[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 Corinthian 13:7
Reading Darlene Schacht’s Messy Beautiful Love has turned out to be a jaw-dropping and hopefully life- and marriage-altering experience. After sufficiently licking my wounds uncovered by last week’s post, I stumbled across another familiar phrase in 1 Corinthians 13: [Love] bears all things.
Stop. We’re not talking about the Genesis 16:11 bear: Now you have conceived and shall bear a son. Darn it, because I have done that, even if it was with much difficulty.
But that’s not what this bear means. The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary explains that beareth all things means to do so “without speaking of what it has to bear.”
Without speaking about it? Okay. Stop. Y’all know by now that I need a gold star every once in a while. I need someone to see what I’m doing, and say, “Hurray for Taylor!” I need my name on the black board, a prize, a crown just every once in a while . . . But that need for approval and recognition has been unmet in the last five years of my life as a stay at home mom.
When we lost Caleb, Jack was traveling on an airplane and I couldn’t reach him for hours. Since then, I will admit that I have fought paralyzing fear every time he boards a plane. When he first began to travel after Caleb’s funeral, he flew almost every week. I was consumed with grief, consumed with fear that my little family of 3 that had just been reduced to 2 would be, again, reduced just to me. I would crawl into our bed as his plane took off, curled up into the fetal position until he landed. When I saw his text, “landed, love you,” I found the strength to crawl out of bed and rejoin the world. That is, until he boarded a plane to come home.
Every once in a while, Jack would forget to text when he landed safely. He was busy working, and my anger and panic grew exponentially every moment I didn’t hear from him. By the time he did call me, I was a frantic mess and usually screamed until he couldn’t take it anymore. I knew what I was feeling wasn’t really about him, but he was the only one I could scream at. I felt helpless, sitting at home pregnant again and waiting for the other shoe to drop. I resented him, resented his job, resented this fear that was taking my life over. I didn’t realize then that my fear was mine and mine alone: my burden to bear.
Even though I have fought that fear back over the years, there are other things going on at home that I have been called to bear as Jack travels. On many days, there is no one but ankle biters around to see my recognition-worthy feats of motherhood. They’re not handing out gold stars. They just want more juice and another Thomas movie. I have taken Samuel to cardiology appointments when Jack was traveling, sometimes so overwhelmed with the stress that it would take me hours just to figure out how to navigate my way home. Bedrest and hospitalizations, deaths of loved ones, and kids sick with the flu all happen when Jack’s out of town. And it’s my duty to bear it all.
I don’t get a gold star on the fridge for keeping my temper, or staying up all night steaming-then-chilling a sick Sam. There’s no one outside at 2am when I’m out rocking my baby in the frigid night air. And, the many, many nights when I go it alone because Jack is working? When the late nights and early mornings leave me nauseous with fatigue but I still care for my children in love? There’s no one there but me and my brooding.
Too many nights, when I’m awakened yet again, to be covered in one bodily fluid or another, I have harbored resentment toward a husband I picture sleeping soundly in a quiet, clean hotel room. I resent his MVP status that comes with a free cocktail every time he boards a plane, and I tick off the inequities of my present situation as I clean up yet another toddler accident. I cradle my exhaustion and I pet my bitterness until it grows into a palpable fog in our house, so thick my hardworking husband can taste it as he walks through the door in the middle of the night (because he’d rather come home exhausted than spend one extra night away from us.)
And, that fog: my anger, my frustrations and exhaustion? That fog stomps around our home and fills up the empty spaces where love should be. I have bitterly spat my laundry list of trials back at him when he kindly asks, “So, how was your week?” And I have expected that somehow that would make me feel better, but it doesn’t.
You see, I have fulfilled my obligations. I have dutifully performed what was needed. But have I borne my burdens with love? I have been angry, scared, and exhausted not because of Jack, but because of the circumstances of our life. And I have poured hot coals upon the head of my beloved in an attempt to ease my own burden. In the process, I doubled his burden. In an attempt to get my gold star, I burn my love to the ground.
The apostle Paul had fulfilled his duty toward the church in Corinth, as well. He approaches them differently than me. In 1 Corinthians 9:12, Paul uses the same Greek verb used in 13:7, though it is translated differently: If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we still more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.
He has a rightful claim. Yet, he does not exercise that right because He deeply desires to not detract from the gospel. In other words, what’s important is not what Paul deserves, but the love he shares. What’s crucial is that people see Jesus when they see Paul’s works, not that Paul gets a reward.
The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary explains this love that bears/endures: It endures without divulging to the world personal distress. Literally said of holding fast like a watertight vessel; so the charitable man contains himself in silence from giving vent to what selfishness would prompt under personal hardship.
Alright, that’s all well and good in the commentaries, but what about real life? I have had real life, mountainous problems, as you have. I have faltered and sobbed alone, I have fought back demons of fear and I have folded endless piles of laundry alone. The loneliness has eaten at me, deep and vicious, on long days that seemed to have no end or true beginning.
Darlene Schacht speaks of her own endless days with small children and a constantly working husband. She harbored resentment–like I have–and her marriage suffered–as mine has. She confesses, “My problem was that every time I faced disappointment, I focused on the world, assuming that the grass was greener beyond my fence. I was looking for an outward solution when the real issue was that I needed to grow in contentment, forgiveness, understanding, and love” (pg. 180).
So, what are my solutions to these long days with no gold stars? I have started to keep a list of gifts in my life, and am trying to, as Darlene suggests, In everything give thanks, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. When I am overwhelmed in the morning trying to get out the door, I’m praying. When I’m doing dishes and my back aches, and my mind wanders to relationships and situations I can’t fix, I pray. When I am exhausted, I pray. When I’m tears trickling and hands shaking, I pray.
And you know what? I don’t feel as alone.
And I don’t feel as starved, deprived, trampled.
He says to you and to me:
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Exodus 33:14
There is peace in Jesus, a place to set down your burden, sister. We don’t have to launch our burdens like ammunition at our spouses. He can take our burdens and teach us to carry them with grace.
Lord, teach me to bear the burdens you have given me with grace and dignity. I want to be the contented woman that Darlene talks about, who “brings glory to [my] husband while trusting God for [my] future” (pg.173). I want to please you, and love my husband with such beauty that people see YOU, not me, when they witness my marriage. Please be beside me in every lonely day and every dark night. In You alone is there the power to accomplish this.