Lately, I’ve been listening to Sara Groves new album, Floodplain. It’s amazing – you should buy it. The first song, This Cup, has a section that has been swirling in my head for a few days:
Thank God for our dependence
Here’s to our chasm of need
And how it binds us together
In faith and vulnerability
If you’ve been reading my blog (or know me at all really), you won’t find it difficult to believe that I struggle with the idea of thanking God for something like dependence, or to saying “here, here!” to my chasm of need. I do not enjoy asking for help (that could be an understatement).
That last part – about how it binds us together? in faith and vulnerability? When I hear that, I almost stop in my tracks. I was talking to a friend just the other day about our faith journeys. We’re reading Jennie Allen’s book Restless and there’s a parable in there about faith as a race. She describes feeling like she got injured in her race and is sitting on the sidelines watching everyone else continue and go further and how no one stopped to help her. This part made both of us hurt a little bit. We talked about how mothering can be so isolating and how we need each other and how we wish someone had stopped to help us.
But then we both had experiences of refusing help, of shrugging off people who have offered something. Why do we do this? For me, it’s mostly pride I think. I don’t want people to see my need. I want to fix things myself, to feel the accomplishment of a job well done (or at least well tried…). I’ve wondered sometimes if this is a particularly American thing to feel? My great great greats homesteaded out west – I’m sure they were full of grit, hard work, and stick-to-itiveness. (Some might call that perseverance, but I like my word better) 🙂 And somehow I think about how all those pioneers just made life happen in really difficult situations and use it as an excuse to not ask for help, conveniently forgetting about the tradition of barn-raisings, where neighbors from miles away would gather and help the one get his barn up, or the myriad other ways that they survived because of community. It’s a myth, this doing it by myself.
I know some of the things stopping me from asking for help and acknowledging my ‘chasm of need’ – fear of disapproval, pride, fear of a loss of dignity, not wanting to take advantage of others – among other things.
And then there’s the flip side.
For this year’s Lent season, our church is reading Alicia Britt Chole’s 40 Days of Decrease. Oh my – today’s reading really hit me. She calls us to fast fixing it, to “let the mourning mourn. Grant those who grieve the dignity to ask questions. Bestow upon the bewildered permission to not edit their honesty.” Later, she says – “Let the broken be broken for a day.” I really could quote the entire chapter, it was so so good. But, in the words of Inigo Montoya: “No, there is too much. Let me sum up.” Basically she suggests that we, in the church, have a really hard time dealing with struggle and pain. We expect a miracle always. And when one doesn’t show up for ourselves or for our friends, we try to fix it, or to try and explain God. But this kind of fixing only leads to more brokenness and more isolation. I have felt this myself! If a person offers an easy fix or a cliche saying to my expression of need, you can guarantee that I won’t be asking that person for help again.
I want to be better at this. I want to reach out for help when I need it and to offer my presence for people in need. I want to be bound together with people in faith and in vulnerability. Sara Groves’ song ends with this challenge and it’s one I am picking up:
What if my whole world falls apart?
What if my life could be different?
What if I sat right here and took you in
Without the fear and loved you whole
Without the flight and didn’t try to pass
This cup, This cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy.