Several years ago I auditioned for a wonderful mixed-voice choir in Bath. I joined the alto section, and was soon totally immersed in the wonder of seventy-plus different voices uniting together to make one magnificent ‘wall of sound.’
I learned that achieving true harmony required great diligence, patience, humility, and trust between a group of singers all pursuing the same goal – to produce a beautiful sound. It often meant singing monotonous lines (ask any alto) and allowing others to shine. It meant following the conductor carefully and sticking accurately to my part, even when those on either side were singing entirely different notes. But when true choral harmony was achieved, it touched not only those singing, but everyone listening as well.
Living in harmony with one another in everyday life isn’t too different from musical harmony. For most of us it’s a target that requires just as much practise, trust and humility, but like musical harmony, it’s worth fighting for. Like musical harmony it produces joy and life in those who pursue it, and touches those around them.
Ladies, we are not called to sing our song alone. We may feel the part our heavenly conductor has given us to sing is small, monotonous or insignificant, but without it the sound we produce together is weakened and less effective.
Romans 15:5-6 (Message Bible) says: “May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir – not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus.”
Okay, so I feel I am getting the hang of this one anothering thing now, I just need to gather a group of people around me, pray for them, encourage them, forgive them and love them. I can manage this. So I’ll do what I usually do; find people like me who I have lots in common with: so 35-45, married with kids, working women. Then we will know where one another is coming from and muddle through together.
NO!! This is not the biblical model, this is the world’s model as well as my default. Hence I have running friends, school mum friends, doctor friends – but the bible holds a challenge to this.
What is the point of biblical friendship and one anothering? It is to point one another to Christ and build up His church. Being surrounded with people who are at the same point as you might feel comfortable but is not where the Bible tells us to go for support and for the challenges that help us grow.
The Bible encourages inter-generational friendship, older women to teach younger women; younger women to energise or bring fresh eyes to older women.
At the moment I feel I sit in the middle (which is not the same as being middle aged!!), so I have wonderful older/wiser (the two often go together but not always) women who speak wisdom into my life challenging me to be self controlled and kind. I also meet with younger (in age or in faith) women whom I try to encourage and support.
3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Older women can share their story with me and point out areas where I can increase my maturity and challenge me to live life to the fullest as God has called me. With younger women I can share the tough seasons, be it young babies, or new married life and encourage as each new stage is reached. With single women I can rejoice at the freedom this allows them to do God’s work or mourn if this is not the place they want to be. We all have stories of God’s love we can share with one another to encourage and burdens we can share and pray through together.
Remember though, water may only flow downhill God’s love and grace flows in all directions so sometimes it is the younger women who challenge and the older ones who need support. All seasons have their ups and downs and we need each other through all of them.
So next time you reach out to someone try taking a risk and choosing someone in a completely different place to you and trust God will work through that relationship and mightily bless you both.
“My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more”
I’ve had these two lines of the hymn stuck in my head for about a month now. Yesterday, while humming it over and over on a two-hour car journey, the penny finally dropped. The whole of my sin is nailed to the cross. I’m not waiting for God to condemn me about the way I shouted at the children on Tuesday, or the lies I’ve told, or even the public theft of a traffic cone I committed in my youth. I bear this no more. The weight of my sin does not crush me anymore. I can approach God without fear and hold my head up at church because Christ has paid for my sin.
Now – I know this is a fundamental Gospel point and since I’ve been a Christian for quite a few years now, and I’m a pastor’s wife, I probably should have grasped this truth before. But it struck me as quite amazing; the whole of my sin is paid for.
Every day I add more sin to my load, and wonder whether I would still be accepted in church because of the weight of my sin. But what a fabulous truth: the grace of God is huge and has paid for the whole of my sin.
What about the grace I am shown at church?
What about the grace I show to others at church?
I’m only just cottoning on to the truth about God’s forgiveness. I’m still learning and I need grace. I need to show some grace to my sisters in Christ, because they’re still learning, too.
So bear with me, girls — I’m still a learner.
Bear with me – I still can’t believe God’s love for me.
Bear with me – My old self is dying slowly and painfully.
Bear with me – I often use my words carelessly and thoughtlessly.
Bear with me – I still regularly trip up.
Bear with me – I need you to point out my grace-less-ness.
Bear with me – I’m a work in progress and God isn’t finished with me yet.
Bear with me, and I’ll try to bear with you, because I know God hasn’t finished with you yet, either.
Bear with me, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6
This month’s topic has been the call to bear each other’s burdens. Considering this subject my imagination was caught by two little words which sound exactly the same, but are spelt differently and have two very different meanings. To ‘bear’ and to ‘bare.’
Some years ago I had a dear friend whose marriage crumbled right in front of me. I should’ve seen it coming, but honestly I didn’t. I knew of some minor annoyances and frustrations – normal marriage stuff, but then out of the blue it was over and I was devastated. Could I have done more, prayed more, said more, encouraged more? If only I’d known what was really going on.
We’re commanded to bear one another’s burdens, to stand by our sisters and help lift the weight of the load they’re carrying. But how can we help bear burdens we aren’t aware of?
Recently we received an email from a ‘friend of a friend.’ We’d never met, but she knew we were Christians who believed in the power of prayer. Her request for prayer didn’t surprise me as much as the way she introduced herself: “I know we don’t know each other, so I’m really sorry if this is overstepping.”
Overstepping? She had a simple prayer request: “I’m struggling. Would you mind praying?” How could this ever be overstepping? And yet I know she’s not alone in feeling that way.
We don’t want to share our hurts, struggles, aches and loneliness; we don’t want to weigh anyone down with our mess. So we don’t. We crumble under the weight. We let it crush us, our marriages, our faith, while those around – even those we do church with – hardly know what’s happening.
It’s not meant to work this way, friends. We aren’t meant to do this life alone. But for someone to step alongside and bear the burden; for someone to link arms and join you in the battle, you must go first. You must be brave enough to share the burden, to bare the hurt.
It takes courage. No one wants to be the girl who admits her issues, the girl who over-shares; the weak and needy one, the mess. But things happen when we’re not vulnerable enough, brave enough, to ‘bare.’
Firstly, we’re crushed by the load. Ecclesiastes says “Two are better than one…. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Don’t fall alone, friends. It’s pitiful.
Secondly, we rob our friends of the blessing. It’s an honour to pray for one another. It’s part of our calling as sisters in Christ. Let’s not lose the blessing of fulfilling our calling. Bare bravely and give them the opportunity to bear with you.
Thirdly, we tell the world that silence is brave. When we grit our teeth, clench our fists and refuse to bare our hurts, we are showing our world that this is how it’s done. And we’re setting a terrible example. We must be brave enough to bare, so those around us can bear with us. You don’t have to over-share, but you do have to let others in. Standing together is always braver than standing alone.