July 9, 2013

Raise Your Hand

Recently, my 7-year-old son, Will, came home with instructions from his teacher to review his double-digit addition skills. When we sat together at the kitchen table to work practice problems, he slouched over the page with his pencil hovering over the first problem for several minutes before he looked up at me with uncertainty.

“Do you need help?” I asked.

Clearly he did, but he shook his head and continued pondering the problem through the blur of tears filling his eyes. It seemed he thought that the answers would come flooding out if he sat there long enough. I imagined him sitting at his desk at school doing much the same thing, with the hope that his silence and eager pencil would fool his teacher into believing he knew what he was doing.
I gently prodded: “Will, it seems like you don’t know what to do. Have you asked your teacher for help with this?” He shook his head and burst into tears, telling me he was afraid to ask for help.

I thought later about the reassurance I gave him: “Everyone has to ask for help sometimes.” Initially, it had seemed silly to me that Will chose an entire class period of confusion and panic over simply raising his hand to ask for help.

But then I considered how much I am like my son.

When life is emotionally difficult or I am struggling with sin, I’m afraid to raise my hand and ask for help. I’m afraid to draw attention to myself, admit my weaknesses, or confess my need for fear of inconveniencing others or being rejected. So often I sit with tears in my eyes and a pencil poised over a problem I don’t know how to solve while the Lord patiently questions why I haven’t asked for help. “You have asked Me for help, but have you asked the loving, wise people I’ve purposefully put in your life? They are my answer to you.”

We all, at some point, are overwhelmed with burdens that are too heavy for us each to carry alone. Sometimes God acts in our lives without using others to meet our needs, but His normal mode of operation is to use wise believers in the Body of Christ—His church— to help us understand, grow, and grieve. The catch is that we cannot receive their ministry unless we raise our hands and ask for help.

What keeps us from raising our hands? We’ve misunderstood the church to be a group of put-together people, rather than a gathering of broken, needy people collecting together to drink from God’s grace. Sometimes we feel the pressure to have everything under control. Or perhaps we’ve experienced rejection and condemnation from those in the church who appear religious, but lack an understanding of their true brokenness and need.

Soon after my discussion with Will, my pastor-husband and I experienced deep discouragement and spiritual neediness beyond what we could handle ourselves. We needed prayer and love from our community of faith, but I hesitated to ask for it. Finally, remembering Will and feeling God’s nudge, I revealed our need to a few trusted friends and church leaders. With love and thoughtfulness, they came to our side and ushered us to the grace of God, urging us to drink from His fountain again.

I’m glad I raised my hand.
--this post originally appeared on In(courage) a few years ago, but is still true today