So there’s this song called “Good Good Father.” If you’re in Christian circles, you’ve likely heard it a lot. It kinda swept across churches all over the place in a very short amount of time, and has become a mainstay for many of them, including my own church.
To be honest, I’ve never really loved the song. I mean, I love the message it’s conveying, but somehow it’s never really “grabbed” me, if you will. Perhaps it’s the simplistic musicality that somehow bores the musician in me or something, but it’s just never been on the top of my list for worship songs.
So of course God, being the humorous God that He is, decided to use that song as a vehicle to speak to me on two separate occasions during our morning services a few Sundays ago.
I’ve referenced in previous blogs that my relationship with God has been hard lately. Very strange, and difficult to understand; certainly unlike anything I’ve experienced before in my “Spiritual journey,” if you will. So when I feel like I get something from God, it’s like a breath of fresh air, reminding me that, yes, God’s still real, and still does care about me, even if I don’t feel that every day.
All that to say that what I felt God communicate to me a few weeks ago both excited and challenged me in the same instant. Let’s dive in to the first thing:
I am someone who has grown up going to church and learning about Jesus. At the very least, I am extremely good at playing the part of Christian, and doing what is expected of a “good church kid”. Whether or not that translates to real life change is a separate concern, but the point of it is that a big part of my identity up to this point in my life has been in my ability to love God. That is intrinsically attached to me and even, I think, to my sense of self-worth.
But in this season with God, I feel like I am not very good at loving God. I don’t “feel” it like I have in the past. I am still doing the Christian things that I’ve done in previous seasons, and I absolutely still have moments with God that are breath-taking, but they are more the exception than the rule.
So what does a church kid do when part of his identity is found in something (“loving God”) that he no longer feels good at?
If I heard God right a few Sunday’s ago, it’s to change where I find my identity. I think instead of identifying as a “lover of God,” I need to instead simply identify as “loved by God.”
That is constant. That is steady. That is something as unchanging as the stars at night. That is something that will not waver in the storms of life, or when life just feels different than it ever has before. It will not waver in distractions, or failures, or relational difficulties.
To quote that afore-mentioned “Good Good Father” song,
“I’m loved by You. It’s who I am.”
And maybe that’s really the only identity that matters. Maybe part of the purpose in this season of me feeling like I’m not good at loving God is Him stripping away that part of my identity that, though comforting up until this season, is actually unhealthy.
It reminds me of John, who wrote one of the four eye-witness accounts of Jesus that are in the Bible (known as the “Gospels”). In referring to himself in his writings, he frequently swapped out his name in favour of the title that he apparently attributed to himself: “the disciple that Jesus loved.” (John 13:23-25, 19:26-27, 20:1-10, 21:20-24)
He didn’t declare himself to be the most obedient, or the most anointed, or the one who loved Jesus most. He didn’t even declare himself to be most loved by Jesus. He simply declared that Jesus loved him, and that seemed to be enough for him.
It’s a weird shift for me, this change in identity. It’s almost like I’ve been running a race against God, trying to make my love for Him somehow keep up with His love for me, like I’m out to prove that He made a good, logical choice in deciding to love me. This season feels like me finally giving up on that race, and in the process, realizing two things:
First, if you’ll follow the metaphor through with me, there wasn’t ever a hope of me winning this race. As I collapse on the ground in a fit of exhaustion from pushing my love beyond the breaking point, finally realizing that I simply have no more capacity to love, I catch of glimpse of Jesus. He isn’t even winded. He looks like he could run for another million miles. And, in fact, He can. This wasn’t ever a fair race to begin with. My losing was inevitable.
Second, it doesn’t matter. His love for me hasn’t wavered or changed since my energy and passion to love Him has faltered. I could be crawling, stopped dead, or even running in the wrong direction. It wouldn’t matter; His love is constant and steady at full throttle.
I need to learn how to let myself be loved by God when I have nothing to give Him in return.
So that was the first thing I learned that Sunday morning, that I need to learn how to find my identity in the fact that I am loved by God, as opposed to finding it in my feeble attempts to return that love.
