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My favorite line in the Belhar Confession tells us that the church’s job is “to know and bear one another’s burdens.”
I think about this all the time. Not the bearing part — the knowing.
I remember reading a post on Glennon Melton’s Momastery blog a long time ago, a post about sitting on a park bench with someone she barely knew and suddenly deciding to divulge that she was a recovering addict, probably had postpartum depression, and wasn’t sure her marriage would last. And the woman beside her, after a long blank stare, opened her mouth and told her own truth, which desperately needed telling if it ever was to heal. They saved each other on that park bench that day.
I remember hearing a brave young woman speak in front of a sanctuary full of college students about an addiction to pornography. She called it “the gift of going first.” The relief among those students, so locked into their own shame, was palpable. They, too, could their truth, and be set free.
Ours is a culture that hides weakness. I don’t think I’m the only one who hunkers down when the going gets tough, who draws inward. And maybe worse, ours is a culture that projects strength, happiness, even when things are at their worst. Maybe we’re just so used to the idea that anything can sell if it’s marketed right — we’re trying to sell ourselves on our own lives. Sometimes I wonder if us church folks are the worst perpetrators of this ruse, if we’ve led ourselves to believe that the projection of joy is the same thing as the experience of it, or at least that we can fake it til we make it.
It was the Apostle Paul who told us that, to fulfill the law of Christ, we must bear one another’s burdens. But it was the writers of the Belhar who rightly added the word that, I believe, makes all the difference “for such a time as this.”
In order for a burden to be borne, it must first be known.