analogy works for you… on my own. I had to learn to trust my own feet, my own sense of balance and direction, choose my path, take the initiative, and take that first venture on my own. It wouldn’t take long before I realized that their care for me was teaching me to care for myself. The quicker the better!

The truth is, I’m learning, that I can be a better care-giver if I don’t carry others. I’m a better helper when I don’t handle every little problem. If I do feel pressure, external or internal, to carry someone, it’s wisest to put my own oxygen mask on first rather than do CPR on another when I have no wind of my own. They have their own oxygen mask. Help them find it, put it on, and breathe their own air with their own lungs.

This might be simple for some of you. But I suspect it isn’t for others. But I encourage you, as I encourage myself, to give it a shot. You might see just how much better you feel, more energetic, and even more compassionate, mainly because the negative feelings of trying and failing are gone.

I love you guys. I really do care for you. Sorry I can’t carry you though. But we can walk together side by side.

Peace on your path!