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There is No Shame in Getting Help

Due to injuries resulting from a major car accident which left me bed-bound, I have ample personal experience knowing that asking for help is not an easy thing to do.

I remember the time when my weekly Bible study was moved from its usual location. When I arrived, my heart sank upon discovering that the family had a “shoes off at the front door” policy. Unfortunately, I had chosen to wear lace-up shoes that evening. It was during the first year of my recovery process, and my left arm and leg were still weak. Hence, putting on and removing those shoes involved a painstaking, arduous process of lacing-and-tying single-handedly.

I definitely wasn’t comfortable letting people see that! As the Bible study neared completion, my focus shifted to mulling over the potentially embarrassing scene of a 20-something-year-old adult struggling to tie her shoelaces—or I could get over myself and ask one of the many new faces in the room to do it for me.

I ended up going with the latter and—as is often the case—it turned out to be no big deal. The incident reinforced a simple principle: if you want help, just tell others how they can assist you.

A few months later, I was out for dinner with some good friends and ordered a pizza for myself. Inwardly, I was rather satisfied with my choice of food: eating it would be a one-handed job, easily and inconspicuously handled by my stronger right hand.

But when the soft, thin pizza was set in front of me, it was obvious that slicing it was going to require some dual-hand maneuvering.

Sensing my conflicted mind, my very observant and kind friend took the initiative and offered to cut my pizza for me. Though I was touched by his thoughtful offer, I decided the situation was an important opportunity for me to do the best I could, on my own. At the time, I was just beginning to relearn basic activities of daily living, eager to complete everyday tasks independently. I’m not sure whether the pizza was much easier to cut than I had expected, or my left hand had simply performed brilliantly—but it was a success.

These two examples are different. In the first, I found it appropriate to ask for assistance, but in the second, I needed to give myself the opportunity to be independent; I needed to try, to know whether I could succeed.

Considering both situations, I believe that when it comes to asking for help, there is simply no one-size-fits-all approach. But having been a recipient of assistance so many times, here are some things I’ve learned when it comes to asking for help—or receiving it.

1. Ask if you need it

Like my first example showed, sometimes it’s just not easy.

But if you think about it, the Gospels show that Jesus affirms, helps, and praises the very people who cry out to God and show dependence on Him. There is nothing embarrassing about asking for and receiving help.

In fact, many of Jesus’ miracles stemmed from requests. In Luke 8, for example, Jairus pleaded with Jesus to come and heal his dying daughter. To cut a long story short, Jesus was delayed and Jairus’ daughter died, but ultimately, Jesus raised the girl from the dead.

 

2. Reframe your thinking

Sometimes, it simply means putting aside your pride. Other times, it means viewing such instances as providing a sanctifying opportunity to those around you. Perhaps it took them a great deal of courage to ask you if you needed help. Perhaps they’re learning to be more loving to their neighbors.

At the same time, you are being given the chance to ask for help humbly, and to show gratitude when you get it.

 

3. Offer grace to all

While the help offered or the way it is offered may not be perfect, do appreciate the intentions of the people who attempt to do so. As for those who do not give aid, give ample grace—I believe we have all faced the insecurity and dilemma of when and how to offer help.

The truth is, we won’t get things right all the time. Sometimes we might feel offended if someone offers help, sometimes it might be because they didn’t. However, as Christians, it is not possible to be wronged by others to the same degree that we have sinned against God. Remembering how deeply God has loved us and how far He has removed our transgressions makes all the difference to our response (Psalm 103:11-12).

 

The next time you have an opportunity to request for assistance, would you take it, and be grateful for the help?

When Good Friday doesn’t seem so good

For most of my life, Good Friday primarily served as a heads-up for a nice candy-gorge. I glossed over what it really represented, anticipating instead the large egg-hunts with my cousins around my grandparents’ farm on Easter Sunday.

It was only a few years ago that I gained a painful understanding of the true significance of Good Friday. That happened when one of my closest friends from middle school, Erica, died suddenly in a car accident. All throughout late elementary and middle school, Erica and I had been joined at the hip. We attended summer camps together, were pairs for science-class projects, and even had our 15 minutes of fame at a statewide jump rope competition (yes, you read correctly: jump rope).

We communicated less as we went through college and pursued separate ways after graduating, but we never lost our mutual respect and affection. I had planned to contact her after the Easter holiday to reconnect before she moved overseas for missions work.

But in the late night hours of Good Friday, I learned that Erica had died in a car accident while driving home that day. It was inconceivable. In the wake of her death, I was confronted with the reality of how wrong and intrusive death could feel.

Yes, death is wrong. We weren’t designed to experience the sudden separation of death. But because of the Fall of man, death became part and parcel of life. Suddenly, I had a glimpse of the confusion, anger, and sadness that the disciples of Jesus experienced when He died.

But then, I also saw hope. The day I had previously ignored—Good Friday—commemorates two things. One, the torture and wrongful murder of the one who claimed to be the world’s Savior; two, the “good” result His death achieved: a way out of death for us! His resurrection three days later, which we commemorate on Easter Sunday, gives us hope for a lasting solution to death.

Thanks to what was accomplished that first Easter, I could rest in the fact of Erica experiencing paradise right now even as I grieved her unfathomable death and the depth of our earthly separation.

