Last week, with a heart full of shame for being unable to take care of cleaning my own apartment, I asked for help through my church’s facebook group. I almost begged someone else to write the post on my behalf, I felt so embarrassed. Having always been a helper, a doer, the girl who says yes to anyone in need, I forgot that it’s ok to ask for it myself. As I’ve lost my health and physical abilities to chronic illness over the years, I have learned to say no, but I still hadn’t been able to bring myself to ask people to meet my needs.
It shouldn’t be hard to keep up with a small apartment, especially with my girls only living here half the time and they are competent enough to clean up after themselves. I appear healthy if you look at me, so there’s the ever present self-condemnation and thoughts that people will judge me for being lazy.
The day my help was coming, a kind woman from church, I woke up feeling unwell and in more pain than usual, so I sent her a text saying that I wouldn’t be the greatest hostess but that she was still welcome to come. Her beautiful smile greeted me when I opened my door along with the encouragement to just relax while she did everything for me. Mortified, I at least dragged myself off the couch and pulled up the barstool to where she set to work cleaning the kitchen. I was barely able to sit and chat; I did because of the deep shame.
As she was finishing up, she looked right into my eyes and said, “It was so courageous of you to ask for help. I hope more people will be brave enough to ask, and I want you to know what a joy it was to come here and help you.” Courageous and brave? That is certainly not how I was feeling. And I didn’t know that by asking for help, I was giving a gift to someone.
When I look at life through a lens of lack, what I don’t have or can’t do, potential judgment haunts me like a ghost. Being seen as incompetent stalks me. I feel guilty for being the friend who receives favors instead of giving them. The person who can’t be counted on to help or serve in a physical capacity. The list goes on. When fear and guilt are my companions, I become less than me. And so do you.
You and I aren’t meant to live this way; with this fear of lack. We are more than the things we cannot do. Your gifts and your grace are a testimony to your heart of courage and resilience taking the place of the ghosts of shame. Your courage to be where you are might show grace’s shape in someone’s life where it feels void. My courage gave another woman purpose as she misses having her children grown and far away; it filled her emptiness. Imagine thinking of it in such a way that you filled someone rather than taking away.
Courage is opening my heart to a life beyond the false protection of fear and guilt. It’s acknowledging the gratitudes and desolations, seeing God’s hand in both. Showing up and speaking up when I might be hurt by words or actions. Courage is allowing ourselves to be weak and hear God be the one to call us strong.
Opening yourself up to someone else, asking for help, it’s brave. And when you do, you are allowing someone the joy of giving their gift. Will you step out in courage and ask for what you need? I truly believe you will be just as much of a blessing to someone else as they will be to you.