This is my upcoming column for The Minister's Corner in the Shawnee News Star, Saturday, February 14, 2015
“I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.”
Psalm 121:1-3, The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version
“Help! I need somebody. Help!”
Help written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, ©1965
I had a brush with helplessness this week. My kids and I were driving our daily school route when I had a flat tire. Seeing a police car in a parking lot, I pulled over and asked the officer for help. She called a local tire place who said they could send someone over, but it would take a while. I called my car dealership. Their tow driver was unavailable, so they gave me the number for roadside assistance. The nice lady on the other end said she would contact someone. The wrecker they called was going to take an even longer while. The first police officer radioed another officer to see if he was close by and could lend a hand. In the midst of all this, my kids were getting later and later for school. I called both schools to let them know of our predicament, and then I called one of my church members and said, in the words of John Lennon, “Help!” He responded immediately, met us at the parking lot, and drove my kids to school. Due to a missing lug nut key (long story), my spare wasn’t changed out for the flat one. But with the assistance of these three kind people, I was able to get my kids to school, get enough air in my flat tire to drive to the tire store, get a new tire, and get back to my regularly scheduled day.
It all turned out well, and I am so grateful for the folks who offered help when I needed it. I’d like to say that I handle situations like this calmly and with a sense of humor. I’d like to say that. But I can’t. Because I don’t. My stress level rises and my sense of perspective drops. It’s not the situation that stresses me out as much as it is my feeling of helplessness. I learned how to change a tire when I was 16 and in Driver’s Ed. However that’s been __ years ago, and my memory is getting iffier. When something goes wrong with a vehicle, all I can see are $ signs. So I mentally sift through my bank account trying to figure out where the money for the problem will be found. Whatever the issue – big or small – car troubles make me feel helpless, and I don’t do helpless so well.
When all the dust of the morning finally settled, my first thought was, “This is ridiculous. I am going to relearn how to change a flat tire.” That is not a bad thing to know, but as the day wore on, I wondered if perhaps that feeling of helplessness was actually a gift. Our culture values independence, self-sufficiency, and a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps mentality. I value these traits as well. Yet, the truth of the matter is that everyone needs help sometimes. Each of us has probably found ourselves in a situation where we need help. No matter how independent or self-sufficient we may be, you cannot get through this life without needing a helping hand to pull you up. When the independence we value is taken to an extreme, asking for help becomes shameful. Helplessness makes us feel vulnerable, and our response to this discomfort can range from mild to manic. However, if we acknowledge that we all need help, there should be no shame in asking for it.
That is why, as strange as it may seem, feeling helpless over my flat tire was a gift. It reminded me that we are all in this life together. We need one another. It reminded me that there is very little in my life that I can control. Like it or not, life happens. When it does, sometimes I need help. Ultimately, the surest help I have is what the psalmist describes. My help, our help, comes from the One who made heaven and earth. The One who made heaven and earth created us to be in relationship with one another. We need one another. We need to help one another. There is no shame in asking for help. What would I have done without it? I still plan to learn how to change a flat tire. But not just for myself. I’m going to learn because one day I might be called upon to help someone else. When that happens, I want to be ready. I want to help.