In the previous post, I began a four-part series, “Faith through Disappointment.” Of the Four Gets, the first was to Get REAL (giving ourselves permission to grieve or get angry.)
The series continues with the second Get: Get HELP.
2) GET HELP – Be willing to receive/ask for help
Asking for help is hard. I know. As I mentioned, I come from a cultural background where I felt obligated to look as if I had a handle on things, even though I was dying inside. But regardless of culture, what’s universal to the human race is that we all fear admitting our need. So is trying to cover it up.
This comes out as,
“I should be able to handle this.”
“I can fix it myself.”
“I don’t want to bother people.”
“I can’t let people down.”
The problem is, all of these start (and end) with “I.” But if we peel back the excuses, at the core, it’s fear. Shame and pride are two sides of the same coin. We don’t want to look like a failure or a loser. We all fear being exposed, of looking weak.
Ancient Enemy Warfare
Fear, guilt and shame. These are Enemy tactics as old as Genesis chapter 3. The Enemy’s strategy has always been to keep God’s Children hiding in the bushes, feeling ashamed and guilty, isolated and struggling all alone. That voice says,
You should stay hidden in the bushes. No one is as messed up as you are. You need to keep all that stuff hidden. It’s shameful. People will find out and they will laugh at you…”
But we know God’s Truth. His Voice beckons to us with compassion and love. There is no condemnation in Christ,
“Come on out. I know you need help. This is too big for you. But I’ve got a solution. Don’t be afraid. I know everything already — deep down you know, too. You can’t fix this by yourself. It’s ok. Come on out…”
“White Flag Moment”
Sometimes, the waters rise too high and force our hand. We find ourselves so overwhelmed; so backed into a corner by our circumstances, that we just have to humble ourselves and squeak. For me, I had what I call my “white flag moment,” about a year or so into autism.
By then, I had quit everything to become a fulltime caregiver and “case manager” for our son (by the way, I was not a woman who had dreamt of becoming a stay at home mom.) We were seeing 20 different therapists a week, many who cycled in and out of our home all day. We were spending $7,000.00 a month in cash for therapy and legal fees, fighting with insurance companies and school districts for services.
Throw in two miscarriages into the chaos. Then, the mounting pressure for my husband to get a second job, or I would. There was no other way to maintain our son’s treatments. How were we going to manage that?
At the time, my husband and I were also directing a college ministry at our church. We felt obligated to keep up all our responsibilities, and not let on how much we were stressed. “We can’t let people down!” At one point, I remember going out to play broomball at midnight with a bunch of undergrads, while my child with autism was home with a babysitter. I knew his therapist was going to bust me the next day for blowing off his speech homework. Again. Why? Because I’d been out playing broomball at midnight with a bunch of college students.
What was I doing?? It sounded ridiculous even to myself. We were shriveling up physically, financially, relationally, emotionally and spiritually. And yet we didn’t say a word. I just pasted on a churchy smile and soldiered on: “Fake it ’til you make it.” But we weren’t making it at all. Everything was killing us.
Parking Lot Intervention
One night we attended our church’s midweek service. I ran into the pastor’s wife in the parking lot. She smiled and greeted me with a friendly, “How are you guys?” That moment, the same question I habitually responded to with“just fine!” tipped me over the edge. I just couldn’t fake it anymore. Tears spilled over as I mumbled something that clearly proved things were hardly “fine.”
I hit my breaking point. An intervention meeting was called with the pastor and his wife. As the four of us sat around his kitchen table, our pastor lovingly said, “Ok. Let me have it. Tell us everything. What’s going on, what’s your schedule, what are the demands on you. We’re going to help. A burden shared is a burden divided.”
With our backs to the wall, raising the white flag, we came clean with all the messy details of our lives. Everything we tried to keep hidden for fear of being exposed, came flooding out. And amazingly, we found grace.
No, grace found us.
The Body of Christ: Every Part Suffers With It.
Immediately after that emergency meeting, our little church rallied around our family. They arranged babysitting rotations so we could get regular respite and rest. They brought us meals and treats. They prayed, checked in, supported and encouraged us in wild measure.
One night, our college interns ambushed us at a staff meeting. After all ministry matters had been discussed, they exchanged sidelong glances. Something was up. Then one of them spoke up (apparently, the spokesperson.) She announced to me and Eddie on their behalf,
Look, we all know you guys have been struggling to juggle all of Jeremy’s therapies, working, ministry and taking care of us, too. We know you’re bleeding from all sides. So we’ve decided that we want you to outsource any housekeeping, chores, errands, even making Jeremy’s therapy materials to us. We insist. We have your keys anyway. We know your schedule. If you don’t let us, we’ll just do it when you’re not looking.
And they kept their word. From that point on, I couldn’t put a cup down on the counter without turning around to have one of the college guys snatch it to wash it. Young women in their 20’s were surreptitiously folding my family’s underwear. They pulled a Compassion Coup on us.
In early December, we mentioned in passing we didn’t have the time, money or energy to do a Christmas tree. So they broke in to install a fully decorated one. Full-blown, holiday regalia had been smuggled into our house. “The tree is for Jeremy, not you,” they justified, smiling smugly at our dumbfounded expressions.
The church also launched an extended love offering campaign that canvassed our extended family, friends and college interns. That money sustained us for an entire year of treatments: To the tune of almost $30,000.00, post-tax, out of (people’s) own pockets cash.
Sometimes, we need Jesus with skin on to remind us,
“Come on out. I know you need help. This is too big for you. Don’t be afraid. You can’t fix this by yourself. It’s ok. I have a solution. Just come out…”
White Flag, Repurposed
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
~ Mark 2:1-5
I don’t know about you, but I geek out at repurposing: Life Hacks, Martha Stewart’s “Good Things,” Real Simple’s Solutions or “New Uses for Old Things.” I appreciate ingenuity, innovation and thinking out of the box. I love finding new ways to reuse items, and repurpose challenges into new solutions.
These four friends in Mark 2, they thought out of the box. They literally busted through the box (roof.) But it wasn’t until the paralytic was willing to lie down and admit his need, that they could have opportunity to carry their friend to Jesus.
Only once we were willing to surrender, to come out and humbly admit our need, could our White Flag be repurposed into a mat for our friends, the Church, to carry us.
Letting go, letting God
So there we were. The jig was up. We hadn’t been fooling anyone. Just ourselves. Leveled and humbled, we were finally learning to lean on others. It was hard. Why? Humility is required to accept help. It requires surrendering control. Being willing to be seen as needy.
Holding on is hard. But letting go is even harder. Sometimes that “box” we have to bust out of, is our own prison of pride, fear, self-sufficiency, shame and guilt. But when I finally do surrender, surely goodness and mercy shall follow – or, CHASE DOWN, AND RAIN DOWN on us — all the days of my life.
Deep down, we know we need help. Deep down, we also don’t want to give up control. We have a choice. We can keep hanging on, insisting we can manage this alone, and kill ourselves trying. Or we can humble ourselves, be willing to turn in our white flags, and let them be repurposed into a mat. Maybe even a gurney.
The happiest people on earth are humble + grateful people. Whatever kind of help or support we need (e.g.emotional, practical, physical, spiritual, financial, or professional counseling) don’t be a self-imposed martyr. Help is available. But we have to willing to lie down on the mat. We have to be willing to be carried. Permit yourself a White Flag Moment.
“Where does my help come from?”
I lift my eyes up to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
~ Psalms 121:1-3
God provides help. And many times, He dispatches help through people.
In the next post, Part Three – “Get PEOPLE.”
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