I have a a tendency toward self-sufficiency. I don’t say that to brag, it’s actually a confession. I feel like self-sufficiency is a self-protective device that I fight. It’s an interesting battle because, correct me if I’m wrong, but self-sufficiency is generally regarded as a positive trait in our culture. We call it independence, strength, drive…and other such positive things. I call it: I can do this myself; I don’t need your help. Me, myself and I…we got this. If I can’t quite do something myself, I get frustrated, angry even. And, honestly, I’m recognizing that I also feel a little bit vulnerable. OK, I feel a lot vulnerable.
My friend Cheryl once asked, “Why do you think it's hard to ask for what you need?”
UGH. Double UGH. My self-sufficient response would be—I don’t actually NEED anything! However, in this case I had just expressed my frustration that it felt like no one was helping me. Questions are wonderful ways of breaking through self-protective walls. This one wove its way through my defenses and landed on my tired and lonely heart…and I started to cry.
It’s important to pay attention to things that make you cry…says the person who fights tears as hard as she fights needing people. Well, the Lord has done a work. I nnnnnneed people. Yes I still do struggle to get that word out, but I’m a long ways from where I was back then. I’m learning.
About three hours into my inspired day of cleaning up messes earlier this month, I came to the hedge. The hedge runs the length of our front yard bordering our neighbor’s driveway and the side of our house. The thing about the hedge is it is overrun with morning glories. They are beautiful purple flowers growing from twisting, hearty vines…but they eventually strangle everything they cover. Morning glories also don’t need much water, but hedges do. (Huge drought happening here in SoCal….) There isn’t much water, so the hedge is struggling for life. I should say, was struggling because, well, the hedge is gone now, as are all of the very annoying morning glory vines.
I was determined to make it happen, you know, in a self-sufficient I can do this kind of way. So I was digging and sweating head down. Then our neighbor pulled into his driveway. “Whatcha doin’?” he asked with a kind smile. So I explained. And then the fateful question came, “Need some help?” Ohhhhhhh dearrrrrrr.
I stood there looking at my progress two hours in, and the length of the rest of the hedge stretching before me and realized that, well, actually, yes I did need help. It turns out that neighbors can help clean up our messes. And sometimes we really do need help. I am so thankful for the outcome…which is order and beauty, without nearly the amount of time and work it would have taken to do it all myself. I’m thanking the Lord for my kind and very helpful neighbor!
The truth is there are messes I need to work on in every part of my life. Some of the “cleaning” I have to do myself, but some of it is a bit beyond me. Asking for help with the things that rumble in my heart and mind is just as smart, humble and productive as asking for help with my yard work. It is a good bit harder, of course. More trust is needed. More vulnerability. But when trusted others enter into the parts of me that are hard to sort through alone it is a beautiful gift. The best helper is Jesus…but I find that He also sends some very wonderful and even unexpected neighbors, usually just when I need them most.