“Suffering says we cannot bear under this cross alone – we can only bear it if we can bear depending on others, bear the vulnerability and intimacy of koinonia. If we can bear depending on Him.” (The Broken Way by Ann VosKamp, p 171)
Although I don’t need as much help as I used to immediately after the stroke, a year and and a half later, I still need help doing the most basic of things. While I can walk with assistance and with a cane, for the most part, I am dependent on others. At times when I realize how much time and how many people it takes to keep me functioning I can feel very unworthy and even depressed. One of the hardest parts of this journey for me has been being so needy, needing so much help so much of the time. I ask myself,why it is so hard to need help or ask for help, when, we know, we are not made to be autonomous. We need each other. My own father liked to say that even our belly buttons remind us that we came into the world with help. So why are we so averse to being needy or dependent?
Self sufficiency and independence are core values for us, as Americans/Westerners. We raise our kids to be self sufficient and we do all we can to insure care for the elderly by securing retirement plans with benefits and plenty of insurance or, at the very least, planning to live near children so as to guarantee care as needed. This makes it hard to receive or ask for help. I don’t like to need help, or ask for help, or sometimes even receive it. I especially don’t like to see the cost of care to my caregivers, mostly my husband and oldest daughter, on whom the burden is the greatest. My husband has had his work rhythms, goals and opportunities interrupted, as well as his sleep for a year and a half. Our oldest daughter who teaches in Germany has flown back and forth across the ocean countless times to be here for us, while spending all her school breaks coming home to care for me. Sometimes I want to say to God, along with Job, “I would speak to you about your justice.” It just doesn’t seem fair when others suffer, especially on our behalf and we can’t do anything about it.
I think the obvious answer is that it’s pride that keeps us from receiving help grace-fully, but I think there is also a matter of control, a measure of surrendering control of our own lives that is so hard to do. I find there can be a real power struggle in me to let go of my way of doing things, my preferences, choices or even just letting go of the power to meet my own needs, or the needs of others. While my own limitations keep me so very dependent on others, the reality is that I am already dependent on God for life and breath every day. However, this new and greater level of dependence helps me understand in a new way what Jesus meant when He said that apart from the Father, He could do nothing. The interdependence between Father, Son, and Spirit is a mystery, to be sure, but maybe we get a glimpse of it when we are forced to recognize our own dependence in a way that is truly humbling and helps us accept the help of the family of God around us, each with their own gifts and abilities to share with those in need, which may be me! I can also understand now how one can pray without ceasing. If Paul had a physical limitation that God did not choose to heal, then he needed Jesus every hour like I do!
I have never been more in need of His help or more grateful for the Body of Christ who has come around me to support and strengthen me. Through them I see His love manifested in a way that has kept me alive in body and spirit. I will forever be indebted to Amy, Miriam, Jennifer, Lucy, Kim, Catie, Christianah, Becky, Victoria, Marcy, Susie, Sue, Kaylyn, Jeannie, Lindsay and others who have been God’s messengers of grace and help to me in laying down their lives, by giving up plans, schedules, time, energy to help me live. I am thankful that I can know His peace and joy when I confess my need and receive His help through others.
(Below are some pictures taken this summer)