In Africa, women are the bearers of burdens. Of course, this could be understood metaphorically, that women bear the greatest burden of poverty and lack of access to health care and education. That’s certainly very true. But also, in Africa, women carry things. Most often, they carry things on their heads. Big things. Bulky things. Asymmetrically shaped things that seem so improbably balanced on the top of a woman’s head. They can be seen carrying ordinary things like baskets of garden produce or bundles of firewood. Yet they are known to carry weird things like goats and sofas. For long distances over rough terrain, without any need to adjust the balance or spot the bundle with a hand. Without becoming weary from the weight of the load. In Africa, every little girl learns how to carry things on her head at a very young age. It must be a skill that, if you didn’t learn it in early childhood, you’ll never master it. I certainly couldn’t. I was never even able to walk across a room with a book on my head!
Life is full of things that need to be carried, burdens that need to be borne. If you can’t balance a heavy load on your head, using the inherent and effortless strength of your spine with the perfect alignment of your vertebrae, you end up loping along with the awkward load in your arms. You can’t go very far before your limbs tire and you have to shift the load, or even put it down to rest. It is exhausting and unsustainable. But in Africa I witnessed a way to carry that is sustainable, mile after mile, without pain or fatigue. How I wish that my native culture had taught me how to bear a load!
In the theme verses for this issue of Quaker Life, we hear about burdens being made light and yokes becoming easy. We hear about bearing each other’s burdens. We are invited to consider sustainable burden-bearing. How can we learn to rest our burdens on the perfect alignment and core strength of Jesus?