The most innocuous of incidents can tip us over the edge.
It seems we can cope with difficult situations, brush off unpleasant people and stretch ourselves wafer-thin to accom-modate numerous calls on our time and energy—for a while.
Then, the smallest of things will happen and we’re suddenly overwhelmed. Yes, small things, like the oranges.
Even though it happened years ago, I still remember the helplessness I felt after ‘the orange incident.’
I was a young mum with a screaming baby and a tantrum-ming toddler, negotiating a shopping centre travelator in a desperate bid to get home quickly.
I’d suffered a dash down a few supermarket aisles to grab some groceries, trying to ignore the piercing shrieks of one while dragging around the deadweight of the other who had decided she had no intention of walking.
I’d loaded up the basket under the pusher, leaving me with no choice but to balance a few bags on top of the cloth sunshade, including one of oranges. We were almost at the top of the travelator when the oranges rolled off the top of the pusher like a bag of balls. The plastic bag split, they hit the moving floor and they bowled down the metal slope, gathering speed as they went.
I helplessly watched them go, the other shoppers on the travelator watched them go, even the tantrumming toddler watched them as they spun off their makeshift runway into the plaza below.
That was my moment of feeling overwhelmed. I’d already endured an hour of feeling helpless—I couldn’t stop the baby screaming, I couldn’t stop the toddler’s frustrating behaviour, and now I couldn’t stop the oranges rolling down the travelator. I’d had enough. I was spent physically and emotionally.
Tears pricked my eyes as I watched the last of the oranges come to a stop at the feet of a bemused woman. We reached the top of the travelator and, as I shoved the pusher and toddler off, a fellow shopper handed me one of the runaway oranges he’d managed to stop on its way down.
“Are you going to go and get the rest?” he asked.
Was he serious? Drag those kids and the pusher down another level to chase around a few bits of fruit? I took the orange from him and went home.
Sometimes our reasons for feeling overwhelmed, when put in perspective, can seem a little trivial. A few oranges freestyling around the shopping centre and a couple of screaming kids are hardly worth crying about—unless there’s exhaustion underpinning the incident.
We all have ‘orange incidents’ that cause us passing angst, but we also all go through times that are hard, tragic and life-changing; times that challenge our health, strength and faith, leaving us depleted emotionally, physically and spiritually.
Jesus, who faced betrayal and the cross, was no stranger to the hardest of times. He offers us deep comfort with his words in Matthew chapter 11, verses 28–30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”