Do You Need Me? (please say yes)
I once heard a missionary tell a story of a woman who came up to him after he had given a talk about the mission field at a small country church. The old woman thanked him for his words and said she wanted to give him something very special to her. She then handed him a white Bic pen with a black cap, the kind you can buy in a 10 pack for a couple of dollars. As she held out the pen and smiled, he could see how much she loved it and probably needed it. He wanted to tell her “thank you” and to keep it: he had no need for it and she clearly loved it. But instead, he reached out and took it from her feeble hands and said, “thank you. I love it. And will think of you every time I use it.” With that, the old woman smiled triumphantly and walked out of the room.
It can be easy to think that serving others is about what we can give them, but a lot of the time it’s about taking what they want to give us. I know a little of which I speak. When we moved to our little southern town from the west coast I was very lonely. It took me years to make friends, so tight knit are the groups of women I met. I yearned to connect with others, to bond over coffee and playtime. I wanted to have a best friend, someone who I could call when life got mess. But more than that, someone who would call me when she just needed to talk. So, years later, when a friend of mine from our homeschool coop asked if there was any possible way that I could come to her house and take care of her three kids while she went to the doctor, I jumped at the chance.
After three hours of Addy and I playing with her kids, she came home and thanked me so much for the help. Then she said, “Don’t worry, I won’t make a habit of this.” To which I smiled and said, “I hope you will.” She probably thought I was crazy. Who asks to interrupt their day to take care of someone else’s kids? A woman who looks at building community as one of the most important things she could do for herself and her child, that’s who. A woman like me who grew up alone. My family didn’t have friends to speak of. People didn’t come over. And I was an only child. So, when I became a believer and saw the importance of community, of living alongside of one another, helping, carrying one another’s burdens, praying for one another, laughing with one another, I began a quest to build a community that would glorify God and show those involved and those not yet involved, the beauty of living Life Together. In his book by that title, Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up my sentiments best when he says, “it is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated.” So, sometimes the best way to serve someone is to need them.
Who are the most successful missionaries? According to Nik Ripkin, the missionary who accepted the pen, it is missionaries who need people, and aren’t there as the superior being, only offering help and never needing any who are the most successful. Nationals who see that foreign missionaries living among them become a part of their community, not only serving them, but being served by them, feel a greater affinity for those missionaries. And in the same way, my affinity for my friend has grown since she asked me to help her. We cannot worry about needing people, putting them out. This is the lesson I am teaching myself as I write these words. So long I have feared being an imposition, asking for friendship, for help, for participation. But knowing what I know now, I can say that if I know you I just might ask you to help me one day. In living out the one another’s of scripture, I will do my part to need you more and to think you need me less. While I know I’m really good at being there for people, I’m going to work on asking others to be there for me, and accepting their help, not being an island, a woman who can do it all on her own. That doesn’t build the community that God has created us for.
Galatians 6:2 tells us to, “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” How will you bear my burdens if I don’t talk to you about them? How will you help if I do not ask? I need you, and that kills me to say, but I will try my best to say it whenever it is true. Life is a scary journey when you do what different does, especially when it’s different than what you always do.