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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learning not to be an island…

Bear one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

I have problems asking for help; It makes me uncomfortable. I’ve already confessed to a capacity conundrum
…I'm neither stubborn nor masochistic… It's just that I've got little engine that could-it is…I think I can. I push when I should rest. I move when I should be still. I offer because I can. I have a capacity conundrum.
We hide our own needs,
out of pride or fear, not only
robbing ourselves of the blessing
but also robbing others of
an opportunity to bless. 
I am very good at helping, offering, covering, being the kind of friend I’d want to have. I just don’t have any idea how to receive what I’d expect anyone else to…It wasn’t until I realized that my selfishness, my inclination to be an island, is a sin. We are taught in Galatians that it is the law of Christ that we bear one another’s burdens. So, by insisting upon not asking for help, I sin.

As usual, Matthew Henry’s Commentary of Galatians 6 makes it plain.
 It becomes us to bear one another's burdens, as fellow-travelers. It is very common for a man to look upon himself as wiser and better than other men, and as fit to dictate to them. Such a one deceives himself; by pretending to what he has not, he puts a cheat upon himself, and sooner or later will find the sad effects. This will never gain esteem, either with God or men. 
I’ve often put that cheat upon myself. I meant no offense, but knowing better means you do better. I declare here and now, I know better.

Fortunately, God sent me just the teachers I need to get over myself, since the other thing I’ve learned is that if I insist upon continuing on my own, disaster is imminent.  I have my own blessed trinity, in the form of my Gayle, My BFF, and my newest best gift, a hundred or so sister-dreamers, featuring my very own sister encourager. Let me tell you how they change my life.

If you read my writing regularly, you already know about my Gayle. (you can read more about my Gayle here)
Oh come on, if you’ve fantasized at least once about being Oprah, you know who a “Gayle” is…)
My Gayle is my ride or die friend. We have been friends since college. She is my oldest friend, more than 30 years, knows all my stories, even the ones she wasn’t around for. My husband is first in my life, but Grey’s Anatomy fans will get this…she’s my person. We’ve prayed together, laughed together, and she was my first teacher in accepting help with Grace. You see, my Gayle is retired senior military.  She spent her career telling people what to do. She is gracious enough to seek my advice, and I do not argue when she offers advice, or assistance. I didn’t say I ask; but it is she who taught me to receive.

My BFF became essential to my life when she bought the house across the street. She is that friend. Our children run ingredients for spontaneous kitchen inventions back and forth across the street (we share one pretty remarkable mega-pantry). We don’t impose upon one another—we wouldn’t know how. She is among the most gracious, thoughtful, and considerate people I’ve ever been blessed to know. I have only asked her for anything when I was in desperate need; usually at her prompting. Just yesterday, primed with a bribe, I screwed up my courage. (I know God is working on me) I was very uncomfortable, but really needed to ask her a favor. It wasn’t such a big thing, but I swallowed my very real discomfort and asked anyway. As only she could, she laughed (she has a hearty, all in laugh), having already assumed she was part of the plan I was agonizing about…
My Gayle taught me to receive. My BFF taught me to ask.

That brings me to the newest of my blessings, in the form of the Divine Miss N (she is actually Mrs. F, but I like my nickname better. I hope Mr. F doesn’t mind…) Once I signed up for this God-sized Dream Team (we now refer to ourselves as GSDT), I promptly moved left (or right, no, probably left) of center to watch the action. I’m a bit of a lurker, and believing God to get me over my sudden attack of self-doubt ( I am so NOT that girl) I got a blessing in the form of an encouraging buddy.  But I didn’t just get any buddy. I got someone who told me she was going to be in my face (in a loving, Christian way). God didn’t just send me any buddy, because in typical me fashion, I wasn’t even in the asking line. I inadvertently waited a couple days, NOT ON PURPOSE, to even connect with someone. God knew what He was doing. He does. This is how God does a blessing. Here is how my Divine Miss N introduced herself…
Thanks for daring to let me be your buddy. I will encourage you and pray for you. … I will be dedicated to touching base with you every Tuesday…I may check in more often, but want to let you know when you can count on me. Feel free to let me know how I can best encourage you this week. I will read up on you (nicely stalk? Yikes) and start the check ins next week. Cool? Blessings to you!
I was stunned, because her showing up just the way she did gave me the very real reminder that God is AWESOME. She can’t have known how I saw God in her message. And, not only did she make the offer to encourage me, she showed up and showed out.

Just a few days later, uncomfortably for me, I reached out to the group to ask someone, anyone, to critique an essay. In strolls the Divine Miss N, offering to read it, asked numerous questions, drew me into a dialog about faith, socio-politics, race, and history, and made me want to pull up a chair with her at Starbucks or a library or over a pot of tea where we might share and fellowship for a few hours. In one week’s time, the Divine Miss N has become my girl.

The further along I journey with my GSDT, the more I understand that the dream I’m working on is as much me as what God might see fit to produce through me. It’s already a miracle.  

Lord, I didn’t mean to sin, but I know better now. Often we see one another’s burdens and instantly know how to anticipate sharing. We hide our own needs, out of pride or fear, not only robbing ourselves of the blessing but also robbing others of an opportunity to bless. We have not because we ask not.

This week’s lesson is learning not be an island. No (wo)man is an island. Lord, I declare my thanks to You, for sending my sisters to light my way. Thank you for my own blessed trinity. I can be better because they’ve taught me better. I read just yesterday that “broken things can become blessed things if you let God do the mending.”Lord,  I’m grateful to be broken. I’m more thankful You are my God, the mender.

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