What has been of immense encouragement to me are the words that Jesus gave His disciples in John 16:33 before His crucifixion, which summarize the incomparably low moments of Good Friday and the unsurpassed high of Easter. Jesus told them, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Today, we still experience effects of the fall. The emotions and pain that Jesus’ disciples felt still exist in this life. But even when we experience these extreme lows, we have the truth of Easter to hold on to. Jesus has already overcome the wrong by taking our place on the cross, and, accrediting His righteousness to us, declared, “it is finished” (John 19:30).

Knowing that Erica had fully accepted Jesus as her Savior, I look forward to seeing her again one day. And hey, for old time’s sake, maybe we’ll go ahead and earn another ribbon with our old jump rope routine!

The Day I Compared My Mum to a Crow

“My mother is like a watchful crow” began the poem I had written as a gift for my mom. I was convinced it would bring her tears of joy—amazed by the exquisite talent of her 7-year old daughter.

In reality, my mom impressively stifled a laugh, then sputtered her appreciation for my little “sonnet”. Somehow, she managed to look past being compared to a crow and focus on the gratitude I was attempting to show for her dependable presence.

In the same way, God looks directly at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7), and receives the little gifts we offer Him as tokens of infinite worth. While we can’t earn God’s love, no act of service that overflows from a grateful heart will slip by unnoticed.

In this coming year, let’s prayerfully strive to replicate God’s attitude in how we accept others’ presents.

Perhaps you’re getting ready to tackle your list of “thank you” notes, and wondering how you can sincerely express gratitude to Aunt Betty for the hand-croqueted, picture-frame she stitched. I don’t think you can convincingly will your heart to overflow with gratefulness. If you aren’t seeing the appeal of a fuzzy picture-frame, taking on a tone of appreciation probably won’t convince anyone. And, you can be sure of one thing: you aren’t fooling the “Big Man Upstairs”.

So, pray for a change of heart—from one that is focused just on the present, to one freed to see past the temporary items. Shift the focus from the gift to the person who gave it to you. Tell the giver exactly how their presence has impacted you. It doesn’t need to be a dramatic story about how they convinced you to leave the circus and go back to school.

Just be honest, such as: “I love the example you provide me of prioritizing people over activities. You inspire me to do the same, so I’ve really valued the opportunity of getting to know you better this year!” And, in your effort to describe the blessings others bring to your life, take my advice: don’t compare them to a crow.

My mother is like a watchful crow,
She sees your every move.
She knows when you are good or bad,
Or when you are just you.

She’s always there,
Whether you do or don’t need her.
But when it comes time for bed,
You know you’ll always see her.

“Poem” by Laura, age 7

When Christmas Isn’t the Happiest Time of the Year

With the joyful endings of cheesy, Hallmark movies, comes the subconscious expectation that somehow during Christmas, everyone will get along, then snowflakes will fall at precisely the right time and in a perfect quantity.

It would make a terrible greeting card, but for many people, Christmas isn’t the “Happiest time of the year”, but actually one of the most difficult.

For me, this season will forever be tied to the anniversary of the big car accident that nearly took my life, four years ago and just five days before Christmas. Of all seasons, it is in this one that my family and I are most aware of our mortality and that nothing on this side of heaven can be taken for granted.

A season that often incorporates time with family also makes strained relationships or absences excruciatingly clear. The annual nativity plays prepared by my large group of cousins when we were kids provides a perfect example. Soon after announcing that a play was going to be attempted, a disagreement would often ensue over who was directing, the make and model of Mary’s donkey, and the finer points of the bible story and the parts to be enacted. It would often end with Mary or Joseph concluding the final rehearsal on non-speaking terms with the other party.

Our little nativity plays dealt with quite a set of high-maintenance actors and directors, so problems were aplenty right from the onset, for instance, pinning down roles. One year, my 5-year-old cousin exclaimed that he refused to be “no stupid wise shepherd!” Our cast also included actors with a reputation for quitting just moments before curtain call.

My family provided foster care for many precious infants, whose presence sometimes coincided perfectly to allow for a real, live, baby Jesus in our nativity plays. When this was the case, Mary, and sometimes a wise man or two, would become aggressive lobbyists for the job of cradling baby Jesus.

So, on a nearly annual basis, our little plays would unintentionally point to the real fact of Christmas: its occurrence was an act of divine intervention, requiring the awe and wonder of all. We would have kept the true Christmas spirit much more accurately had the pervading emotion been one of grace for our fellow actors (or sheep, as the case may be).

While we now laugh off those childish expectations for a Broadway worthy nativity reenactment, the fact remains that we still do—consciously or not—set impossibly high hopes of this day, and get disappointed if it turns out otherwise. Don’t get me wrong, it may still be one of your best days ever, filled with lots of warm-and-fuzzy moments and meaningful gifts. But it’s just as likely to be far from perfect and make you extremely aware that you’re not in heaven yet.

This year, how about this for a change? Expect that not everything will be perfect, laugh about the mishaps and then strive to fill your heart with gratitude. Shift the focus from your wish list, to the greatest gift of salvation, which you’ve already received. Let our love for others flow out of our thankfulness to God for His gift of salvation to us.