Years ago, as we tried to adjust to our son’s new cancer diagnosis and attempted to continue managing all the “normal” parts of life, a group of neighbors, friends, and people we didn’t know personally, swooped in to help. They made dinners, sent sweet messages, and offered childcare. It was help that we desperately needed in a season where even the day to day details seemed hard - help that should have made my load lighter, my sleep easier and, gave me confidence that I could handle this crazy mess of a new normal.
Here’s the thing though, it did the exact opposite.
It was overwhelming. It felt heavy. It was beyond uncomfortable. It kept me up at night.
I should’ve been consumed solely with the fact that my child was facing three years of cancer treatment. Instead, I was paralyzed by the weight of being the needy one.
I confided in a friend that I was having trouble handling all the help. I told her I felt like such a burden. Our family had so many needs and I was angry I couldn’t handle it on my own. Looking back, I was filled with constant worry - worry that it would be YEARS before I got a handle on this new way of life, worry that I would ALWAYS have to ask for help to get through my days, worry that I was losing some of my identity - I’d always seen myself as capable, actually, MORE than capable.
I was used to being the one who could handle everything. I was the one who brought the casseroles to others. I wasn’t supposed to be the one who needed help.
My friend was infinitely patient as she listened to me complain about this place I found myself in. (I still believe the reason she didn’t come right out and call me a whiner is because she felt she couldn’t say that to a mom whose son had cancer.) Instead, my friend responded with a real-world definition of what it really means to be the hands and feet of Jesus. That phrase often gets casually tossed around, when it is really so sacred. It is messy work to care for others in crisis. It is also sacred work to enter into the darkest season of someone’s life and be a safe place for them and come alongside their darkness and invite light in by loving them. She explained when people are willing to try to be more like Jesus, it’s our job to GET OUT OF THE WAY AND LET THEM. My friend said these words to me kindly but let’s be honest, that is an ALL CAPS statement:
“Allowing people into your mess to help you get through the day is a gift - to you but also, to the person helping you.”
When my friend added Jesus to the conversation it changed everything - as it often does. I hadn’t really thought about the grace that exists when you humble yourself enough to ask for help. I don’t think I had ever been humble enough to see that.
I’ve been on both sides now and in my experience, it’s still way more fulfilling to be the one that shows up with the casserole and organizes the prayer chain - just being honest. But there are seasons, for all of us, where it’s ok and even necessary to allow yourself to step back and be served - to ask for help. To allow someone else the gift of trying to be more like Jesus.
If you’re currently trying to love someone in a dark season, please don’t give up.
Even when we don’t call you back. Even when we seem distant. Even when what we are going through scares you. Even when it seems like we have it all together - I guarantee we don’t, and we are probably trying to not fall apart in a closet somewhere.
Here are a few ways you can keep showing up: take the kids on a play date, drop off a meal, send an encouraging text, do the laundry, sit on the porch with a cup of coffee and don’t say a word.
It matters, it means we are less alone.
And to the “capable one” like me, let people love you, let people be the hands and feet of Jesus. You are not made to do this alone.