Help and Wait

It felt like admitting defeat, arriving at my never failing perpetually two-minutes (or more) late to my appointment with a new counselor. It’s been a long time coming, and counseling is more than necessary for the things that I had pretended to fully process through while trying desperately to not ask for help. I had preached upstairs in my own office to the many wounded and hurting that healthy people seek counseling, while refusing to take a spoonful of my own medicine. Here I was, sitting on the three-person couch alone, forcing my tears back into their ducts as if they were something to be ashamed of.

He handed me a tissue, and as I wiped the heaviness from my eyes hoping that my foundation wouldn’t fall off with it, I balled it up in my hand, rendering it useless for the rest of our time. Months and months had gone by while I stuffed down the grief I felt while feeling such disorientation within me; I knew in my head God was faithful, and my heart was wrestling. Although I had felt more steady than I had for a long time, my deep and long standing fight with my desire for control rendered me quickly volatile as I looked around for any semblance of my rule and reign.

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When I think of help, I think of the word that God called Eve, the ezer. In many ways, as the word “helpmate” has been used to demean and diminish, we tend to stick our noses up at the thought of ever needing help or asking for it: it means weakness. Yet, the other times this word is used in the Bible is with God fighting alongside Israel in battle, and without God’s help, Israel will not succeed. God is Israel’s strength, their ezer. It’s clear that help is not optional.

Suffering is something we all have in common. The earth is groaning, the effects of sin both deep and wide, and all of us have felt the aches of the fall. There were and still are days when it feels as if the darkness will not lift. We are all truly desert dwellers, wandering in the wilderness, often feeling that help is the last thing we want to ask for just in case we come off weak or needy. The daily hill is so steep.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
— Psalm 121:1

The lie of independence and autonomy finds us and beats us while we are down, even sometimes being the very thing that has brought us to the pit in the first place. Scripture time and time again speaks a better and truer word: we are dependent creatures, we need each other, we need Christ, neediness and weakness is in fact, the only way. Especially in our fiercely individualistic culture here in America, we tend to lack the beauty and the gifts that leaning on one another can bring within our Church bodies as we cling too tightly to self.

We strain to hear [God in our sorrows]. But instead of hearing an answer we catch the sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God… perhaps his sorrow is splendor.
— Nicholas Wolterstorff

I didn’t and don’t want to be in this place I am in now: of struggle, of frustration, of resent—but this place has found me rightly reaching out for help, finding out and remembering once more that there is that life abundant promised not just beyond but within the disheveled chemicals in my brain, the hard circumstances of life, the things done both by and to me, and into the graciousness of my need. Many may say that these things don’t go together, this pulling weight and my firm love of Christ, and yet, this paradox entangled has a home in me. Over the cacophony of words that rub in to this fresh clay, I sit and share my story on that grey IKEA couch, and am told great words of truth: I am not alone.

My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121:2

In this odd sort of way, I want to speed everything up, so even if it seems I am doing something healthy and good for me to do, I may sometimes only be doing it in order to get the least amount of pain out of it, running through the steps as fast as possible.

We scooted back into the same booth at the Panera found midway between us, I with a tea and she with iced coffee, both of us quietly wishing that we had some better things to say than the last time four months ago we checked in.

She shared with me a story where she had placed herself in the shoes of one of the disciples, looking all around at the wind and the waves as the ship seemed it would break, and Jesus was sleeping (Mark 4:35-41). If Jesus can rest in this, maybe He is inviting me to do the same. If Jesus is trusting enough that all is well in good in a storm, it means He’s got it in control. However, most often, we are the disciples, seeing ourselves sinking and asking, “teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

We shifted our conversation to a sermon heard weeks before, one about seeds and sowing in the Gospel of Mark. With all of my laborious work with plants, I know almost too much about the care of each individual succulent or tropical that comes my way. The hardest part of plant care is that no matter the knowledge and love I provide, if the plant has a sick or weak root system, there is not much I can do. I am responsible for the care, but I can’t do much for the work that happens underground. That work requires patience, waiting, hoping.

The person… who looks for quick results in the seed planting of well-doing will be disappointed. If I want potatoes for dinner tomorrow, it will do me little good to go out and plant potatoes in my garden tonight. There are long stretches of darkness and invisibility and silence that separate planting and reaping. During the stretches of waiting there is cultivating and weeding and nurturing and planting still other seeds.
— Wendell Berry, Traveling Light*

Even as we hold the illusion of control in our hands, certainly a part of the work that is happening here on this earth, I am blind to the next steps of the journey not only for me, but for everyone around me. Through misted eyes, I struggle with the fight of faith happening in turmoil within me, of the situation seemingly always feeling chaotic, and if my Father cares if I drown; the hard work of waiting is chiseling the impatience off of dry bones. With many holding my arms up as I attempt to grin and bear it, my Teacher knows what He’s doing, and it’s His upside-down Kingdom calling me to rest, to slow down, and to remember in the midst of it.

My teacher is good.


*First found on Jana English's blog.