The British 1986 film The Mission tells the story of a Jesuit missionary named Gabriel who sets up a post in the jungles of South America in the mid-18th century. Father Gabriel meets slave trader Rodrigo, who following his murder of his adulterous younger brother has fallen into deep guilt and depression. Father Gabriel proposes Rodrigo serve at the jungle outpost as his penance, among the very people Rodrigo formerly enslaved and sold. In order to reach the village and further make restitution for his guilt, Rodrigo must lug a heavy pack up the treacherous trail to the village.The journey is rough as it is, climbing up a mountain and crossing a dangerous waterfall. Rodrigo arrives bedraggled and having almost lost his life a number of times, the pack weighing heavy on his back. He is greeted by the villagers, who really have every right to respond in hate and anger. Instead, in a beautiful picture of forgiveness, the villagers cut off Rodrigo’s heavy burden and cast it back down the mountain. (Here’s a link to the scene: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wzhhFRqjF_o)
The Father has been making me aware of late how quickly I add the pack of guilt to my shoulders and carry it around. It is not usually a burden I should be bearing, but the expectations of others, my own expectations of my myself, fear of the “what if’s” and pondering the “if only’s” sometimes add rocks to a pack that is too much to bear and I struggle along up the path. Did not Jesus say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”? (Matthew 11:30) Last Sunday we arrived at our normal time for church and someone invited us to join the young adult Bible study. It had already been going on for 40 minutes with only a few minutes left. I found myself thinking, “We shouldn’t be interrupting their time so late! They are going to wonder why we are there. We will just be a bother!” (I am sure this comes from my western view of the importance of time) Today was one of those days when the words swirled around in my head and did not get organized enough to come out of my mouth in an orderly fashion. I came home from class thinking that surely after 7 months here I would be done with frustrating language days! Maybe I am not cut out to learn this language or any language.
“Wait, daughter,” I hear the Father saying. “Is that your burden to bear?” Do I need to feel guilt for what others might think, when I don’t even know what that might be? Will there not be frustrating days no matter where I am, or what language I am speaking? Here’s the invitation found in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”. Rest, learn grace, extend grace. Cut off that pack and let it roll down the mountain, knowing freedom and forgiveness always in Christ. Am I bearing my own heavy burden, adding unnecessary rocks of guilt, or am I taking up the light burden of Christ?