On Receiving Love

        There's nothing more awkward than a "backpack hug good-bye."  Backpack hugs good-bye happen at airports and other places, when for whatever reason, we don't have time to set down whatever we have in our hands.  The physical dynamics never quite work from any direction.  The hugs are lame at best.  As a single woman, I carry lots of luggage (thus increasing opportunities for awkward backpack hugs).  On a daily basis, I carry a backpack full of books, a medical bag full of equipment, a yoga matt, gym shoes, a mug of coffee, a water bottle, and a lunch box.  I look like I'm going camping for a week just walking into clinic.  When I travel, I fit everything in a carry-on duffle and backpack.  I pack responsibly, never carrying more than I can alone.
        Carrying my own bags, full of the things I need for adventures, makes me feel strong and ready to take on the world.  It's a symbol...dehydration...I've got water for that.  Late night...I'm armed with espresso.  15 minutes without a patient...I'm prepared with material to study for my boards.  Mass murderer on the loose?  I can outrun them with my gym shoes.  As Americans, we sometimes pride ourselves in how much we can carry (physically and emotionally) and how strong we are, but stubbornly carrying heavy loads out of fear does not prepare us to receive love from other people.
        For example, on the last night of one of my adventures, I stood at the base of a steep stair case, holding my duffle bag and backpack.  A friend tapped my shoulder and offered to help me carry my luggage up that last flight of stairs to my room.  I looked at him quietly and said sadly, "I have to carry everything on my own starting tomorrow.  I might as well start now."
        Why wouldn't I allow him to help me?  It could be argued that my refusal stemmed from pride, but more honestly, it came from fear that help might cause me to carry more than I could handle alone later...from fear that allowing someone to help me carry my load would make me weaker...from fear that if someone knew what I was carrying in my heart they might run away or drop it...because I need so much more than just someone to carry my stuff around for me.  It's as if because kind gestures will not perfectly, infinitely, and adequately to fix my situation, I refuse any form of help.  It isn't logical.  I desire infinite help and relief (everyone does), but this type of love only comes from God.
        I wish I could say this refusal was a one time occurrence, but the truth is, I'm not very good at receiving small acts kindness from other people in general.  I've walked home from the ER after a severe allergic reaction instead of calling my roommate to pick me up, wrestled crockpots full of chicken that were too heavy up flights of stairs, taken cabs late at night home from airports instead of asking for rides, and wobbled across the street with crutches to class the day after major orthopedic surgery.  I'm good at giving time and energy to other people, but I am not good at receiving kindness.  Christ teaches not just to give love to other people, but also to receive love as it is, in all its imperfections.  Even during His crucifixion, Christ allowed Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross and Veronica to wipe his face.  He did this even though he knew their help would not change the weight of his cross or prevent his death.  Allowing Simon and Veronica to help him provided no lasting solution to his situation, but it did change his journey.  It made Him more human and bettered the lives of those who carried his cross with him.
        A few weeks ago, I went back to Creighton for a wedding.  I planned to sleep on the floor that night, but when I arrived, Megan insisted on giving up her bed for me.  I resisted several times.  Calmly, she placed her hands on my shoulders and said, "Christian, let me love you in this way.  Go to sleep."  We all have our "backpacks."  They're heavy, and they make it hard to let other people love us physically and emotionally.  So sometimes, I think we are called to set them down so we can hug that person good-bye the way we mean to, so that others can temporarily help us carry our load.  Sometimes as Megan said, we must let ourselves be loved.  Setting down our "backpacks" may not lighten our loads or required sacrifices, but it will change our journey.  It will allow us to become more human while bettering the lives of those around us, and that is worth everything.