A Burden Too Big for People to Bear

How should a man respond to a beautiful woman who looks deep into his eyes and says (in the words of R&B songwriter Jazmine Sullivan), “You’re my best friend, my lover – Baby, you’re my everything. You’re everything to me: The air that I breathe; my sight, so I see, oh, you’re everything to me. I need you, I need you, I need you…”

Or how should a woman respond to a handsome and intelligent man who speaks to her these lines from Neil Sedaka: “I don’t know how I ever lived before. You are my life, my destiny. Oh, my darling, I love you so. You mean everything to me.”

If someone said words like these to you, how would you respond? Would you melt on the spot? Would you swell with pride? If you were smart, you would run away. No one is big enough to bear the burden of being everything to someone else – no one except God.

What does it even mean to “be everything” to another person? Not, I presume, that one is a rock, a bear, oxygen, the planet Mars, sleep and sunshine to that person. The language of the idiom is imprecise, but the thought seems to be, “You are a substitute to me for everything else. I don’t need other things, as long as I have you.”

Of course, that is nonsense. If a person substitutes a lover for food or air, he or she won’t be around long enough to find satisfaction in the lover. Then perhaps, “You’re everything to me,” is just a shorthand way of saying that my happiness depends on you. Again, what a terrible burden to place on another person.

And yet people do it all the time. A parent says of his or her infant son, “He’s everything to me.” Pity that son: he’s going to spend a fortune on psychiatric treatment someday. A man or woman says of a spouse, “You mean everything to me.” That’s not a marriage any sane person would want to be in. A fan says of a celebrity, “He’s my life; he’s everything to me.” Disillusionment is waiting around the corner.

It is not only unwise to make another human your everything, it is unfair. As a pastor, I have seen husbands and wives do something very like this. They have placed their happiness and fulfillment on their spouse’s shoulders and said, in effect, “Only you can make me happy. It’s all up to you. I’m depending on you.” Of course, there is a flipside: any unhappiness I experience will be your fault.

But it’s not always another person on whom such responsibility is thrust. Sometimes people’s everything is a hobby, a sports team, or a lifelong pursuit. A person might say, “I live and breathe Detroit Lions football. It’s everything to me.” That will be one (perennially) depressed person.

Other people say, “Music is my life. Music means everythin25-26g to me.” Such people will someday stand on the edge of their embattled illusions (as the songwriter Jackson Browne put it), and realize they made a big mistake. Music can enrich them, but it will never fulfill them.

The biblical songwriter said something like “You’re everything to me,” but he said it to God, the only person who is big enough to handle it. In Psalm 73, the poet writes, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

When a person decides another human will be his or her everything, other things lose meaning. But a curious thing happens when a person decides that God will be his or her everything: other things gain meaning. Other things – rocks, bears, oxygen, the planet Mars, sleep and sunshine – become reminders of God, gifts of his grace, and expressions of his wisdom and beauty.

This is, perhaps, the kind of thing C. S. Lewis had in mind when he wrote, “…look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” When God is a person’s everything, other things are not thrown out but “thrown in.”

First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 7/29/2017


About salooper57

Husband, father, pastor, follower. I am a disciple of Jesus, learning how to do life from him. I read, write, walk, play a little guitar, enjoy my family.
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