The second is related to fear. Fear, if you believe the Bible, shouldn’t exist in a human fully opened to God’s love:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” - 1 John 4:18
And yet, I fear. In particular, it has recently become readily apparent that I possess a fear of failure. I hadn’t really given that fact much thought, but on that same Sunday I feel like God highlighted and illuminated it for me in a thought:
There only two possible reasons for a fear of failure.
First, I can fear failure if I’m unsure of God’s love. That is, if I fail, I think that perhaps God’s love won’t be there anymore, or at least not to it’s fullest extent. It might waver if I really screw something up badly.
The second possibility is that I am not fully satisfied and complete in God’s love. I find at least part of my fulfillment and satisfaction in something else that very well might change if I fail.
I don’t think there is a third option. If I were both fully satisfied and fully trusting in the never-changing love of an eternal being that created me for His own delight, what could failure possibly do to me?
In some ways, I would become invincible. I would know that if I fall flat on my face in the most public and humiliating way possible, I could rely on God to come help me up, brush me off, and keep on loving me the exact same way.
To be honest, I’m still not sure which of those two lines of faulty thinking are responsible for my fear of failure. I suppose I am still going through the diagnosis stage of this internal medical procedure. But I know that God doesn’t reveal faults just to let them sit there; He’s working on it, and even though this this season in God is frequently frustrating and nearly always confusing, I retain excitement for what God is doing in me through it. Whatever I look like at the end of this, it’s going to be good.
So. That’s what the “Good Good Father” song helped teach me recently. First, that I need to learn how to simply receive God’s love better, regardless of my intermittent abilities to return the favour, and find my identity in God’s perfect and unchanging love instead of my flawed version of it. Second, that my fear of failure is caused by either a faulty understanding of God’s love, or by my finding fulfillment in things outside of it; likely some combination of both.
“Let me know that You hear me
Let me know Your touch
Let me know that You love me
And let that be enough”
Switchfoot, “Let that Be Enough”
I’ve realized that I am, by nature, a cautious person. I lean towards the comfortable known rather than the risky unknown. I avoid making commitments that I’m not 100% certain I will be able to follow through on. I prepend my statements with phrases like “I’m pretty sure…” where other people would be comfortable making statements in (at least seemingly) absolute confidence. I am generally ok watching people around me perform risky athletic feats that I don’t feel confident enough to attempt myself (though I’ll admit there have been a couple notable exceptions to that rule).
And I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with this approach to life.
I have to take back over-confident statements less often than other people. I rarely have to try to explain why I stopped doing that New Year’s resolution-type activity I was so pumped about last week. I don’t usually have to bail on events with friends. I haven’t had myself humbled by spectacular injuries too frequently. But, while I think this approach to life works pretty well in the natural, it’s started to poison my Spiritual approach to life.
See, I have a good job, a house, and a church family that I love. I give a decent amount of time and energy into furthering “The Kingdom of God” (to use an uber Christian term) which is, in general, extremely rewarding and not something that I would trade for anything. My life is pretty well set up.
And in all of this, I started to settle. I started to think that maybe this is all God really has for my life, that maybe this little bubble of comfort is fine. I started to become satisfied with where I was at.
But, thank goodness, God has never been one to let His followers lead a normal, cautious, safe approach to life. Throughout history, He has called people to lead crazy lives of reckless risk. It’s not hard to find examples; from Abraham (called to leave his home and give up his son) to John the Baptist (lived in the wilderness and dressed in camel’s hair) to the disciples (who were simply called to give up their livelihoods and follow this random Rabbi named Jesus), God clearly isn’t all that interested in our living a normal, predictable life.
So God started to poke me, prod me, and pull me into something a little different, a little bit beyond my comfort zone. And it freaked me out a little bit.
Ironically, though my greatest fear in life has always been missing out on what God wants me to do, I am also scared to step out into something new.
I don’t think the primary fear driving this hesitancy is giving up material comforts (though that is undoubtedly a factor). No, the larger fears are that I’ll step out into something only to find out down the road that it wasn’t what God was calling me to after all, or that it’ll be too much for me and I’ll fail. I’m scared that I’ll bite off more than I can chew, or that I’ll get in over my head; pick your favourite metaphor, the bottom line is that my biggest fear with new things in God is that I will find myself floundering around in something far bigger than I can handle. I don’t want to overcommit myself.
