by Valerie Williams – Intern Student Pastor
It is such an odd phrase and yet we don’t think twice about using it in normal conversation.
There are a lot of phrases like this— things like “twist my arm”, “quit cold turkey”, “rings a bell”, or “beat around the bush”. I marvel at the way language develops and how the oddest phrases can mean the simplest of things. In Central’s Student Ministry I hear our teens say the craziest things like “bye Felicia”, “on fleek”, “throw shade”, or “YAAAASSSS” to only name a few.
Most phrases come and go, but some stick around for eternity. Let’s all pray “bae” disappears quickly. Am I right?
So, “dead weight.” Where did it come from? It isn’t easy to find an origin for this one. It’s earliest recorded use was to define the load capacity for sailing vessels in the 1600s but I still think its true origin has been lost in time.
For me, “dead weight” brings to mind a very sad, very emotional story.
After college, I brought home a cute little cairn terrier; I named him Opie. Cutest little guy and the love of my life—he brought a little joy to my world when I couldn’t find any. When I moved to Ohio, he went with me; he was my sanity in a stressful and murky time. One day, my little guy found the front door of my apartment open and bolted out into a busy street.
He was hit by a car.
I helplessly watched the entire thing.
Just typing this now brings back this moment vividly laced with the same emotions—terror, overwhelming sorrow, shock, horror. I was helpless to do anything. I scooped him up and sat with my whimpering baby as he passed away under a tree by the side of the road.
I can’t even write about that moment without bursting into tears! To make a long and painful story short, my boyfriend (now husband) drove me to his mom’s house where she allowed me to bury him in their backyard. I held him in my arms the entire 30-minute drive to her house. I couldn’t help but think about how heavy he was…
Literal dead weight.
Now, whenever I hear or think of that phrase, I’m reminded of that moment with Opie.
The actual definition you’ll find in the dictionary of “dead weight” is the weight of an inert person or thing or a heavy or oppressive burden.
A heavy or oppressive burden.
This part of the definition is what weighs on me (no pun intended). Opie in my arms was not the only weight I felt, I also felt the weight of his death on my heart and soul and life. Have you ever experienced a “dead weight” on your soul? Have you ever been so burdened by something or someone that you could not possibly lift your head to see the light at the end of the tunnel?
The good news is we are not meant to carry dead weight alone. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus says,
“28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (NIV).
Christ wants to take the heavy and oppressive burdens from us and give us peace and rest. Being a follower of Jesus means we get to lean on Him in times of strife and sorrow.
Psalm 55:22 says, “Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders— he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out. He’ll never let good people topple into ruin” (MSG). I find a lot of strength in this verse.
If you are being burdened by dead weight, I hope that you will allow Jesus to get under it with you and walk you through it. There is light at the end of the tunnel, whether you see it now or not.
Here is my prayer for you—for us—today:
Lord, many of us find ourselves in a place of darkness, carrying oppressive burdens on our hearts and souls. We are crying out to you this day—give us rest! We need You more than ever. In our weakness we are made strong, because You are strength itself. Protect us, reach out and lift us up into the light of Your freedom. Grant us peaceful hearts, minds, and souls this day, and help us to do the same for others. All in Your life-giving name, Amen.