I really dislike asking for help. Though I have asked hundreds of people for the last 10 years to help provide thousands of dollars for my work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to help college students know and live out their faith in Jesus, it feels different than asking for help in ordinary ways.
If I’m short a cup of sugar mid-bake, I’ll ask Dave to go next door to ask for some sugar or just go to the store to buy it myself. I still feel like I’m inconveniencing people asking for a ride somewhere now that we have decided to be a one-car family. I mentally stack up what favors I can do with friends if they agree to watch Reuben if I need some extra time to work to go to an appointment. Since moving to Ohio, I’ve had to learn to ask for a lot more help, often from people I don’t know that well.
Recently Dave and I have experienced an outpouring of love and help from friends to want to bless our marriage. Thanks to some of our donors who had attended a family life marriage conference and gifted passes to the family life marriage conference to all the missionaries they support, we just needed to pick a location and pack our bags. We were supposed to go this fall to glamorous Pittsburgh, but because of a few circumstances we ended up having to cancel the trip and reschedule to attend the conference here in Cleveland this month. As the months have drawn out and more unexpected (and seemingly unethical) come from our rental management company in Michigan it became clear that though we only needed to pay for lodging for the conference, it was going to be impossible for us to afford it.
I kept having a sinking feeling in my gut that this weekend which was supposed to be about getting away to have space to enjoy one another, talk, learn how to continue to strengthen our marriage getting away just wasn’t going to happen. We were going to need to stay in our house, with my in-laws there to watch Reuben- a very gracious offer from them that we’re thankful for. However, when you think “romantic get-away”, you typically don’t picture that including your in-laws as wonderful as they might be :). Scenes from the movie As Good As it Gets kept running through my mind with Helen Hunt, the stressed out waitress sinking in bills for her son’s asthma treatments agreeing just to go out of town with Jack Nicklson’s despised character because it would get her out of the city on a break- not ideal but still better than nothing. I began to adpot Helen’s attitude of “There is still plenty to be thankful for even if it isn’t ideal.”
Though new moms are often blessed by weeks of scheduled meal deliveries from church members, the elderly or invalids can expect visits from church people at scheduled times during the week, or homeless men staying at a shelter can expect someone driving a church van to pick them up on Sunday mornings, an un-programmed, unofficial request for help is far more difficult to ask for.
I’m thankful that Dave is far more resourceful and humble than me because I wasn’t willing to ask for help and was just going to deal with it. He sent out an email explaining the drama to friends and colleagues asking them to help care for our marriage by providing a place to stay or to help cover the cost of the hotel. Though it still made me uncomfortable to have him ask on our behalf, I’m so grateful he did. As people have not only willingly but gladly respond to his request I was struck by how God has used our community to care for us. Though sometimes I am frustrated with the institution of church, this was a reminder that church is a community who is seeking to demonstrate God’s love to others. Sometimes, part of experiencing love is letting people know how they can care for you. Sometimes it’s realizing that it really would be better to make your needs known to others as scary as it is, rather than be silent & just try to muscle through.
I think it’s likely that far more of us would feel cared for and less isolated if we were willing to suck it up in all our various cultural and temperamental foibles to invite others into the difficult and painful places in our lives. It’s often in these places where Christians can and do demonstrate their love for God and others. And I’m thankful for the ways that this love has been demonstrated to us.