Last Saturday, my husband and I invited our friends Aires and Aleah to share in the sweet torture and delight of the first Seattle Seahawks playoffs game. As always, they brought their three sons, Peter, Blaise, and Leo. This story is about a conversation I had with their middle son, Blaise.
It all started because my husband happens to be in possession of an authentic game-worn Seahawks helmet, formerly belonging to linebacker KJ Wright. We had it in the living room to get in the spirit of the game. Naturally, the kids wanted to wear it.
Have you ever worn a regulation NFL helmet? I did once, and it’s not comfortable. First of all, you kind of have to pop your head through the opening. And then, you have to strap it around your chin. Also, it doesn’t smell great in there. It’s reminiscent of dried spit, mushrooms, and wet laundry that has been left in the washer too long. The most uncomfortable thing about it, though, is the weight. NFL helmets weigh close to 5 lbs. That doesn’t sound like a lot, especially to a 250 lb 6’4″ tall linebacker. Personally, I don’t quite have the neck strength for that kind of load.
Now imagine being six years old and wearing that thing. Out of all the three brothers, Blaise was the one who wanted to keep the helmet on the longest. Paul Richardson scored that one-handed touchdown while he had it on, so I was tempted to let him wear it for the rest of the game. I thought better of it when I saw Blaise’s head slowly tipping over and eventually falling in a soft thud onto our dining table, unable to lift the heavy weight back up.
“It’s so heavy!” he said, chuckling.
“Maybe it’s time to take it off,” I said, smiling as I helped him take off the helmet. But as soon as the helmet was off, Blaise wanted to put it back on again.
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Don’t you think it’s getting heavier?”
“No,” he said, determined. Then, in his over-enunciated way, he continued, “It is already its weight. It can not get any heavier.”
I got such a kick out of this little kid’s wisdom. Of course, he caught me in a battle of semantics. “Doesn’t it feel like it’s getting heavier?” would have been a more accurately worded question. But more importantly, I felt like there could have been a more implicit meaning behind his response: the helmet can not get any heavier, but I can get stronger. If I wear this helmet long enough, eventually I’ll be strong enough for it.
Obviously, I’m not assuming that’s what was going on in his head at the time. He’s six years old. He probably just wanted to keep wearing it because it felt cool. But to me, it was a reminder of something more profound. The problems we carry on our shoulders as adults often feel very heavy. In 2016, I’ve had to face the deaths of numerous good friends; fearful illnesses of very close loved ones; interminable struggles with infertility. The new year started out with no more promise than what the old year left behind. Uncertainty plagues us still, even in this sterile age of technology and science and the unrelenting pursuit of control.
There have been many times when I wanted to put the weight of everything down – just take it right off like a helmet and tap out of the game. But the fact is until the game is over, that helmet will still be there, large and heavy and calling my name. No matter how hard I try to escape or pray for deliverance, the cup will still be there for me to drink, the cross will still be there for me to carry, as everyone else’s cups and crosses will still be there for them.
The good news is, as Blaise, the six-year-old philosopher, so eloquently put, the helmet is already its weight. My burdens, whatever they are, can not get any heavier. So now I have the choice to take it off, to tap out, to quit.
Or I can choose to become stronger.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
12 Cor. 9-10