I rarely ask for help.
And by rare, I mean raw steak rare.
Butchered and bleeding. Cut open and oozing red. That’s what I have to be before I might consider phoning a friend. Hear me, I didn’t say I actually would call, but I might consider it. Definitely, I’d consider it.
Like I said, I rarely ask for help.
Pride probably holds me back. Maybe stubbornness. Maybe fear. Or maybe it’s the familiarity of my father’s favorite “verse” rolling around upstairs—pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, I say!
To this day, and every time I’m struggling, I still hear that pejorative little pep talk ringing in my ears. Maybe you do too. It took years before I discovered it wasn’t actually in the Bible anywhere. Nope! Who knew such an honest sounding cowboy-colloquialism wasn’t even biblical?
Nevertheless, it stuck.
Like a barbed bass lure, it has hooked me more often than I care to admit. And I have a sneaking suspicion it has hooked the hearts of many of you too.
To ask for help, after all, feels so much like waving a white flag of surrender. Doesn’t it? Because asking by nature means being vulnerable, unprotected, open, weak. It requires exposing flaws, displaying deficiencies and letting imperfections be noticed.
Sometimes it just seems easier to grab those bootstraps and do it yourself (or let whatever it is go undone) rather than risk setting yourself up to be an easy target for a potentially rookie hunter. A careless arrow shot to the heart in that kind of vulnerable state can sometimes do more than wound.
It can be deadly.
Which is why we so often avoid asking for help. At all costs.
Nevertheless, God’s plan has never been for you or me to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders all alone. The mythological Atlas could tell us that. After losing a decade-long war, this Titan was condemned to hold up the entire universe in his hands. Can you imagine the weight of that, and for all eternity too? That’s an agonizing, gargantuan affliction, if you ask me.
But as we imagine Atlas’ burden, if we focus our attention too single-mindedly on what lay in his (and consequently our own) hands, we can fail to realize a much greater punishment.
Atlas’ full hands left him unable to embrace anything else.
And that was the truly unbearable burden.
There are seasons in life when God calls us to walk alone. In these seasons He often places in our hands seemingly unbearable burdens, burdens that we, like Atlas, must somehow carry on our own.
But in moments like this, God’s purpose is not to punish. Nor is it to cause unnecessary pain, confusion, discouragement, frustration. And it’s not to isolate us from community either.
Instead He is wooing us.
God Himself is calling us into something spiritually deeper, spiritually higher, spiritually better. And something more relationally fulfilling than anything we’ve known before.
It’s a relationship with grace.
Grace, you see, is always relational. To receive grace is to be fully seen and fully known. Grace means receiving. It means opening up. It means laying down those walls of protection and holding up those tangled, unraveling boot straps for God to pull up instead.
Grace, therefore, means coming face to face with love.
A love unlike any other. A love that cannot be earned. A love that cannot be manipulated or corrupted. A love stronger and more powerful than any burden or force of evil that might come our way. An irresistible Love from an irresistible God whose very essence is love (1 John 4:8 NIV).
It’s why God tells Paul in his own time of struggling, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul needed help too like we so often do. A “thorn in my flesh” he called his burdens in his letter to the Corinthians. And three times, he asks God to take them from him, but God does not.
Instead God offers grace.
That supernatural friend with benefits. That overwhelming kindness offered to all of us who can’t seem to master the art of bootstrap finagling.
Because grace overflows for the needy. It pours unconditional acceptance and approval onto the imperfect and into the weak. And it covers what we lack. All of it. No matter how unfinished, unfastened, unsatisfactory we might feel or be. Grace covers everything through the blood of Jesus Christ.
All we have to do is receive.
To let grace in.
And when we do that, when we really receive what most nourishes the deep places of our souls, only then can we begin to trust. To trust the One who effortlessly holds the whole universe in His hands. To trust the One who created it and the One who “sticks closer than a brother,” come what may (Proverbs 18:24).
What a wonderful thing it is, after all.
Because trusting God with our inadequacies makes room for us to “bear each other’s burdens” in the way that He always intended (Galatians 6:2). In selfless and supportive relationship. In cordial and authentic community. In kindness and back-and-forth generosity without ulterior motives, tit-for-tat agendas and other such emotionally-damaging expectations.
In love, plain and simple.
As Jesus loved.
Through grace freely given and freely received.
So lovely and painful and perfect. Your ability to capture an emotional experience in words is wonderful and makes me slightly jealous. I recently was challenged to write a haiku in a workshop. It was about vulnerability as well. Here’s a copy for you:
At first glance of sun
The light reveals the truth
That fades by noonday.
Thanks for such an inspiring thought.
Oh, Kathy! I love your haiku! Thank you so much for sharing it.
Wow your words are just beautiful! Such a wonderful description of grace. And I see myself in that “pull up your bootstraps” kind of girl?
Wow your words are beautiful! And I love your description of grace. I see myself in that “pull up your bootstraps” kind of girl?
Thank you, Cindy! Grace is something I’m learning and relearning every day!