But I’m starting to believe that, in God, being in over your head is actually an absolutely fantastic indicator that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be. What better way to learn trust in God than to be placed in a position where you have no choice but to trust Him? When there is no plan B, no safety net, no possibilities outside of God… That might just be the only worthwhile place to be when you’re following God, because it actually means that you need Him.
I want to need God, and I fear that my current life needs Him very little. It’s a terrifying thought to me that I might be able to live a Christian life in which I am “safe” from a day-to-day need for God. I never want that.
So my prayers of late have been a little different.
I’ve been asking God to take me in over my head.
I’ve been praying that God gives me a greater spirit of risk that deadens my fear of failure.
I’ve been praying for a humility that allows me to serve whole-heartedly in whatever place I currently am, combined with a confidence in God that prevents me from being intimidated away from anything He might call me to.
I’ve been praying for a recklessness in my obedience to God that starts to mimic the recklessness that God has consistently shown throughout time in His pursuit of humans.
I’ve been asking God to show me those things that must be given up in order for me to be able to do what He is asking me to do.
I’ve been asking God to re-awaken those dreams that He gave to me and that I have let die, or at least sleep for too long.
Safety is overrated. Comfort is overrated.
I want a life of adventure. If that means danger and hardship, dirtiness and weariness, and unbelievable sacrifice, so be it, as long as it also means that I’m where God wants me. Because I trust God enough to trust that His plan for my life is going to be better, regardless of how risky it is. It will be worth it. Obedience to God’s call will be worth it.
It Only Gets Stronger
“It only gets stronger
It only goes deeper
My head’s underwater, but somehow
I can finally breathe
It only gets stronger
It only goes deeper
My heart is on fire, and this love is
Setting me free”
- “It Only Gets Stronger,” Jeremy Riddle
This blog post starts awhile ago. At a youth conference called “Encounter.” In November.
Yeah, yeah, I know my blog writing has been lacklustre as of late. Turns out, buying a house gets distracting. I’m sorry. Let’s move on, shall we?
So, Encounter Conference. It was good, in a lot of ways, but there was one thing I pulled from it that I think has stayed with me more than anything else. I got a reminder that I have a lot further to go in God.
It was the last evening of the conference, and a Pastor from Australia who has become one of my heroes in the Faith was leading the session: David Hall.
Aside from being flat-out hilarious (particularly within the leadership sessions), the most remarkable aspect of David Hall is how he “flows” with the Holy Spirit.
If you’re new to this concept, it is admittedly a little strange. He generally starts out by tossing out some small nuggets of Jesus goodness (relatively non-weird) before getting to the fun part.
Basically, he calls up random people from the crowd, prays for them, and asks the Holy Spirit to come on their lives with power. And strange things happen when a physical, human body comes in contact with the power of the Holy Spirit. The material world meeting the Spiritual packed full of power tends to have interesting results.
If you’re familiar with the Bible, it’s not a new concept. Acts 2 is probably the most obvious example: it includes such craziness as unexplainable sounds “like a rushing wind,” “tongues of fire,” and people dismissing them as being drunk, but all of that is simply a result of being “endued with power from on High” (Luke 24:49).
Anyways, weird things happen when David Hall prays for people too; primarily, they involuntarily fall over backwards, and lie on the floor for awhile. Like I said, weird.
And I think it’s normal to be a little bit skeptical. After all, it’s super dramatic, and I think almost everyone in the crowd wants to have this crazy experience where they can say they got prayed for by David Hall and fell over as a result, so when it starts happening, there’s always a little part of me that questions whether or not people are faking it.
But as David Hall was walking around knocking people over, I felt like God asked me to just open myself up to the anointing that David Hall was carrying, to feel whatever power the Holy Spirit was allowing him to work through, even if he didn’t pray for me directly.
And, despite my skepticism (and at the risk of sounding dramatic myself), I instantly felt something. Something beyond the explainable. It didn’t knock me over backwards, but I’ve been around Jesus and the church long enough to recognize it as God’s presence. And it made me realize the power of the Holy Spirit that David Hall was carrying. It was tangible, and readily impacting the physical realm in the form of people being knocked over backwards.
