When you’re a single parent, you often get used to the idea of having to do everything yourself. You become a paragon of the rugged individualist with a do-it-yourself mentality. A lot can be said for that lifestyle, especially when it’s lived within a like-minded community. The trick to living that lifestyle, though, is knowing when you can do it yourself, and when to ask for help. Too often, single parents forget that second step. I know I am especially guilty of forgetting. For some of us it’s a matter of pride. For others, we don’t want to be a burden. Still others have found that help often comes with an agenda. Whatever the case, we take on too much and, as a result, sink into the land of overwhelmed despair.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. If we take the step to be humble enough to ask, God often meets us there through other people, and we meet the holy in being humble. I know this from experience.
In 2004, after a long period away from Christianity, I had begun to re-explore the Christian faith. I had been attending a small church where I was free to ask as many questions as I wanted, and no one was pressuring me into believing. I was just another part of their community. Then my life changed. The week of Christmas I went to work with a severe pain in my back that got worse each day. By the end of that week, I could no longer walk or even feel the lower half of my body.
My then fiancee, now ex-wife, called the paramedics, and I was rushed to the hospital. I stayed there for a short while as tests were run to try and figure out what was going on. During that time, my main visitors were people from that small church. I was misdiagnosed and released, barely able to use a walker or cane. Most of the time I spent my days in a wheelchair. For the next year, that small church met our needs, paying our bills when necessary, making sure we had clothes and food, and even taking us to the hospital when my son was born. They didn’t ask, just saw the needs and met them. Their love in my humbled circumstances cemented the idea that Christianity had something to it, and so I committed to learning more, and eventually, through their love and care, ended up finding my home not with their church, but rather in the loving arms of Orthodoxy.
Boot Camp I
During those early years of exploring Christianity, I had a conversation I will never forget. A friend of mine had come to visit. I was still adjusting to a life of limited mobility and uncertainty. As we talked, he casually asked, “Why do you think God allowed all this to happen just as you began to discover Him?”
I paused and thought for a good bit before admitting I really didn’t know. He followed with, “Maybe because you had such pride in who you were before, God allowed this to happen so that you could find the humility and humbleness to be reshaped into the man God wants you to be. Think of it as a boot camp for the soul.”
That has stayed with me through the years. When they found the tumor in my spine that had caused all the problems. When I had to learn to walk again. When I had to adjust to the fact that some of the damage done was and is permanent, and I will never be the same again. Through all of it, I reminded myself it was “boot camp for the soul.”
Boot Camp II
I thought I had been doing well with it, that I had learned humility (can you hear the sneaky bit of pride hiding in there?). I thought I had graduated boot camp. Then, shortly after Christmas of 2021, my son got sick, which was followed very quickly by me getting sick. It is February now, and we are still getting over some of the residual symptoms. But there at the beginning, it was rough. I had a fever, and my son’s fever was climbing close to dangerous. I realized I couldn’t take care of us on my own, so I called a friend, in fact, it was my “boot camp” friend.
He and his family brought us a huge amount of stuff, easily ten or twelve grocery bags full of medicine, food, paper plates, anything and everything you could think of to help make life easier and allow us to concentrate on healing. Well, right after I called, as I was feeling the wave of relief that comes with knowing help is on the way, my son spoke up. “Dad, I’m really proud of you. That’s the first time you asked for help without having to be forced to do it.”
Listen to the Boy
Wow. What a statement. And what had I been modeling for my son?!? Once again, I was humbled. I told my friend about it as I thanked him for his help. He laughed and said, “Listen to the boy. He has wisdom.”
Let us all listen to the boy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. God will meet you there, and in the humbleness, you will experience the holy.