Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.
So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter.
After I graduated from divinity school, I accepted an offer to serve as an associate pastor in North Carolina. In 1999, I decided to move back home to Tennessee and was appointed to Erin UMC in Erin, TN (pop. under 1,400). Although it would be hard for me to describe what a blessing this appointment was to me, it is also true that it was personally difficult initially. I was not prepared for how isolated I would feel serving in a district where I knew no one. During my first few months in Tennessee, I was often lonely. I frequently second guessed my decision to come home because I had so many deep connections in the state of North Carolina.
Fortunately, around this time pastors were encouraged to join covenant groups, and I eagerly joined, not one, but two! One began as a geographically convenient covenant group; the other began as a younger clergy covenant group. Fifteen years later I still meet with both groups. Since 1999, these sisters and brothers in Christ have carried my burdens and celebrated my successes. They have provided a safe place to voice dilemmas, fears, and questions. They have suspended judgment and allowed me to vent and to confess. They have prayed for me and with me. They have freely shared their best insights and ideas with me. They have encouraged me to pursue excellence. I am a more faithful disciple and a better pastor because their love has shaped me.
Who knows you deeply? Who supports, encourages, and challenges you? Who helps you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus? Whose burdens do you help carry?
O God, we give you thanks for those persons who both love us and love you so much that they call us to pursue excellence for your sake. Help us lay down the baggage of distrust and self-sufficiency. Open our eyes and our hearts so that we may fulfill the law of Christ and carry one another’s burdens. Give us strength and endurance to run the race that is laid out in front of us as we offer Christ to a hurting world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Rev. Harriet Bryan
Nashville District Superintendent, Tennessee Conference