"Something still to do or bear."

A short reflection on some words of Henry Lyte

A favorite hymn of mine is “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” by the Scottish minister, Henry Lyte.

Since the start of 2021, this line from the song has regularly been on my mind.

“Something still to do or bear.” 

Something still to do or bear. I’ve been thinking a lot about the differences between doing and bearing, finding the nuances of language helpful in identifying frustrations and struggles. Turning over the words do and bear have helped me quiet the noise of my life and understand what I’m called to in circumstances I find burdensome and wearisome, particularly in this season of welcoming a new baby into our family.

Bearing isn’t passively drifting through a situation, tuned out and disengaged. Bearing is supporting the weight of a circumstance, relationship, etc. and intentionally sustaining it.

Doing on the other hand is to bring to a specific state, to solve and work out.

What’s the point of viewing our work in these terms?

Doing and bearing are different skills, and both are needed to live well with virtue. Differentiating when a situation primarily calls us to do or bear can help us handle the situation with purpose and intention.

Generally in life I err toward doing, completing and finishing. Maybe you err toward bearing. I suspect that some folks are bent toward bearing, and others are bent toward doing. So while I need to cultivate patience and resilience amidst circumstances where “the way out is through,” maybe you are better served finding tools to help you do the work of a specific season well. 

All of this has been on my mind because of my life with a new baby. For me, newborn life a season of bearing.

Having a newborn isn’t something to solve or complete. You don’t get a gold star caring for a baby. The goal is to bear the weight, the heaviness, the fullness of season of the well. A season of a gassy baby, constant feedings, a squishy postpartum body and hormone changes. All of those things typically work themselves out over time. The work is to bear circumstance with fidelity to God and His word.

Now there’s a difference between bearing something with love and long-suffering and holding a martyr complex. Likewise, there’s a difference between doing born out of anxiety, insecurity and pride, and diligent, imperfect work heading toward a particular vision. 

This is why community, therapy and counseling, reading God’s word and prayer are indispensable. Each of these are means of helping us know what we’re called to in a particular season—whether it’s to bear or do—and to carry out that calling in a healthy way.

Though the little line I’ve written about here is what’s been on my mind these past seven months, I also really love the line that comes before it too.

Joy to find in every station,

Something still to do or bear.

Whatever our station, whether we find ourselves doing or bearing, there is joy to be found. I don’t mean joy in a cutesy, let’s put a bow on this and Instagram it kind of way.

But in a glad settledness and surety that’s birthed from hope that redemption, reconciliation and beauty of some sort will meet us whether we’re in the darkest night of the soul, or in the middle of the night with a screaming infant who simply needs to pass some gas.

If you want to give “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” a listen, my church’s quarantine recording of it here is quite excellent in my unbiased opinion.