Eight months ago I was in crisis.
My doctor threatened to make me take a leave of absence in July. By August, my anxiety medications were maxed and barely managing my almost-constant panic attacks. I was supposed to set up an appointment with a counsellor but couldn’t. My friends were expressing deep and valid concerns.
I heard them. I knew much of what they said was true. My life, however, was caving in on me and I couldn’t stop it.
There were offers of help. Many. Hundreds, even. In the dark spinning of my world, however, I made no answer. Articulating a need was impossible. I was willing to accept help but, with the storm pressing in, I legitimately could not formulate a reply. No, that’s not true… I had a reply: “Make it stop… please please make it stop.”
“If there’s anything I can do to help, please let me know, okay?”
It’s the most common offer of help… slightly reflexive, deeply sincere yet moderately naïve. If adequate evidence of crisis prompts this offer, there is likely equal inability to articulate a need. Add to that a deep desire to be able to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps… to get our life together so that our drowning is less obtrusive to those around us.
In the midst of crisis, we do not know how to ask for help. We know we need help. We know you want to help. There is chasm between, however, that we are unable to bridge. I remember sharing this frustration with a friend, and the words ‘I just need people to show up’ tumbled from my heart. And so, this friend started praying for people to show up.
People showed up. One friend took my battered list of needs and organized help according to others’ gifts. Several people showed up and mowed our lawn, cleaned up our garden. My house was cleaned. Meals were brought. Someone started highlighting in her Bible and texting me photos of encouraging verses. