Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Asking for Help (Thoughts from "Jesus Freak")

I read this passage from the "Healing" section of Sara Miles' latest book "Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead" last night, and was struck deeply by it.

I was still terrible at asking for help...I was good at dismissing other people's hesitations, the endless cycle of excuses I heard all the time: I don't want to bother you. Nobody would understand. Other people have real troubles; my problems aren't serious enough. My problems are too serious; there's nothing anyone can do. I'm embarrassed. I'm OK. Nobody really listens anyway.

My own excuses were equally dumb. But they were so embedded in my self-image as a capable grown-up that I almost always chose to keep my problems to myself...Asking for attention, comfort, time, listening, prayers - that made my skin crawl.

And yet, when I could force myself to do it, I saw how getting to the point of asking was an essential part of my healing. As much as I might fantasize that my real friends, my most beloved family members, the best priest or teacher or spiritual director would guess just what I wanted and provide it, the fact was I had to ask. I had to put myself in a place of truth, of admitting that I needed help.

"What do you think I should do?" I'd finally say to Paul. I hated being told what to do.

"Honey, I'm worried," I'd finally say to Martha. I always wanted to be the one who told others not to worry.

"I'm afraid," I'd finally say aloud. "I'm upset. Hold me."

And then, usually, I'd discover - no matter whether the person I asked had the perfect response, whether the help disappointed or delighted - that something had changed. I wasn't alone with myself, with my ingrown desires and denials, with the thing that I'd been stewing about in private. I'd given myself over to a relationship.

These words hit me deeply.  I stink at asking for help.  I shared the passage with a dear friend by email late last night and chuckled, when, among other things in her response this morning, I read, "the 'capable grown up' - i actually thought those were your words at first... "

I've cultivated a certain independence.  And a certain pride.  Years of depression created an aversion to asking for help.  I got tired of being the one with problems, the one who just couldn't get it together, who couldn't be "fixed."

About a month ago I sent out a prayer request email to a number of friends, detailing a particularly challenging family and life circumstance that I am embroiled in and asking for their prayers and support as I navigate this difficult situation.  I received a wide variety of encouraging responses, but the one that meant the most was from the same dear friend who I emailed the quote from Sara Miles to last night.  Her response was to thank me for sharing and to acknowledge that she knew just how hard it was for me to break some of the silence that had encompassed this particular situation, and admit that I couldn't walk this journey out alone.

That capable grown up thing stings.  I'm nearly 27 years old, and two months ago I moved into my grandma's basement.  I've been teased by quite a number of people for that move.  At 26 you don't usually move back in with family, you move further away from family.  You definitely don't move in with your incredibly nosy, clingy, overbearing, smothering grandmother.  Especially when you're also lacking your own vehicle and she lives on a very inconvenient city transit route.

I moved in because I felt that was where Jesus was leading (a whole other story, I suppose.)  I moved in because the cheaper rent is allowing me more quickly pay down debts accumulated.  Debts that I have a strong desire to be free from.

And living there has been awful.  Not only for the expected personality conflicts, but for a whole variety of family and personal and spiritual reasons.  Plus, I've had to continually find that place of humility and ask for help.  I needed to ask for rides to and from necessary errands.  For advice in navigating some of the delicate situations that have arisen.  And I had to ask friends, near and far to pray for me and stand with me as I navigate this season of life.

I even had to admit to God that I didn't have it all together.

A few years back, Sara Miles' first book, "Take This Bread" offered language to the journey I was on.  It spoke deeply to the crazy experiences of life and relationship (with God and people) that I was walking through at the time.

I'm finding, two years later, that her newest book is doing the same thing.  The irony of that, the God sense of humor in the timing of my reading of these two books, makes me laugh.

In the meantime, I'm about half-way through "Jesus Freak" and I'd strongly recommend it.


shallowfrozenwater said...

you've piqued my interest now too.

Lisa said...

ah, Ian, I can't recommend either of Sara Miles' books highly enough. "Take This Bread" is on my all time favorite and most influencing reads list, and "Jesus Freak" is rapidly working it's way up the list...