It was a long day. I was in a hurry.
The guy bagging the groceries picked up my three overstuffed shopping bags and said, "Can I help you out to the car with these?"
The line behind me was full of restless people - little kids grabbing for candy and parents. It was only three bags. They weren't even heavy bags. I didn't need help.
"I'm ok. I've got this. Thanks."
Famous last words. Not only was it practically a wrestling match to get the grocery bags from one pair of hands to the other, but not even five steps from the register, I wiped out. Loudly.
A jar of salsa, 5 apples, and 3 containers of yogurt went rolling across the floor. Completely embarrassed, I went after them and shoved them back into my shopping bags. It was crowded. People were watching.
I heard footsteps behind me and looked up to see the guy who had bagged the groceries. "Now you can't say 'I've got this.' You need help out to the car and that's all there is to it."
Driving home I couldn't help laughing at myself.
How many times have I refused help when I've really needed it?
We're so proud.
We want to say, "I know how to do this. I can handle this. This is my territory. This is something I understand. When it goes well it will be because of what I've done."
It's in our nature.
It's in my nature.
Maybe you're nodding your head and smiling. Or maybe you're more like me and this stings a little bit. A good song always softens the blow of something honest. Have you ever heard this song? You should listen to it again.
I work in an elementary school. I know all about the importance of friendship. I get down on my knees daily to speak face to face with small children about why it's necessary to learn to rely on other people and to help other people early in life.
So why do I forget how much I need the help offered to me?
Proverbs is a good place to start. What can pride do for us? Not very much.
Of course, I'm not saying that you need poor self esteem in order to fully embrace your humanity. That's a common confusion in our understanding of what it means to have pride. I suppose I'd say that I have pride in the work I do . . . inasmuch as I try to keep my teaching and leadership forward thinking and helpful. But to be prideful is something else.
It isolates us, doesn't it?
"Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." - Proverbs 13:10.
That one is in my wallet, on my desk at work, and pasted into the front of the folder I keep my church choir music in.
When I think about all the good things I've learned from allowing somebody to help me . . . to teach me . . . I am humbled lower than the floor.
Many of us have been taught that other people should respect us. I teach my students about respectfulness and how to offer it to others. My parents were extremely explicit about the necessity of showing respect.
But somewhere we've gotten a fallen understanding of what it is to be respected.
Respect is a form of basic kindness. It can even be kindness with a lack of familiarity - You know what I mean . . . . "I don't know you very well, but I am going to hear you out."
Today as I drove home from the grocery store I came to a familiar intersection. I waited at a stop sign to turn right onto a 4 lane highway. A school bus was approaching the intersection and beside it, completely hidden from me, was a red sports car. The bus driver knew the car was there, but I had no way of seeing it. As I prepared to pull out into traffic, the bus driver honked at me and I waited just long enough to see the red car pass the school bus.
What if the bus driver had assumed that I was able to see the red car? What if they'd thought, "She has a license. Clearly she knows what she's doing. She won't need any help." ?
I would be in the hospital right now. That's what.
We don't "have this."
We can't do any of "this" on our own.
We need other people.
We need God.
Oh yeah. Eat your heart out. That's a young Sarah Tullock (then Sarah Trotter) the summer after her freshman year of college, learning how to help somebody through an obstacle at Camp Wesley Woods called "The Giant's Ladder."
It's impossible to work all summer as a counselor at an outdoor adventure camp and think you've "got this" without anybody's help (or the constant forgiveness and love of God, who knows all about your failures and doesn't bat an eye).
If I didn't know about humility and how helpful it is before I worked at camp, I learned about it very quickly. It's kind of like thinking about another life now . . .
It's impossible to teach or direct a choir and think you've "got this" without anybody's help. Who do we think we're kidding when we refuse the blessings offered to us? God? Do we think that God doesn't know how scared we really are?
Go research the relationship between "compassion" and "God" or "forgiveness" and "God."
It can all be very practical. These are things we can do:
"Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." - Luke 6:36
"Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ as also forgiven you." - Ephesians 4:32
Offer to carry something for somebody.
When you realize that they might not see what's coming, give them a graceful warning.
Being completely self assured doesn't make us more able to do what is impossible in isolation. Pretending to be self assured only hurts us.
Hey - this is me. The lady who was on her rear end at the grocery store today because she couldn't accept help with her three bags of produce. "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it . . ."
But the grace of God endures all things - even our pride.
And we have been given a teachable spirit so that we can learn and depend on the grace of other pilgrims like ourselves.