Now, I don’t say all of that to elevate the conference or David Hall. I only tell that story because it’s an example of what Faith heroes do, at least for me:
They remind me.
They remind me that there’s more. There is always more. Whatever “level” I have reached in God, whatever authority I have walked in, whatever power I’ve been given, whatever measure of God’s love I’ve experienced, it’s really just a small taste. There is always more. It only gets stronger. It only goes deeper. There’s no end to this ocean of discovery called God, even for someone like me, who has spent his whole life going to church and learning the aspects of the Christian religion.
Now, I’m not saying we should take our eyes off of Jesus in order to talk about how fantastic these high-profile Christians like David Hall are. That’s not what I’m about.
But I also know that I am thankful that people like David Hall, Bill Johnson, and Brian Houston exist. They are a tangible reminder that I haven’t arrived. The path keeps stretching on further, and seeing people like that further along the road prods me to keep walking when I’m tempted to settle in and get comfortable where I am now. Rather then discouraging me by outlining the gap between my Faith and theirs, seeing others that far with God inspires me to walk a little brisker, and dive a little quicker into the things God is calling me to.
In short, my Faith heroes pull me onward in God, deeper and deeper and deeper, calling me to never be satisfied despite never having an end in sight.
Along this same line of thinking, I feel grateful for good Christian songwriters. Not just the ones who happen to be good at music and who are also Christian, but Christians who are deep, and have earned every lyric they’ve written because they’ve lived it.
People like Jeremy Riddle, Jon Foreman, Joel Houston, David Crowder, and Amanda Cook are not just gifted musicians and song-writers. They are humans completely sold out for Jesus who have lived life, good and bad, and have been gifted with the ability to write songs through every season that brings encouragement and inspiration to people like me.
And that’s what I want to become. I want to be someone that other Jesus-followers look to, not to elevate me or put me on display, but simply as an example of what happens when you are sold-out for Jesus. I want to pull everyone I come in contact with a little bit closer to Jesus. Regardless of where they are on the spectrum, from hardcore atheist to longtime Pastor, I want people to walk away from an interaction with me challenged to find out more about God. I want to be the kind of person who can be fighting through their greatest discouragement and yet still somehow be an encouragement to others.
When I cross from the temporary into the eternal, I want to be as far as I can possibly get to with God in the short time I have.
I simply want to go deeper. Because, I am confident, it only gets deeper.
I’ve had what I consider to be a pretty good life thus far.
I grew up with amazing parents and amazing siblings. I was home-schooled, which has it’s downsides, but also provides an environment to grow and thrive that I think, for some kids, cannot be replaced by a public school education.
As a general rule, I have had good, solid friends with whom I have worked past disagreements in a way that makes us closer in the end.
I’ve never been sick in a life-threatening or long-term way.
Sure, I’ve had my rough patches in life, and struggled like anyone does at various times. I’ve gone through stages in my life that, looking back, I would define as some sort of mild, periodic depression. I’ve been frustrated with a few injuries that have kept me from sports. I’ve gone through the Spiritual valleys that accompany the mountaintops, as I think all Christians do.
But overall, I think my life has been a pretty smooth ride. And I am so grateful.
But I’ve been thinking lately about suffering, and trouble. And I think, as a Christian, I should be expecting it. I don’t think there’s any way around it.
Now, if you've hung out with me any great length of time, you probably know I’m a big fan of Bethel Music, which is a group of worship musicians from Bethel Church in Redding, California. They churn out music that, in my opinion, is simply the best worship music currently being created.
As a massive fan, I’ve started listening to some teachings from “Worship U,” their school of worship. And a theme that I’ve noticed through any of the personal life stories of these “big name” worship leaders is this:
Intense hardships. And I mean intense.
Melissa Helser, (who, along with her husband Jonathan David Helser wrote songs like “No Longer Slaves,” “You Came,” “Catch the Wind,” and “Abba”), was diagnosed with a disease that completely removed her ability to play guitar for ten years. Ten years. What?
