It’s a dangerous little word that is employed to describe gently falling snow; the harmless growth of lint on the top bookshelf; or the inevitable gathering of ragged boxes, rusty tools, kits and caboodles found inside our garages. But those things that slowly accumulate can become merciless blizzards, a horde of cascading dust bunnies, and a backlog of space-stealing, flea market junk. Indeed, accumulate is a dangerous word.
What the Bible calls “trials and tribulations” accumulate too. Gradually, imperceptibly at first, the flakes fall silently down. A setback here. A disappointment there. A protracted illness. A wayward child. Deep, wordless pain. Anxiety about tomorrow. Without a sound, the weariness of life gathers until one day a look out the window reveals drifts the size of sand dunes crushing against the soul.
And sometimes it’s not the accumulation of various difficulties that grows so heavy; it’s the accumulation of time. A single burden, a load that was once manageable, becomes impossible to bear if it is carried too long. Case in point, consider the familiar case of the weighted water bottle.
If you have a few minutes, take in your hand a single water bottle. It weighs about a pound. Hold it in your outstretched arm. How long can you maintain such a position? A few minutes and you won’t be aware of the weight. Hold it for an hour and you will develop problems: Pain, tremors, and weakness. Hold it for hours on end and you will end up in need of a chiropractor, surgeon, or orthopedist. The bottle’s weight, over time, will break down even the strongest person.
Yet, all of us have a bottle in our hand. All of us carry burdens. All of us suffer from accumulation: The accumulation of multiple hardships or the accumulation of time – what we used to bear with ease, is now too much. What do we do then?