December 28, 2015
Meet Randy Hardman. Randy serves on the Seedbed Farm Team as the Director of Sales and Global Tribe Development. That means he wakes up every day thinking about and working to resource a growing global community of churches and Christians to sow for a great awakening. And he’s good at it. He’s also a savvy theologian and Christian apologist with a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies.
1 Corinthians 13:7a
Love bears all things.
The question I want to set before us is this: “What in your life bears all things?
This text, for as short as it is, is incredibly profound (as are the sections of verse that follow it), for it speaks to both a problem that every single one of us face in our lives and a solution that we all need: how do we bear the trials, temptations, and tragedies of our lives?
This has been a very personal question for me and it has been one which has cornered me in this season of my life. Over the past several years, I have had my fair share of stresses and burdens, some bigger than others, but still ones that call me to respond. As I have come to reflect on the close of one year and the beginning of another, I have come to ask myself, “At the very bottom of things Randy, is it love or is it something else that carries your burdens?”
I think most of us have a tendency to carry our burdens ourselves. We do this in various ways but fundamentally it comes down to the very stories that give us our identity. If your identity is firmly rooted in love, then you will bear all things in love. Christ is, of course, the most beautiful example of this: he bore our very sins because of love. But for many people, including myself, our identities are more like a parfait of stories: the good, the bad, the ugly. Love is there because we are loved by Him if we are found in Him. But we are also found in other stories: shame, regret, fear, anger, anxiety, isolation, insecurity, frustration, etc.
Any psychologist will tell you that our stories operate at a very subliminal level. We’re not usually conscious of the things that we believe about ourselves. While our stories are always operating in the background of our lives, they tend to find a way to come out into the open in moments when we are forced to bear something. This happens in both immediate moments (our kid spills juice on the carpet, a late night argument with a spouse) and it happens subtly over long periods of time (our attitude towards our job, the daily look we give ourselves when we see our reflection in the mirror, an ongoing conflict with a family member). Every story fights to have control of how we bear our burdens because it seeks to disintegrate ourselves from those around us and it seeks to replace every ounce of love with something else.
Paul wasn’t a psychologist by any means but he was well aware of this internal battle. When Paul writes “love bears all things” he is, in fact, writing in some measure out of his own experience. Paul had to bear more than most of us do (2 Cor 11) and he knew that how he would bear his challenges would have direct implications on who he was at his very core. It’s encouraging to us that even somebody so great as Paul was not perfect in modeling this. Any psychologist studying Paul would note that he often struggled with anxiety, fear, self-doubt, and regret as his base response mechanism.
But Paul also knew that these ways of response were not of Christ. Paul knew that stories which create disintegration and dysfunction in ourselves and others were stories that were diametrically opposed to the meaning of the cross. They were, in fact, the very things the cross sought to kill. Christ, as model “bearer”, showed us the extent that love can bear all things. And so he preached “love bears all things” because he knew that only intentional love would have the capacity to carry the burden to this final end.
1) Do you bear all things in love or do you bear them in something else? If the latter, what?
2) Think back to the last time you had to respond to a stressful situation. What story emerges from that situation? What response was aiming to take control of your life?
3) What are the major stories of your life? How do they shape you and how do they intersect with the new story you have in Christ?
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J.D. Walt serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. firstname.lastname@example.org.