help? or HELP!

Why is it that the word help is used so tentatively now?  It has become a dreaded 4 letter word in our society and what is worse, in our churches.

Our culture is the breeding ground for super heroes.  Bigger, tougher, stronger is better!  Oh don’t take me out of context here. I am not saying we shouldn’t be all that we can be, or that self sufficiency is not a great asset, but we must draw the line before aiming for the ability to do it all and be all to everyone!

We were not created to live life alone or to face its trials with just our own strength.  We were created to do it in relationship and with a need to rely on others.  First God then people.

In our culture today asking for help is all too often seen as weakness, the inability to perform.  It screams that you are not worthy, not smart enough, not strong enough, not capable.

It is funny though, when any of the great legends in society fall the first thing we tend to say is “If only they had asked for help.”

Asking for help is a rather special thing – you see, it is in direct contrast to the original sin – pride.  Pride says you can do it alone, your way is right, you have all the knowledge needed, you have the strength and endurance to achieve greatness without anyone’s help.

Asking for help requires humility, a gentle spirit, an open heart, a willingness to learn and grow.  Asking for help means that you need someone, it is a place of vulnerability that opens you up to a world of possibilities.

The reality is that pride is simply a cover for fear.  Being afraid to need someone, being afraid to be seen as weak, unworthwhile, stupid or useless.  The fear of judgement is a great motivator, it can push us beyond reasonable limits, fuel us to strive for more, to be bigger and better at all that we do.  Unfortunately, in the process we can lose ourselves and who God created us to be.  We may exchange God’s will for own will to prove ourselves.

Pride would have you walk away from a task that you know you can not do rather than have you ask for help, develop a bond with someone through a common experience, succeeding at the task and becoming a better person who has learned through the experience.  Pride would have you save face and walk away rather than show your fear and then conquer it.

I will never forget the day my friend’s boy asked me for help in an area that absolutely terrified me!  They were visitiing us in the summer and we had taken a trip to explore a nearby waterfall.  It was a great playground with beautiful areas you could wade in, spots to sit in the rolling current and a 10 foot waterfall you could jump from.  The older kids in our group were having a hay day jumping from the falls into the pool below, taking jump after soaring jump while my friend’s boy (we will call him Jake for anonymity) and I waded in the small rapids and sat under the small water falls.  We were having a delightful time when Jake suddenly looked up at me and said “Auntie Maren, I just know I am going to regret it if I don’t jump off that waterfall today.”

Moments later we were gathered at the top of the waterfall as I uttered encouraging words and put on my cheerleading hat.  I just knew that Jake could do this, that he could overcome his fear of jumping and would end up having a great experience.  Jake on the other hand wavered back and forth, he would move towards the edge then take a step back, his sister offered to go with him but his fear was too great for a sister’s touch.  The line up behind us refused to go ahead of Jake. They all became cheer leaders, excited to see a victory on this day.  After a good 10 minutes of wavering back and forth Jake stepped towards me and looked up with defeat in his eyes and said “I can’t do it Aunite Maren. I just can’t do it.”

Inside a battle began to rage as I became aware that if I offerred to jump with him he would do it.  Listen folks, I was a lot older than that 11 year old boy and I would fall a lot harder – if you know what I mean.  My fear of heights has also been a lot longer standing than his and is quite solidly ingrained in me.  But as I looked down into those eyes and saw the glimmer of hope I knew he was afraid to ask, to say the words that might bring the crash of his dream if I were to say no.  So of course doing what any rational, middle aged women out there would do – I ran!

Gotcha! I held out my hand and asked Jake if he would jump if I went with him.  Unfortunately he said yes very enthusiastically and immediatly led me to the edge of the cliff.  Did I mention that when you stand at the precipitous top of a 10 foot waterfall it seems a lot more like 20 or 30 feet?  Well anyways, on with the story … Jake and I were still afraid, both of us took a few more turns stepping away and stepping forward.  With cheers of encouragement building behind us we grasped each others hands, took one last fearful look at each other and then with a nod of our heads we lept off the falls.

Do you know what that little man said to me as our heads bobbed back up above the surface of the water ?  “You did it Auntie Maren, you did it!”  Not we, not I, but you.  His focus had gone from fear and himself to the task someone else completed. Instead of pride welling up over what he did, the bond that was created in helping each other shifted his focus to victory someone else accomplished.

It was exhillerating, jumping off the cliff and helping someone overcome.  Both of us felt the same way.  That experience taught us several things but the best lesson of all is that asking for help is the very thing that takes away the obstacles.

God created us to need each other and to help each other.  We often in the church focus on needing God and all too often our prayers are completely driven by asking for help.  Unfortunately, when God sends help in the form of other people we are too prideful to ask it, take it or receive it.  We are safe in God’s hands but when it comes to showing our inadequacies to people our fear and ulitimately, pride, rears its ugly head.

When we as a church do not ask for help from one another we are limiting the possibilities, we are stunting the ability to grow and learn from one another and we are closing the doors to opportunities and answers that God has sent us.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 we see that God created the body with many parts, each with different gifts and abilities.  We were not created to be the entire body of Christ but to be a part of it, each doing its part and each needing the other.
Pastors need to ask their congregations for help and they need to access outside resources to assist them in growing the body of believers God has given them.  Parishioners need to go to each other for help, they need to rely on each other and not be afraid to ask the pastor for help.  The greatest gift about saying HELP is the gift of community that comes from sharing with one another and caring for each other.  When you ask for help you give others the opportunity to serve and to use their gifts for God’s glory.

Don’t hesitantly and tentatively ask for help – boldly with confidence ask God for help and then be willing to receive the answer through other people that God puts in your path, even if you have to ask them too.

Help – a four letter word, meaning to provide, give, care for, assist, build up, teach, collaborate, join forces, unite.

HELP, an open door.

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