At some point in our lives, we all need help. When Dennis and I lived in Munich, we did not have a car. Most of the time, that was fine, since public buses and trains were a great way to get around the city, as well as to travel to other cities and even countries. But there were times when we needed a ride. Asking for that help was difficult, but I learned that our friends were more than happy to provide that for us, and it blessed them to serve us in that way.
More recently, we were blessed by the many meals provided after my knee replacement surgery. The generosity of the Body was overwhelming. And others of you provided things like help in my garden, company and conversation, prayer and cards of encouragement. All of these contributed to my healing and comfort.
For the most part, we are quick to offer our help at times like these - we know what is needed and what we can do. But what about those times when we don't know exactly what to do? Examples of these times could be after the death of a family member, or when someone is struggling with a friend or child whose faith is wavering. A good friend suggested to me that sometimes we are quick to offer non-specific help ("Let me know what I can do for you!"). While well-meaning, that kind of offer is difficult for a person to respond to. It still feels like an imposition to take them up on the offer. I know I have said this many times, and honestly, I cannot remember a single time someone has actually asked me to do something for them. But, when I have said something like "What night this week can I bring you a meal?" it has been much easier for the recipient to accept. Making our offers of help more specific also allows you to offer something you know you can actually do.
Offering help is only one half of this. The other half is accepting help when we need it. That is hard for many of us, isn't it? It's ok to ask someone to pray for you. But we balk at asking for someone to go out of their way to do something for us, so we do not ask. That's why we need to become more pro-active, and look for ways to bless one another. It requires creativity perhaps, to come up with a way to bless someone who is going through some kind of difficulty. Maybe it is a container of chicken soup, or a batch of muffins, running to the grocery store, or showing up to babysit so that they can go to the grocery store ALONE for once, or to a coffee shop for some peace and quiet. I know many of you are much better at this than I am, so you can probably come up with great ways to share the love of Christ with those who desperately need it.
However, this requires meddling in one another's lives. It means we have to be willing to ask "How are you REALLY?" . And when we are asked that question, to answer it honestly. The Elders are encouraging us this year to be more vulnerable with one another, being quicker to share how we are feeling or where we might be struggling. I think that this idea of serving one another also fits in well with the challenge the Deacons have set for us this year, to be engaged in service on a regular basis. Our community groups provide a way for us to be in closer touch with a group of people - how well are we serving the people in our groups?
Giving help and asking for help. Two sides of the same coin. I have needed help, and been blessed by the help I was given. I have given help and have been blessed even more by doing so. Can we build a culture of serving one another at ECC? Are we allowed to meddle in one another's lives enough to learn how to serve one another? Can we make time in our schedules to care for one another? I need to grow in this area. With God's grace and your help, I know I will.