He tends his flock like a shepherd;
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart.
One summer we took a trip to Maine to visit family. While there, we went to an island off the coast to spend a few days hiking. On one of our hikes, my husband commented on the fact that the trail we were on was no longer a trail but a long series of boulders we had to scramble over. Seconds after this observation, a tree root which had grown across the boulder he was crossing snapped under his foot, twisting his ankle and sending him sliding. As he landed we heard a second snap, this time it was the sound of his ankle and leg breaking in three places.
We were on an island which had no hospital or medical facilities. We were several miles away from the dock and the boat that could carry us back to the mainland. My husband needed to get to that dock. There was no way that he could move on his own. He would need to be carried.
One of our group went to the nearest cottage and explained our dilemma. Before we knew it, a group of volunteers from the island had gathered around my husband. They had come with a stretcher and their willingness to carry him several miles to the boat. One of them, a nurse, traveled all the way to the mainland with us where an ambulance waited to take us to the hospital.
My husband had no choice. If he wanted to get the help he needed, he had to let himself be carried. With a great deal of grace, he accepted the gifts of time, energy and care given by these strangers who voluntarily offered to help in this time of need.
There are many ways that we need to be carried during difficult times in our lives. Sometimes we need to be carried physically by others who offer their time and strength. Sometimes we need to be carried emotionally or spiritually by others who offer their love and their prayers.
One of the most moving dynamics of the cancer support group I co-led, years before my own diagnosis of cancer, was the many ways in which the group members carried each other. They called each other. They wrote notes of encouragement to each other. And they prayed for each other. Often, one of the members would comment about a season in which it had been impossible for them to pray for themselves, either because they were too spent, too discouraged, or too ill from their treatments. They would frequently comment during these times about the amazing experience of feeling carried by the love and prayers of other members of the group.
This experience of being carried by other people’s love and prayers happened for me as I walked through the weeks and months of my experience with cancer. And it happened for me as I walked for years through the painful process of healing from childhood trauma. And it happened as we walked through healing as a family when our oldest son got help for his drug addiction. Through each of these life crises, many people said they were praying for me, and did pray for me, and for us as a family. I often felt a sense of peace and rest and even of floating that was beyond understanding, except as pure gift. It was the gift of being carried in times when I could not walk on my own.
It is easy enough to say that we will pray for each other. But, when we really do, I am convinced that something happens. Some have described praying as participating in the powerful current of God’s healing energy. As co-creators or co-workers with God, our prayers add to that healing current. Perhaps our prayers are like the arms that carried my husband’s stretcher, arms that remind us that we are always being carried in the arms of God.
Scripture tells us that God is like a shepherd who gathers his lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. We are God’s lambs. We are always carried close to God’s tender heart. I do not know exactly what happens when other people pray for us, but I am convinced that these prayers offer us an opportunity to be carried—to be supported. And they provide a tangible reminder that we are always being carried by God’s tender mercies, close to God’s heart.
Perhaps what we need most is to receive the love, support and prayer which we are offered, and then to let ourselves be carried.
When you don’t know what to do…let yourself be carried.
Questions for reflection and discussion
1. Who is caring for you and praying for you during this difficult time?
2. Describe a time when you have had a sense of being carried close to God’s heart.