Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NRSV)
When I look back on younger years, it seems like there were an inordinate number of times when I felt dependent on someone else’s good nature. Times when I needed an extra push, an extra bit of leeway, or just a good dose of emotional support. Many times I received what I felt I needed, and other times I didn’t.
I have to confess that the very condition of needing disturbs me on a fundamental level. Ever since I was a small child, I can remember straining for every scrap of independence I could achieve. I grew up surrounded by the principles of rugged individualism and self-reliance that permeates much of the American psyche. To top it all off, I am naturally driven by a chronic pride that detests any feelings of vulnerability.
Maybe all these factors prompt me to use the word “inordinate” when I talk about needing help. My pride tells me that I’ve needed it more times than I should have or more times than other people do. In the midst of such unhealthy comparisons, I tend to ask “Why?” In other cases, I don’t want to speculate, I just want to move away from seasons of vulnerability as quickly as I can. How I long for all of it to just be a footnote in the larger manuscript of my life.
But deep down, I think I already know the answer to the “Why?” or part of it, at least. I also realize that some seasons in life are meant to be more than a footnote.
Pride twists weakness and need into hateful things, then sears them into my memory like a hot brand. I cry out at the sting of it. But like a small child crying out all my energy in a tantrum, I eventually sink to the ground in exhaustion, and accept that, before God, I am completely helpless.
This helplessness is not a hateful thing, but a joyous one. It is an opportunity to approach the God that gives grace to the humble, beckons the weary, and welcomes the careworn.
This helplessness is also a call to learn from others. All we will ever know of love we receive from God and are taught by others. The seeds of kindness we receive nestle deep in our heart’s earthy darkness. When the time is right, the Light calls them to spring up as rich, fragrant blossoms of compassion and mercy for others.
With the Spirit’s help, we will grow into this calling day by day.
Thanks be to God, the loving Father, who teaches us, not to stand on our own two feet, but to lean on His provision, to accept the kindness of others with gratitude and humility, and to reflect all the love we’ve been given to the world–whenever and wherever it’s needed.