The Art of Burden Bearing ANECHOMAI & COLOSSIANS 3:13
by Caryl Lester
Each year the Stable Days Share Garden has rows and rows and rows of tomatoes. We have Big Boys, and Cherrys, Yellows and Romas, Black Beauties and Brandywines. We start them in our indoor grow room usually around Mid-March with the help of our volunteer team (quick volunteer team plug...YOU areinvited to join us!!) After the cute little shoots grow strong enough, they are hardened off and then planted outside. Once they are in the ground, we use t-posts, reeds, cages, and twine as support for the growing plants so that when they grow heavy, and they will, and the strong winds blow, and they will blow, and the rain pounds down, as it always does, and when our cute little tomato plants can’t hold themselves up, support is there and they will stay standing.
The Bible’s New Testament book of Colossians was written by a man named Paul. He was a pharisee known for his self-righteous pride and persecution of the early church. Paul became a follower of Jesus on his way to the city of Damascus. (great story that you can find in the book of Acts!!). In 60–62 AD, during his third missionary journey and while under house arrest in Rome, he wrote letters to the several churches including one to the church in Colossae, encouraging the believers to live well and to be motivated by pure love and by their faith in Jesus Christ. In the 13th verse of the 3rd chapter Paul wrote, Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
The word “bear” in the original Greek is Anechomai and it means “to sustain, bear or hold up against something”. This word describes the picture of what we do when we tie a stake to our tomato plants to help it stand up under the weight of its load, transferring the burden of the plant to the strength of the stake. Jesus, through the inspired words of Paul, is asking us to do the same. We are asked to do more than simply put up with each other, we’re asked to Anechomai with one another. When we see a spouse, neighbor, friend, sister or brother who is weighted down by the devastations, chaos, cares and worries of the day, we are expected to share their burden. We are expected to stake ourselves to them, wrap our arms around them and let them know that our strength is theirs, and they need not feel alone, broken or destroyed, because we stand with them, hearts filled with compassion, humility, patience, forgiveness and the pure love that binds the hearts of those who call on the name of Jesus Christ.
Early on a Monday morning, way back in 1996 I sat on the top step of our front porch. Our four kids were just inside, the two oldest getting ready for elementary school while our little boys laid in their cribs still dreaming of adventure or perhaps mischief.
Earlier that morning my husband Ben was packing for a work trip. I had asked him to please stay. He said no. His flight left in less than an hour and his plans for the week were already in place. I wanted to cry out and tell how much I needed him to stay and how fragile I really felt, but being Scandinavian, or maybe just full of pride, I didn’t.
I had been certain that Ben would agree to stay home, I can’t remember another time that I had asked but because I didn’t share, he had no idea how I felt.
So there I sat, outside our cute little Victorian home, with a cold cup of coffee in my cold trembling hand watching the taillights as Ben turned the corner and drove out of sight.
It’s a silly thing but I’ve always envied those women who could cry with grace, big, pretty, soft, perfectly shaped drops of tears that seem to shine as they pass down a slightly blushed cheek.
I don’t cry well. My composure is rocked as my nose drips and my body trembles. It always starts with a small quiver of my chin, and with no consent the trembles move to my shoulders and then like a thief, the tears steal their way into the depth and rawness of my sad and often fearful heart, transforming me into a shaking red faced child who has failed to be courageous, feeling broken undone and unable.
I knew it was almost time to go inside and put on my mom hat so I pressed through what I had hoped to be even breaths of recovery but found only choked up broken sniffly whimpers .
I prayed and I prayed to not be anxious or afraid, but there I was once again both anxious and afraid.
The last three days had left me tired and now I would have to face more medical tests, the results and the unknown without Ben by my side.
What had left me so anxious you ask? Before the weekend had begun I had gone in to see my doctor for an unusual and fairly severe pain. My doctor sent me over to radiology for a scan. After the scan, and as I was leaving the clinic, a gal in scrubs came up to me and handed my a flyer with information on a cancer support group. With a kind smile she said “I thought this might be helpful.”
I left quickly and stoically, driving somehow by muscle memory as I picked up my boys and then headed to the school to pick up the girls. We arrived home in the usual fashion and the usual time giving me a chance to slip away and collect my rouge thoughts. Ben would be home late, arriving on the last flight of the night, as was his routine. I was exhausted and ready for bed as soon as the kids were all down for the night. I would wait and talk with Ben in the morning. I crawled under the covers and closed my eyes. Waves of sadness flooded my mind followed by anxious moments of heart pounding panic.
My mother had fought cancer a few times now and won, I had a friend who fought and lost. What will my story be, will I fight and win, will I fight and lose? Will I be the one to stand by Ben as our children grow? Will I lose my hair, will I lose my life? I took a deep breath and began to talk back to my panicked thoughts with an assertive ‘pull yourself together’ shake of my head.
In the morning, while we were enjoying our first cups of fresh hot coffee, with no tears and my practiced stoic look, I told Ben that I had cancer, and that we would know more after my Monday morning appointment.
Ben took the news as the strong Christian leader that he is and has always been: full of faith and expectation that the Lord would heal and provide.
Ben’s love for me is shown through his kindness and devotion and I know that whether he is in or out of town that never changes. But even with that truth, I still felt the sting of his absence and the chill that the unknown brings.
A deep and surrendered sigh escaped my lips as I rose to my feet. I dumped out my cold coffee and turned to grab the handle of the porch door.
That’s when out of the corner of my eye, I saw our car. Ben parked in front of the house, swung open the door and ran to me. With tears in his eyes he pulled me into his arms.
“I Love You!” he cried, pressing his cheek against mine. “I was half way to the airport and had to come back. If you need me to be here I’ll be here. I will always be here!”
Ben is one who would stand on his head in the rain for a friend if that is what that friend needed. He weeps when others weep ( Romans 12:15) and he bears with others through the burdens they face.
For over 30 years Ben has been my friend, he has loved me,encouraged me and forgiven me when I’m prideful, stubborn, selfish, foolish, or anxious. He bears my weight, when my strength fails and reminds me to stand firm because we serve a God who is never surprised or shaken.