More Than We Can Bear

CoyoteLegendary animator Chuck Jones created or produced some of the greatest cartoons, working on projects ranging from “Bugs Bunny” to “The Grinch” to “Tom and Jerry” and “Pepe LePew.” But his greatest creation was the duo of  “Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner.”

Oh the joy when I was ten years old and watching on Saturday mornings as these two went at it, even though the outcome of each story was predictable. The Road Runner would “Meep, Meep” and escape, while old While E. would go cascading off a New Mexico cliff for the umpteenth time. But miraculously, with more lives than a sack full of cats, he would never die.

And on those times when he wasn’t being his usual victim to gravity, he was suffering from one of those absurd contraptions he had purchased from ACME, machinery he thought would help him catch his nemesis. A Bat-Man outfit, a dehydrated boulder, earthquake pills, a painted tunnel – he had as many tricks as he had lives – but none of them worked (and his credit card bill must have been enormous).

After each failure, and they were legion, Coyote would scrape himself off the desert floor or crawl from beneath some crushing avalanche, and soldier on, “bloody but unbowed.” Fall off a cliff? Another day, another dollar. Use a giant rubber band to propel himself into a canyon wall? So what. Bash in his brains with a Jet Propelled Pogo Stick? Well, c’est la vie!

Faced with his body of work, some have opined that Wile E. is a model in resiliency, an example to us all to keep on keeping on, no matter how the odds are stacked against us. I’m not so sure about that. The Coyote’s creator may have made him unflappable and indestructible, but our Creator did not provide us with such qualities.

Life can be too much for us sometimes, and it’s best to admit it. I know that cuts against the grain of our determined, conquering egos, but it is the truth nonetheless. There are simply too many falls off too many cliffs; too many stupid, self-inflicted wounds; too many times when we have had to spatula up what is left of us from the floor; too much exhausting pursuit without the proper pay off.

So, don’t believe the proverb that, “God won’t put more on you than you can bear.” The Bible never says such a thing, and life – any life outside of a cartoon desert – doesn’t validate it either. It’s true that the Apostle Paul said, “God will not allow temptation beyond your abilities,” but withstanding temptation is a far different thing than bearing burdens that are unbearable. Thus, the testimony of both life and Scripture are in agreement: “The journey is too much for us.”

What do we do about it? Ask anyone who is in recovery. The steps that lead to restoration and healing begin with the confession that we “are powerless, and our lives are unmanageable,” and we “believe that only a Power greater than ourselves can restore us.”

I believe that God and his grace fill empty spaces, so the one advantage – the supreme advantage when someone is empty of all strength and ability – is that person can then receive what God offers, for only in emptiness does he or she have the capacity to receive help.

Quoting Anglican William Law from three centuries ago, he said, “It is the sweet resignation of the self, the sinking down into powerlessness that is required. For God cannot do all until all is expected from him. And all is not expected from him until by true and good despair we have humbly resigned everything to God.”

Depletion, ultimately, does not prevent us from living robust, powerful lives; but it does take away our own fortitude, motivation, and toughness. These spill out on the ground like a catapulting Coyote going over the cliff, and that’s a good thing, because it is then – and only then – that God can do in us what we can’t do on our own.

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