I remember when I was laboring to give birth to my daughter. A machine had somehow been wired to my body in order to measure the strength of my contractions, and the nurses would ooooh and aaaaah during a particularly intense contraction as the monitor displayed a kind of bar graph in motion with indicators shooting nearly off the display screen.
"You must have an extremely high pain tolerance," one said.
"Are you sure you don't want something for the pain?" queried another as she dabbed my brow with a cool, damp cloth.
My husband clutched my hand and stared into my eyes with an agonized expression that, on this occasion, had nothing to do with his football knee or his arthritic back. His compassion was all for me, and even in the midst of bringing forth a child I was gratified by the empathy.
I've always thought of that wondrous machine to which I was attached during labor as being a "pain-o-meter". Today it has occurred to me that we all ought to wear a portable version of that apparatus in our everyday lives. It could measure stress and exhaustion, assign a numerical value, and display it in graph form. We could all wear our stress-o-meters where everyone could plainly see our tension levels; perhaps as a kind of jumbo necklace with an electronic display.
I envision myself coming home from a full day's work that has followed a sleepless night, only to find that my mother's cat has eaten a plant and has then thrown up in three of the four rooms of her apartment. In my vision I drag myself into our part of the house as my husband walks in the back door, and he sees the reading on my stress-o-meter.
Deeply alarmed for my welfare, he exclaims, "Darling! You must sit down! Let me get you a cool drink! Don't even think about doing another thing tonight! You need sustenance, let me get your supper! I'll call my mother, maybe she'll make your favorite dessert! I'll call our children to come home and minister to your needs!!!!"
Well, I really didn't sleep last night, I had a professional development meeting today; the cat did throw up all over Mom's apartment, our respite care lady is out of town, Son called to say he was bringing his friend-who-is-a-girl home for the weekend, and Daughter needs us to keep our 14-month-old (adorable and full of energy) child on Sunday. Obviously, no one can see my stress-o-meter.
Trouble is, if they could see mine, I'd undoubtedly get a load of theirs. Son carries 17 hours of college courses, maintains a good GPA, recently endured a painful breakup with a girl who was perfect in every way (except for her desire to live and work in Africa), and carries an activities schedule that would drop a cart horse. Daughter chases aforementioned 14-month-old around her home with no break 7 days a week--and the child doesn't sleep very much at all. Thus, neither does Daughter. Husband is coping with a farm, a sewer leak, and two trucks that need repairs.
OK. I know what to do...
...Dear Lord, I am weary. Please strengthen me and help me. I lift my loved ones to You. Enable us to empathize with one another and to bear our loads together, in Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.
Scripture: "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" Galatians 6:2