John Mark McMillan (“How He Loves”) went through an intense crisis of Faith during a period of two years, and had to fight to regain his relationship with Jesus.
Brian Johnson, the core of the Bethel Music collective, struggled with a deep-rooted bitterness that blocked his songwriting for a significant period of time (I think it was around a year, but I could have the exact timeframe a bit off).
Kristene DiMarco (“Take Courage,” “It is Well”) had to go through the difficult process of becoming vulnerable off the stage, not just on it.
As I watched each worship leader share their story, it seemed that every one of them had a hardship in their past, some period of their lives that was so brutally difficult that they must have wondered if they’d ever make it out.
And as I listened to these worship leaders and songwriters who are in so many ways heroes to me, I began to formulate a theory that suffering and pain were inevitable aspects on the Christian walk. That to truly chase Jesus with all that I am, there was no shortcut past or long way around pain and hardship.
The Bible backs up this theory pretty solidly.
Romans 5:3-5 says this:
“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
I’m certainly glad that “hope” is part of the equation, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the starting point for this hope is “tribulations,” which was translated from a greek word that includes the concept of “pressing together,” “pressure,” “oppression,” and “distress.” Sounds like fun.
Peter also talked about suffering in 1 Peter 4:12-13:
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.”
Short version: “Why are you so surprised when you go through hard times? Expect it, yo. Oh, and also be joyful about it“
Or how about James, who opens his letter with this verse (James 1:2):
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials”
Awesome. Thanks James.
One more. This time from Jesus Himself, from verse 33 of John 16:
“… In the world you will have tribulation…”
Now, I don’t claim to be a Biblical scholar, but I don’t think there are too many times when Jesus unconditionally and absolutely promised something to His disciples.
However, examining the context of this verse, I think this is one of those times. Jesus promises suffering and hardships and pressure. Not the best way to inspire your faithful followers, to whom Jesus was talking.
So, where does that leave Christians like me?
Assuming we’re following Jesus as best as we know how, I think it’s safe to say trouble is something we should be expecting. I’m coming to believe that trouble is an unavoidable (and, I would say, necessary) part of the Christian life.
There is no path to the destiny of a Jesus follower that does not pass through trials and tribulations.
Now then, if we can agree that trouble is something to be expected if one is living the Christian life, the next question is this: why does it matter? How does that change one’s perspective or attitude towards life?
I think there are two things to take home:
First, if you are currently in the midst of some sort of storm: take heart and keep your chin up! Trouble doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve wandered off the path, or that you’re losing your faith.
Now, as an aside, I do think encountering hardships is a great time to take a step back and check yourself; it could definitely be an indicator that you have wandered off from the path Jesus intended for you. But assuming you’ve eliminated that possibility (I’d recommend asking someone you trust who knows you well as a good first test), being in the midst of a storm is probably an indicator that you’re right where you’re supposed to be.
Kristene DiMarco recently released a new album (called “Where His Light Was”), and Bethel posted a short video with her explaining some of the story behind the album. I thought one thing she said was particularly genius:
“If it’s not good, it’s not the end.”
Man, that is something to hold on to. Hard times come, but it never ends there. God has always had a plan, and it never ends with the bad. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, a break in the clouds, a safe haven in the ocean’s storm. You might not be able to see it in the midst of the trial, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
To finish off that last verse, in Jesus’ words:
“…be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
If it’s not good, it’s not the end.
(If you’re interested, you can check out that video here: https://www.facebook.com/bethelmusic/videos/1846643845366064/)
That was the first takeaway: keep pressing on, through the storms, because there's an end to them.
The second takeaway is for anyone currently in smoother waters. And I think it can be summed up nicely in a single word:
Resolve now, in the easy goings, that nothing will make you stop chasing Jesus. Though you may doubt His plans, and it might seem like the whole world is crashing down on you, resolve that you will not let go of Him. Resolve that you will remind yourself of all His promises and of His Faithfulness in the long, dark nights. Resolve that you will not be surprised or get disillusioned when the storms do come, but that you will simply cling that much tighter to Him, trusting Him before understanding.
