By Ruth Meyer
“Here, let me help you, Ma’am.” The Walmart employee was rounding up stray carts in the parking lot. “You’ve got your hands full.” Without waiting for an answer, he grabbed the cart from me and started pushing it. I was irritated. I can do it myself, buddy, I was thinking inwardly. I don’t need any help. But then I realized I had an overflowing cart full of groceries. I had been steering with one hand as I held onto my two-year old with the other, all while trying to keep the cart enough ahead of me so it wouldn’t crush the baby I had in the infant carrier. Clearly, whether I wanted to admit it or not, I did need help.
That elderly gentlemen taught me a valuable lesson that day: it’s okay to accept or even ask for help when you need it. He had expertly loaded the groceries into the trunk before I even finished strapping in my two-year old and getting the baby out of his infant carrier. And by doing so he saved me from an inevitable meltdown on said two-year old’s part as she sat in a hot car waiting for me to load everything in the back. I actually left the parking lot happy. Why was I ever irritated with him in the first place?
Why is it so very difficult for most of us to accept help from others when we need it? Somehow it’s much easier to be the giver than the receiver. I don’t know about you, but when I hear of someone who is having surgery or struggling through job loss, I jump at the chance to be the giver. Need a meal? I’m there. Child care? Bring it on. Gift cards for Walmart? Anytime. Maybe it’s motivated by selfish pride, but I enjoy giving, and I’m guessing I’m not the only one.
Ah, but what happens when the pendulum swings the other way? What happens when you’re the one who is in a position to receive? For many of us, that’s not as easy. Sure, there are those who are always on the lookout for freebies and those who feel entitled and take advantage of the system, but I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about admitting you need help from people you know. Many of us tend to feel that if we accept help, we’re admitting weakness. We bristle at the suggestion that we can’t handle everything, even when it’s clear we can’t.
When my family was going through a financially straining time, it was very difficult to swallow my pride and accept “charity” from family and friends. Family members who visited would buy us gift cards for groceries to help cover the extra expense of having them there. Church members gave us anonymous cards with money inside. We were offered a great deal on housing because we couldn’t really afford anything else. It was kind and gracious of these people to do these things, but it was also dreadfully embarrassing for me personally. It’s humiliating to know that your struggles are public knowledge, embarrassing to be on the receiving end of well-intentioned giving. It hurts the pride.
Like it or not, there are times when you will need to be a receiver. Whether you need to accept financial help, household help, help with meals, or even just someone to push your shopping cart for you, you can’t do everything by yourself. God places other people in our lives who are more than willing to help share our burdens in such situations. But there’s another area in which every one of us has to be a receiver: salvation. Maybe that’s why so many people have a difficult time believing in grace alone. It hurts the pride to admit that we cannot earn our own salvation. We can never be good enough to get to heaven on our own. We can’t even make a decision for Jesus on our own accord. We confess in the explanation to the Third Article of the Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith . . . .” It hurts to admit that we can’t come to faith on our own or keep ourselves in that faith. It’s all God’s work in us. The Triune God is responsible for 100% of our salvation. Our contribution is 0%. We are but poor beggars with nothing of our own to offer. We have no choice but to admit that. And God, in His grace and love, assures us that He is more than happy to be the only Giver.
Dear Sister, I don’t know what you’re facing right now. I don’t know if you’re blessed to be on the giving end to others or if you’re currently in a position to be a receiver. Thank God either way-- either for the opportunity to bless others or for those He places in your life to bless you. And all of us can thank Him for giving of Himself so freely for our salvation. It’s a blessing to be on the receiving end, especially when the gift is life eternal.
Ruth Meyer is living out her vocation as a Lutheran woman in the roles of sister, daughter, mother, and wife. Her greatest joy in life is living as a redeemed child of God, who has blessed her in her many vocations. Besides her human relationships, Ruth's other interests include music and writing. She is a church musician and has a special love for Lutheran hymnody. She also loves to write, and and her children's book, Our Faith from A to Z ,was recently published through CPH. Ruth keeps her own blog at truthnotes.net. Her hope is that through her writing you are encouraged and perhaps even challenged in your God-given vocations.
Image: "Joachim and the Beggers," Andrea di Bartolo, c. 1400