Notice Your Shoulders

Lately, I’ve been noticing my shoulders.

It all started last Christmas. I bought my mom a backpack that she really wanted. She passed away before she got a chance to use it and now it sits in my closet. I haven’t decided what I want to carry in it yet, but I like the idea that when I wear it, I will carry a part of my mom with me. 

A week after my mom died, I was in my brother-in-law’s wedding. Standing at the front of the church, I felt my mom’s presence hovering over my right shoulder. She was always a champion of marriage and I could feel her beaming with joy at getting a front row seat witnessing the birth of this precious new union.   

I’ve since felt my mother’s presence several times and it’s always been around my shoulders and centered around spheres of innocence; as I smiled down at my newborn son; while I was sitting on the grass in the sunshine as my older children ran around the local playground. Moments like that are when I feel her close, like warm wings draping over my shoulders from behind and humming with heavenly energy and comfort.

Not all of my shoulder associations have been pleasant. As I shared in my last New Christian Woman article, processing my grief has taken a number of forms, but I’ve been caught off guard by how much has manifested as physical illness. I have been sick a lot since my mom died and the illness always seems to start, you guessed it, as tension in my shoulders. 

Since my grief and my connection to my mother seem all wrapped up in shoulders, I decided to turn to the Word for more information. The Writings tell us that shoulders correspond to all power:

“In the Word, ‘hand’ means power… ‘Arm’ means greater power still, while ‘shoulder’ means all power” (Arcana Coelestia 1085). 

Power. Really? Since my mom passed away, I’ve felt many sensations in my shoulders, aching, warmth, comfort, but I would never describe anything I’ve felt as “power” and especially not as “all power.”

But after mulling it over, I returned to the backpack. A lot of people favor backpacks because of how they distribute the weight of the load and make it easier to carry things more comfortably for longer periods of time. They were designed to be carried on our shoulders because they are a powerful part of our bodies. My shoulders might not always feel very powerful, but I’ve felt powerful things in them and maybe that’s where I need to shift my focus. 

Consider this an invitation to notice your own shoulders. Notice the power that they have to carry all sorts of things: backpacks, children, grief, pain, joy, stress, comfort. They are a tremendous gift the Lord has provided in these earthly bodies of ours. We get to figure out what kinds of things we wish to receive and carry with us as we journey through this life. So take notice. What are you shouldering?

It’s worth remembering that not everything we carry is good. After all, some pretty powerful forces like to saddle us with loads that we would be better off without. What sorts of things make you feel burdened? Do they weigh you down because they are actually important or because the hells put them there? It’s not always easy to tell. But with a little prayer and soul searching, hopefully we can figure out what is worth carrying all the way through this life and what things we should consider ditching by the side of the road. Consider what sorts of things lift you up when you hold them tight. I feel my favorite angel closest in spheres of innocence and marriage. I guess I should take my cue from that and invest my power in celebrating, protecting, and carrying those things. How about you? 

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”    Matthew 11: 28-30 

About Justine Buss

Justine Buss and her family are currently based in Pittsburgh. She was born and raised in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania and studied theatre and English at Muhlenberg College. She spent her professional career working with young people in theatre and is now a full time stay at home mom and pastor’s wife. She stays in touch with her theatre roots by directing Christmas and New Church Day pageants, helping with school plays, and taking an improv class. She also enjoys singing, creative writing (including the occasional murder mystery party game), bargain hunting, and going on adventures with her family. She is grateful for the expressive outlet that New Christian Woman provides. It's so good to take the time to reflect on and write about the things that are on our minds and hearts.

One thought on “Notice Your Shoulders

  1. Thanks Justin. That was helpful to read this morning. A d doctor said some unhelpful things in a cold manner to me yesterday, and I think this is something to leave on the side of the road. And move on without. ❤️

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