When Self-Sufficiency is Insufficient

“It’s alright, I’ve got it.”

Those are familiar words to my tongue.

I’m the girl who, while her husband was working 12 hour shifts, decided to assemble 8 new dining chairs and a 10-person table at 31 weeks pregnant so it would be all set up for family to come over for an Easter meal. How did I flip that table over by myself? I don’t even know. But nothing was going to stop me, and by golly, we celebrated Easter around that table.

Or how about at about 35 weeks when I brought up the boxes of baby stuff from the basement and my husband saw them in the house and asked “how did you carry those over all the piles of stuff on the stairs?”, to which I responded something like “I have special powers… are you impressed?”

Now at 36 weeks along with a watermelon under my shirt, I am volunteering to host our sometimes-very-large small group for dinner because well, “it’s been a while” and “it should be our turn” and “lets do it now before the baby comes”.

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You might be asking whyyyyyyy would you do those things? Isn’t that silly? Don’t you need to be taking it easy? Couldn’t someone else take on those tasks with much less effort? Why don’t you just ask for help?

Yes, yes, that would probably be a good idea. But the self-sufficient go-getter in me says I can handle anything. No matter that I can’t fit through doors sideways any more… “I’ve got this.”

It’s hard to turn off that mindset when you’ve conditioned yourself all your life to believe you can do anything by yourself. Apparently it’s one I’ve conditioned our toddler to carry too.  She insists on opening her cheese sticks by herself. And zipping up her footy jammies. And carrying heavy bags of groceries to the kitchen. “Can I help you with that?” I ask. “Nooooo…” she responds while wrestling with the task. And I recognize the look on her face that says, “I’ve got this, Mom. Watch me.”

Like mother like daughter.

Sometimes it makes me really proud to see her determination. But other times I wonder why she insists on doing tasks that someone else could do with little problem, while she will be wrestling with it for a long time and may even injure herself trying.

Does she realize that the one-gallon jug of milk weighs more than half of what she does? Someone a little bit bigger in stature could pick it up with little trouble but she insists on dragging it to the fridge. To an adult it’s a bit silly to watch.

But don’t we all try to do stuff like that sometimes? Maybe God is looking at me wrestling with a self-imposed task with my huge pregnant belly and asking me over and over, “are you sure you don’t want help with that?”

“Sure God, if you want to lift these boxes up the stairs then go for it!”

But unfortunately, that’s not how He usually works. He’s more likely to send a friend, or a neighbor, or a family member to me at just the right moment and I have to take the initiative to ask for help. Or even just be willing to accept an offer of assistance from a concerned bystander.

He puts us in community for a reason. Sometimes we have a material need that we can’t handle on our own. Sometimes we face a physical challenge. Sometimes we have a spiritual blind spot and need extra support or accountability. And other times we might need some emotional support for something we’re going through.

In Psalm 68 verse 6, David says,”God sets the lonely in families”, and I believe He does that because we all need something from one another. Just because your need doesn’t look like someone else’s need right now, doesn’t mean that they have everything together all the time. A few verses down from there David writes, “…from your bounty, God, you provided for the poor” (Psalm 68:10).

In different seasons he blesses different people in different ways. And in those same seasons, someone else near by is struggling in that very area. If this is a season in which you find yourself weak, don’t struggle through it alone. Reach out for help from the “bounty” God has placed in the people around you and recognize that pretty soon there may be a need you can serve for the next person struggling.

And when it’s our turn to help, aren’t we glad to be needed? Isn’t it a joy to be able to give back? The key is the act of reaching. We have to reach out to receive help. And we have to reach out to give help. Both acts connect us with others. To have one without the other puts the ecosystem of relationships which we call “family” out of balance. And to do neither sets us in an isolated state, in which our lives are merely contained in bubbles from which we watch one another and exchange pleasantries from a safe distance.

I am committing to reach. I am going to stretch myself by reaching out to others when I need help instead of trying to be self-sufficient. And I am going to reach out with a willing hand when God shows me a need of a brother or sister that I could serve. Through this, I believe God’s bounty is going to provide the right thing at the right time for all of us. Will you reach too?

 

 

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