I’ve seen it multiple times, but it never fails to amaze me just how fragile our lives, as well as all the stuff of our lives, really are. One of the summer storms bouncing around the Valley at this time of year brought wind and rain ripping through our church campus. It tore up trees and threw around the roof tiles like a 2 year old in full tantrum mode. The storm was all over and done in the space of about 10 minutes, yet restoring some semblance of order took several days. The emotional impact of the scene of devastation, and the physical work also took its toll, even as we give thanks that no one was injured.
Other life events, in which we can lose everything from a loved one to our jobs or homes, and all that’s dear to us, are not quite so public or obvious as the damage from a summer storm, but no less shattering. The timing of life’s storms is almost always unpredictable, fast and furious. The hard work of recovery can be long and painful. We all know how tough change can be. But when everything changes so frighteningly fast and with such huge personal cost, we all need help and support from those who love and care about us. Ironically, these can turn out to be the times in our lives when our first instinct is to pull away from God, and the community of faith. Storms are so overwhelming that we’re tempted to draw into a defensive position that’s akin to the primal instinct of a fight for survival.
Yet there’s a deeper issue that we need to face, because the truth is we will all need help to cope with one or more of life’s storms along the way. Part of the issue is pride related, and part of it is a stress induced reaction. For many of us who are actively involved in a faith community, we’re so used to giving of ourselves that to actually ask for help, or accept help when we need it, can be a real wake up call. When our pride kicks in, the dramatic role reversal from being a care giver to receiving care is hard to stomach. When our feelings are already drum-tight and pounding us into submission and our stress level is off the charts, it’s hard to admit that we need help.
At some level, every loss leaves us shocked and grieving. We can’t help but wonder where God is in all of this. It’s natural to want an outlet for our anger and distress. It’s natural to need an outlet for our feelings of loss and abandonment, for our grief, and for our questions. Deal direct may sound like an advert, but it’s also a healthy way to find peace. Taking our feelings and questions to God in prayer, and to those gifted in counseling is much healthier than taking it out on others struggling through the crisis. We usually regret our angry words and finger pointing. I know it’s easy to say and much harder to do in the moment, but the truth doesn’t change. God is always available to us. Our spiritual family wants to help us when storms wipe us out physically, emotionally, materially or financially. Our resistance to seeking or accepting help is a curious form of upside down thinking. If we fall and sprain an ankle, do we cut off our foot and throw it away because it’s temporarily out of action? Of course not! We seek help from qualified care givers to make sure there’s nothing more serious going on. We wrap up the injury to support it from further harm, and let someone else help us out until we’re strong again. So why are we so hesitant to seek or accept help when a big storm hits us?
Let’s remember, it’s foundational to our identity in Christ Jesus to serve one another in every way we can. Accepting help when we need it reminds us that we’re ultimately fragile, dependent creatures, and that we need God and one another. Accepting help honors the spiritual gifts and ministry of our care givers. We’re shaped and formed in the body of Christ to support one another at all times, both good and bad. Don’t ever let misplaced shame become a stumbling block. Instead, give thanks for God’s goodness and grace embodied in His children, and welcome them into your life to do God’s work.
• The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is priest-in-charge at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church, 975 E. Warner Road, Tempe. Reach her at email@example.com or at (480) 345-2686.