“Life is not a solo but a chorus. We live in relationships from cradle to grave.”
This past weekend I had the great pleasure of spending a day in retreat with some women in my parish. Many of the women who sat at the same table as me, shared things that have stayed on my heart and in my mind since that day.
It seems I have been called out of my blogging sabbatical to share with you about one thought in particular: our need to receive.
The story we were reading as a group was the story of a paralyzed man whose friends carried him on a mat in order to meet Jesus and be healed (Mark 2: 1-12, Luke 5:17-26, Matt 9:2-8). Before reading this story, we were asked to “tell about a time a friend went above and beyond to help you in a time of need.” Many of us shared how, while we were grateful for those times when others do things for us as part of social convention (like bringing us meals after the birth of a child, in times of sickness, or after the loss of a loved one), what stood out to us most, were the little things others have done for us when we were least expecting them.
Later, we were asked if we could see ourselves as a kind of friend that could appear in the story of the paralyzed man. One woman bravely admitted that while she would gladly help a friend in need, she had a hard time seeing herself as the one who would allow others to do this for her.
Her comment struck me. While I didn’t say it at the time, I felt the exact same way. Hearing it come from someone else, though, made me wonder what if we all felt this way? What if we all wanted to be the one to help, but are not willing to be helped except in times when it’s “socially acceptable”?
If we are truly followers of Jesus, the point is clear. In his own life, he demonstrated for us that receiving the help of others is a necessary part of humanity. Jesus was open to receiving from others. He received baptism through John the Baptist (Matt 3:13, Mark 1:9, Luke 3:21), he received anointing with expensive oils from a woman others rejected (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-11). Beyond that, in the garden as he agonized, Jesus requested help from his apostles to stay with him while he prayed. (Matthew 26:36, Mark 14:32).
If Jesus, who needed nothing, was able to receive and even request help from others, why should I think I am above similar help? Seeing Jesus in this way, makes me question whether I have, in fact “picked up my cross” at all, or am I trying instead to create my own twisted, incomplete version of one?
This first week of Lent–when the spotlight often shines brightly on our call to serve–I am grateful for having also been reminded of our need to receive. As a result, perhaps the next time I find myself waving away someone trying to offer their help to me I will remember one stark observation made by another woman in our group: if the paralyzed man had not allowed others to help, no miracle could have occurred.