Expect that trying times will come. Expect them to possibly be worse than you could have imagined. But also expect that the ending will always be good.
Resolve to never give up.
Ya know, to be honest, this blog post is a bit weird for me to write.
I usually take several sittings to fully complete a blog post, often days or even weeks apart, and this one was no different.
And about halfway through writing this one, I came to the sudden realization that I am currently walking (crawling?) through the midst of a storm.
Though I cannot point to any external circumstance as a trigger, I feel Spiritually and emotionally drained. I’ve been having a hard time getting passionate about things that used to energize me like nothing else (case in point: Christian youth conferences). I’ve found myself getting frustrated with super silly little things, and simply having less patience with people than I am used to having.
I actually don’t think I’ve felt this dry for this long before.
And it’s hard. Man, it sucks. Part of me just wants to go back to my teenage years where I would sit and marinate in God’s presence that felt so tangible I could almost taste it.
Instead I find myself having to fight to worship and pray.
But, having been convinced by trusted people that I am still in the right place at the right time and that this dryness is really a transition point from one Spiritual place to the next, I am resolved to keep holding on.
I am holding on, because I have hope that the end will be better than the start. Though I have no idea why I am here, or what God is doing in it, I know that He has good plans, and I trust that He will show them to me when the time is right.
Until then, I hold on. To Him, to His promises, and to any and every ray of hope, regardless of how dark it may get.
After all, trouble is really just something to be expected when you’re running after Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus... No turning back, no turning back
On Being Helped
“How can you expect to help others if you will not let yourself be helped by them?”
That was the question that all but exploded through my thoughts about a month and a half ago a few months ago (it’s taken awhile to write this thing, ok?) while I was minding my own business, mowing the lawn, and listening to some relatively unrelated sermon.
I do my best to listen to anything God might try to say to me through my thoughts, but it’s rare, at least for me, to have something that loud and clear, and so unrelated to anything that was occupying my mind the moment before. It’s nice when God makes takes away any question of whether or not that was Him talking.
Of course, in this particular case, the thought that was loud and clear wasn’t necessarily a happy, feel-good thought. Really, it was a rebuke, but when God does it it somehow is a perfect combination of strong but gentle. It doesn’t feel harsh. It more feels like God gently pointing at a new area of my life and saying:
“Hey, this, right here. Yeah, this is what we need to work on next.”
Once I got over the initial frustration of realizing, yet again, that I’m not perfect (you’d think I’d be used to that revelation by now), I started thinking about what exactly that meant.
Ok, so apparently letting myself be helped by other people is something I need to work on. But what does that look like practically? And why exactly is it a good idea?
I think the answer is a journey that the moment on the lawnmower only started, and I’m guessing it’s a journey I’ll be on for awhile, but I have already learnt some things. Let’s start with why being helped by others is a good idea:
First, it kills pride. I think this is the number one reason why I’m not in the habit of asking for or even allowing people to help me.
I can do it on my own. I don’t need other people. I’m above that. Sure, I’ll help others, but I don’t need to be repaid for that favour. I’m strong enough on my own.
Now, I also think there is a legitimate aspect of my hesitancy to ask for help that is just me not wanting to be a burden on other people. I don’t think that’s wrong, so there’s obviously a balance here, but asking someone for help requires some level of humility, and that’s something I could always use a little more of.
Keeping with the topic of breaking pride, one thing I’ve noticed is that I spend a lot of time trying to build up the little kingdom of my life all on my own; be it my career, the purchasing of a house, or whatever else a proper adult life is supposed to entail, I tend to try to do it on my own as much as possible. Maybe I’m still trying to prove to myself that I can actually make it on my own, without anyone else’s help, instead of just letting that pride fall to the ground and letting people help me. Maybe I really shouldn’t have it in my head that I “should” be able to make it on my own. Maybe it’s really more healthy to let other people help you grow.
Asking for help entails being vulnerable enough to let other people see my weaknesses (something that I consider myself to be pretty terrible at). Asking for help automatically makes you vulnerable, be it in with a massive way with a deep and pressing need or in a small way with a tiny one. Stating something that you need or want the other person to do for you gives them a glimpse at some area of your life that is in some way deficient, or at least not fully self-sufficient. That’s not always easy, but I think any action that strips away any appearance of “having it all together” is good. Again, we’re killing pride.
