Four-part series, “Faith Through Disappointment” continues.
Of the “Four Gets,” the first is to Get REAL: Giving ourselves permission to grieve or get angry.
The second, is to Get HELP: Be willing to lean on others. We were not meant to carry our burdens alone.
The third, is to Get PEOPLE: God provides help through people, whether they understand our struggles or not.
3) Get PEOPLE
In the second post, Get HELP, I left off at God dispatches HELP through people. Whether that person is a counselor, a therapist, family member, friend, small group member, a support group, or even a complete stranger, sometimes we just need “Jesus with skin on.”
God created us to be relational, social beings. Compassion means, “to suffer with.” Compassion comes through people. We need compassionate people and community to sit with us as we work through our stuff; to just be a listening friend to hold the emotional barf bag for us when we need.
As I look back on my journey, there have been two “buckets” of VIP’s who’ve enabled me to get through my most difficult seasons.
- People who understood what I was going through
- People who didn’t understand, but could provide real HELP
Bucket 1: People Who “Get It”
By nature, special needs parents feel extremely isolated and alone. That’s why it’s called “Special” and not typical needs. You feel like you’re the only parent dealing with this. Many times, it’s even hard to get out of the house to join the human race because of our child’s delicate medical needs or behavioral challenges.
For years, we were the only special needs family I knew. Nobody knew what I was going through; nobody could understand. I felt like the only “freak show” in town. In desperation, I started Googling special needs parent support, Christian special needs families — anything!– and discovered the ministry of Joni and Friends.
In 2010, we also began attending ALCF and connected with the community of about 20-30 Special Adventure families here. Even though we all came from diverse ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, and diagnoses I’d never even heard of, we found instant solidarity. We got each other.
I can’t describe what a blessing it was to finally have finally found “my people.” The enemy had tried to isolate us. “Once we were not a people, but now we were a people.” There’s unspeakable power in that.
But there’s also limitations. As wonderful and empowering as it was to finally find people who understood us, we were limited in how much we could actually help each other, practically. For example, for most of us, the most helpful thing sometimes is to get a break from our child’s chronic needs. We’re always on in being the 24×7 caregiver for our children with special needs.
We implicitly understand each other’s challenges in raising disabled children. But I’m not about to ask a fellow sleep-deprived, special needs mom, whose own child uses a breathing apparatus, or who isn’t potty trained into their teens, to babysit my kid with autism.
We understood each other like few others could. But because we’re going through the same thing, with our own set of challenges, we’re often don’t have the bandwidth to actually help each other. A person trying not to drown understands the feelings of another drowning person. But we’re not always the best candidates to help each other stay afloat. Understanding is great. But what really helps is HELP. We need people who understand. But we also need people who can actually impact the bottom line.
Bucket 2: People Who May Not “Get It,” But Can Really HELP
In the last installment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo and Sam make their final surge up Mount Doom. The burden of carrying the Ring of Power has taken its toll on Frodo. Steps from completing the mission to destroy the ring, Frodo falters and falls. Sam, his faithful, stalwart friend comes to Frodo’s aid,
I can’t carry it for you. But I can carry you.”
~Samwise Gamgee, Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King
Throughout the story, another character has been woven in their journey to Mordor. Gollum once owned the ring and bore the same burden. Gollum understood Frodo’s torment in a way Sam never could. But Gollum never helped. In fact, he often got in the way and repeatedly sabotaged their efforts. Without Sam’s steadfast –albeit bumbling, awkward, yet earnest– support, Frodo wouldn’t have been able to complete out his mission.
In part 2, I shared how our previous church supported us. Nobody understood what we were going through (how could they, unless they’d walked in our exact shoes?) But they helped gloriously, just the way the Body of Christ should. When one part suffered, every part suffered with it.
We needed their help. It was their insistence on carrying us —their faith and conviction about what needed to be done — paired with our willingness to be carried, that enabled us to meet with overwhelming grace. Their tangible, practical support made all the difference in our survival. They didn’t understand the burden we carried. They couldn’t carry it for us. But they carried us.
Two are better than one
I’ve learned not to assume I can only go through stuff with people who get me, exactly. Sometimes, the very ones who understand us best, can support the least. They may not be in the best position to help.
I’ve been exceptionally blessed to have both “buckets” of people. We need both. Let people speak into your pain with Truth (whether they’re going through the same stuff or not.) And let people carry you with prayer, practical help and support. Permit them an opportunity to exercise their Compassion Coup muscles.
Jesus “Needed” Help From People
Now, if after all this, you still think you can do this all by yourself (perhaps you might be a Lone Ranger type of person) then consider Jesus… Even Jesus, who being in very nature God, He too, depended on people at his deepest times of need.
At Gethsemane, He “needed” his most trusted friends to be with Him. Realistically, there was nothing they could have said or done to alleviate His Burden. Nevertheless, He asked them to just sit with Him and pray, when His spirit was deeply distressed and troubled. He was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. And yet, even His best friends failed Him.
And on the road to Golgotha, after He’d been tortured beyond human endurance, Jesus “needed” Simon from Cyrene to carry the Cross for Him. Even the guards seem to acknowledge that He couldn’t walk any further.
Jesus understands isolation and loneliness. He carried a truly unique burden that no one else in history ever could or will. While there are other special needs parents on this planet — many of whom carry heavier burdens than me — there has only been One Savior. Only He walked a lonely road no one could understand. Only He went to a dark place completely alone, where even His Father turned away. Before the Cross, I can’t complain that no one understands how I feel. There’s only One Person in history who can truthfully lay claim to that.
One Savior, One Solution
God doesn’t expect us to save ourselves. He knows we cannot. He also knows that people cannot completely deliver us, and will fail us. The Son of God experienced “needing” people. And He too, experienced people’s failure to support Him adequately. He even knew in advance they would all betray Him. Yet He loved and entrusted Himself to them anyway. Besides, He would later redeem their failures into pivotal, teachable moments in their transformation. Then, they really became helpful.
If the Savior of the world trusted and leaned upon predictably broken, fallible people, how much more so this mortal mom must, too.
There are mutual blessings to be gained through learning how to ask for help, and learning how to give it. Like Samwise Gamgee, we all falter, fumble and fail, despite our best of intentions to support one other (how easily I forget, in my tendency to be consumed by my own crises, that I fail to be there for others, too.) What causes “fights and quarrels among you?” When I want and expect, but don’t receive. I get disappointed, wounded and frustrated because of my own expectations in fallable people, including myself.
However, it is through that very insufficiency we can all be redirected and driven, to the ultimate and unfailing source of help, hope and healing.
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