Oh, Jesus, Carry Me

Yesterday, I saw that Laura had written a post called “The Weary World Rejoices” and I texted her immediately to tell her I had been planning to write a post about that exact phrase. It was a classic case of blogger ESP. We spend a lot of time together, I guess, so our blog-brains are mushing into one!

Anyway, I had been planning to write a post about that very phrase, and had started several drafts, but was really struggling to string my words together in a way I didn’t hate, so I kept deleting the unfinished drafts.

So now, I’ll attempt to write it for a final time, and if you’re reading this, it means I didn’t give up.

About a week ago, I was listening to my favorite Christmas song – O Holy Night – and the words “the weary world rejoices” hit me in a way they never have before. Like most Americans, I’m sure, the massacre in Newtown has been weighing heavily on my heart (sorry for the Christianese, but that’s the only phrase that works for me) ever since the day so many people senselessly died. So when I heard the phrase “the weary world rejoices” – a phrase I’d heard and ignored so many times before – I started to cry.

Because in that short, four-word phrase, something powerful happens. In some ways, I think the Gospel is shown in those four words. We are so helpless in our weariness – we shouldn’t have any hope beyond the tiny amount we can muster up for ourselves. Like we can work really hard to try to give ourselves hope and security and comfort, but it’s fragile and weak, and it’s not real. But, God gives us hope. And because of that, we can rejoice.

But that’s the “Sunday school” explanation of what the phrase means – “you’re weary, but you can rejoice!” Of course, when you aren’t in pain, it’s easy to explain Jesus that way.

But this year, it’s harder – almost impossible, for some, I imagine – to rejoice. And, personally, I don’t know that we should push ourselves so hard to move from pain to rejoicing. (Or maybe we should, but – spoiler alert- I’m not a pastor, so don’t ask me to address that.)

The first part of the phrase explains our condition – a condition that all humans who’ve ever walked the earth have experienced: that we are weary. Some of us more than others. And sometimes our lives are going “well” (we have good jobs, good health, good relationships) and we don’t feel weary – but we still are. Sometimes terrible things happen, and then our pain is so acute there’s no way to ignore how weary we are.

The second part of the phrase is that we rejoice. We attempt to understand – every Christmas morning, anew – that we are weary on earth but we won’t be weary forever. But that doesn’t necessarily dull the pain.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw an older woman at the store whose mannerisms reminded me of my maternal grandma, who passed away last summer, and who I still miss very much, especially at Christmastime. And yesterday at my aunt and uncle’s house, I saw a picture of my paternal grandparents who both passed away over ten years ago, but seeing their photo made me wish they were still there with us. Even those small moments – moments I always knew I’d have to experience, since losing grandparents is something almost everyone experiences – were painful.

And for these families in Newtown who lost their sweet babies, their parents, their siblings, their spouses – I can’t even begin to imagine the weariness – among so many other things – they must feel.

So this Christmas, I am stuck of the first part of “the weary world rejoices.” I’m having trouble getting beyond “the weary world” – it’s hard to get to “rejoicing.” When pain is so present in our world, rejoicing can seem impossible.

So, I was very hesitant to write about Newtown. I felt compelled to write something, but so many people have already written so much, and I was afraid of writing something trite or self-centered. I’ve read some particularly insenstive and unnecessary things about the tragedy, and didn’t want to add to that list. And I certainly didn’t want to say something just for the sake of saying something.  I don’t intend to answer any questions, because I don’t have any answers. There are no answers for why something like that happens.

I just wanted to share something I felt tonight.

Tonight my music was on shuffle while I ran, and The Civil Wars’ song “From This Valley” started playing, and I realized for the first time how incredibly beautiful this song is. I’ve heard it many times, but have never listened closely to the lyrics. This part of the song made me pause:

“Oh, the caged bird dreams of a strong wind
that will flow ‘neath her wings.
Like a voice longs for a melody,
oh, Jesus carry me.”

The caged bird is helpless. He cannot change his circumstances, no matter what he does.  He’s searching for something he can imagine, but will never experience.

We can’t change what has happened to us, and maybe we can’t even make ourselves – or others – feel better. Or numb the pain we’ve felt, or that we feel, or that we’ll feel later in life.

But the beauty of the phrase “oh, Jesus carry me” struck me today. So often we think about what we can say or do to help ourselves, or help someone else. How can we take away pain? Or dull it? Maybe we can’t. But Jesus will carry us. Like a father carrying his sleeping child. We can be weary. We are weary, we’ll continue being weary. God knew the pain of this world would make us so. But Jesus will carry us.

I certainly don’t profess to be any sort of pastor or teacher, so I have no interest in theologizing about the evil or sin. I don’t want to say anything about why tragedy happens or how people should grieve. I have no interest in making myself or anyone else feel better (sorry – that sounds awful, doesn’t it?), but honestly, I just want to say that I’m weary this year. And many others are in so much more pain. So I simply want to share something that gives me hope. At 26 years of age, I am more weary than I was as a carefree child, but – I’m so keenly aware – maybe much less weary than I could be at some other point in life. I cry because I hurt for the grieving families, but I also – maybe selfishly – cry because I know I could go through that pain someday, too.

I read through the lyrics of the song, and the only action the singer is taking is praying. Jesus is holding, Jesus is carrying. But we’re just praying. That’s all. (But, isn’t that so much?)

So, this season, I just pray.

Here’s the song, in full. For everyone who is in pain, or weary, or hurt this Christmas, I hope these words make Jesus more present in your lives.

Oh, the desert dreams of a river
that will run down to the sea
like my heart longs for an ocean
to wash down over me.

Oh, won’t you take me from this valley
to that mountain high above?
I will pray, pray, pray
until I see your smiling face.
I will pray, pray, pray
to the one I love.

Oh, the outcast dreams of acceptance,
just to find pure love’s embrace
like an orphan longs for his mother.
May you hold me in your grace.

Won’t you take me from this valley

to that mountain high above?
I will pray, pray, pray
until I see your smiling face.
I will pray, pray, pray
to the one I love.

Oh, the caged bird dreams of a strong wind
that will flow ‘neath her wings.
Like a voice longs for a melody,
oh, Jesus carry me.

Won’t you take me from this valley
to that mountain high above?
I will pray, pray, pray
until I see your smiling face.
I will pray, pray, pray
to the one I love.

I will pray, pray, pray
until I see your smiling face.
I will pray, pray, pray
to the one I love.

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