The second reason to allow others to help you is this: it can actually be less selfish. Let me explain.
I like helping other people. Aside from the afore-mentioned pride that may be involved, I do think there’s just something that innately feels good about having helped someone else.
Assuming that’s true for everyone, the walls that I have up against letting other people help me actually steal away an opportunity for someone else to enjoy that satisfaction of helping me. Again, there is a very fine line to tread here to avoid becoming an overly-needy person, but I think the point is still valid: letting others help you can help them feel like the useful and valued person God already knows they are. I can actually help others by allowing them to help me.
Third reason: building a healthy community. Let me explain with a funny narrative.
There’s a group of people I know (who shall remain as un-identifiable as possible, just in case…) that I interact with on a relatively regular basis without actually being part of the “inner circle,” if you will. And this group of people (or at least a subset of it) has a somewhat peculiar habit:
Sharing clothes. Sometimes without the knowledge of both parties involved in the transaction.
I know this because they’ll offhandedly talk about how another member “still has that hoodie,” or that they’ve had someone else’s t-shirt in their room for several weeks, or that they could sleep over at a friend’s house at a moment’s notice because they’re sure they could borrow some clothes from them in the morning.
This concept was totally and completely foreign to me.
That sounds, um, kinda messy. I kinda like my clothes in my own house. I don’t really consider myself a neat freak, but I do like knowing where my stuff is, and keeping it organized and self-contained so I can find it later.
As I pondered this new idea, I came to the realization that, despite the messiness of it, there was actually a big part of me that craved that type of community. Where it’s just expected that someone else has your back, because they know you’d have theirs. The default is that everyone helps everyone else, without anyone keeping score.
Hmm… That picture actually kinda reminds me of the early church. Acts 2:44-45 says this:
“Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”
And Acts 4:32 say something similar about that community of believers:
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.”
This was the beginning, where the Holy Spirit was enabling Peter and the other early church leaders to preach and teach and heal while thousands made the decision to follow Jesus. I don’t believe any church has ever been or will ever be perfect, but I think it’s safe to say that the early church was at least getting it mostly right.
And it appears that they were so sold-out to Jesus and what He was doing that they basically lost sight of their individualism in favour of the greater community, making sure that everyone had enough. In short, it became expected that everyone helped everyone else, not out of compulsion, but because they had their eyes set on a bigger prize than just getting more stuff.
That’s an ideal that I’d like to strive towards. I’m certainly pretty far away from it right now, but maybe it starts with being humble enough to either be the most needy or the most generous individual within a community, and everywhere in between.
And a community like that doesn’t work if some people are always and only giving, because the receivers end up feeling lesser while the givers end up feeling high and mighty. There needs to be some sort of give an take all the way through.
Ok, so being helped is good. Killing pride, giving others an opportunity to help, and building a community. Happy, good, and check.
So how does it start? How does one move in the direction of being helped on a more regular basis?
For me at least, I think it’s pretty simple: um, ask for help. Yo.
And not just when you’re at rock bottom and you’ve exhausted all of your individualistic options. Be quick to give help, but also don’t be afraid of asking for it. It’s entirely possible someone would love to have the opportunity to help you, and is just waiting for the opportunity. The more you give and ask for help, the more the culture around you morphs to expect that help is always available, and the more your community starts to look like that early church.
Ask someone to pass the water. Ask someone to grab you a coffee when you’re busy and they’re not. Ask someone to help out with something that is your responsibility but is stretching you too thin and overwhelming you. Ask to borrow someone’s hoodie. Ask someone to listen to the hardest part of your life right now, and to walk with you through it.
Yeah… I want to get better at this.
I want to be humble and vulnerable enough to let other people see the areas in my life where I need help. I want people to see me as someone that they can approach when they need help, because I have or inevitably will need their help at some point. I want to create a culture where any needs are expected to be met within the community. I want to be humble enough to ask my friends to grab me a coffee, or lend me a hoodie, or listen to the worst part of me and help me through it.
I want to be helped. I need to be helped.