January 29, 2007
The Risk of Asking
Here's something you should know about me: I hate to ask for help. There are certain instances I've deemed worthy. One is stopping to ask for directions. I've gotten so lost a few times since moving out here that I have no qualms about asking for directional help. My sister is my first choice; she's my personal GPS: always gracious, never says "How did you get THERE?" and has never failed to lead me safely out of wherever I've gotten myself into. If she's not available, gas-station and convenience-store clerks will do.
I'll also ask for help if it will save me significant time, such as when I'm shopping. You don't want to tell people you spent your entire Saturday afternoon wandering around the grocery store looking for wheat wraps because you wouldn't ask a store clerk where to find them.
But in most other situations in my life, I have a very hard time asking for help. I'd rather take the task on myself than involve other people who already have enough going on in their own lives. Or sometimes I'm not sure who to ask to find the answer I need.
But asking, I'm realizing, is powerful. I recently studied Matthew 8 and 9; they're full of people whose lives were changed by Jesus because they dared to ask him for help. And for most of them, asking took immense courage. Take the leper in chapter 8. He had to walk through a crowd of people who'd been taught since birth to scorn and reject him. He couldn't hide his disease, his neediness. And he likely had never met Jesus before, so he couldn't have been sure what sort of answer he'd receive. But he asked anyway, and found a compassionate Savior who was eager to help.
Admitting my own limits and neediness, my dependence on God and others, is the way it's supposed to be; it's how God created us. I know that in my mind and can see the practical value of it lived out. But my individualistic, be-independent, American self tries to fight it, and often wins. I'm amazed when I read David's psalms how natural and deep his dependence on God was; in many ways he was such a strong person (brave warrior, powerful ruler), yet in his psalms he freely and frequently admits--without shame--his utter helplessness and fear, his complete dependence on God. He accepted that that's how it's supposed to be.
Jesus reminds us of this in Luke 11: "Ask and it will be given to you. . . . For everyone who asks receives. . . . Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Asking and receiving are a natural rhythm of any healthy relationship. Especially in our relationship with God, who loves to give help.
But asking is still hard. When I do take the risk, I often feel the same way I imagine the leper felt: unsure of what reaction I'll receive (scorn? ridicule?) and acutely aware of my need. Usually, though, I receive what he did: compassion, and the help that I need.
So why am I so afraid to admit how much I need others, afraid to accept that as part of what it means to be human, afraid to accept my own limits? And how do I get past my fear? Just asking. I suspect that's the only way I'll find the answer.