|artwork by Krista Hamrick|
I made friends quickly in my advanced classes at Sebring High, becoming one of the editors of the school yearbook my junior year, and being elected as the first female president of the student body my senior year. At the same time, we had a sweet neighbor, Ralph Shuckford, who was an adult with developmental disabilities. I would often think as I spent time with him, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” I led Bible studies at my church before school, and was a volunteer with a community group that planned parties and special events for mentally handicapped adults in Highlands County on the weekends.
It was a natural progression when I completed two years at the community college to major in exceptional student education. I was participant in a college student group which completed the “Admitted-for-a Weekend” immersion program at the Sunland Training Center near Gainesville. I was brought in and admitted on Friday as if I was one of the mentally handicapped adults in one of the cottages with locked doors and house mothers. I was told only to observe and not speak for the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, we had a debriefing session, and I wrote my reactions to the weekend as a stream-of-consciousness term paper for my college English class.
During all these experiences, the song, He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother was my anthem. Now all these years later, after earning a BA in exceptional student education and a M.Ed. in gifted education, serving in various teaching and supervisory roles in education, and as a staff liaison for a church ministry for children with special needs, the lyrics still ring true for me… The road is long, with many a winding turn that leads us to who knows where, who knows where. But I'm strong, strong enough to carry him, he ain't heavy—he's my brother. So on we go, his welfare is my concern. No burden is he to bear, we'll get there. For I know he would not encumber me, he ain't heavy—he's my brother. If I'm laden at all, I'm laden with sadness, that everyone's heart isn't filled with gladness of love for one another. It's a long, long road from which there is no return, while we're on our way to there, why not share? And the load, it doesn't weigh me down at all…he ain't heavy—he's my brother. These precious memories prompted me to do a word study on the scripture reference in Krista Hamrick's artwork, Galatians 6:2…
NASB: Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Amplified Bible: Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it].
Expanded Bible: By ·helping each other with your troubles [L bearing each other’s burdens], you truly ·obey [accomplish; fulfill] the law of Christ.
How can we avoid becoming discouraged when we deal with overwhelming tasks and challenges, including individuals with special needs, in the world around us? We can successfully keep running our race with endurance and not burn out only by fixing our eyes on Jesus. Our faith, our ability to be a blessing to our brothers and sisters, or to accomplish anything at all of lasting value depends on Christ from start to finish. When we lift our eyes to the all-powerful, all-loving God, we can commit our way to him and receive his assurance that in God’s time we will reap what he has richly prepared for us—a harvest of blessing—as we daily draw fresh strength from his inexhaustible supply.
Lord Jesus, thank you for teaching me that I can do nothing apart from You. You are my life, my strength, my salvation. I give myself to You anew each day and ask that Your resurrection power restore my joy and renew my vision for the special needs of those around me daily. Truly, there, but for the grace of God, go I. In Your precious name I pray, amen.
Look Up—meditate on Galatians 6:2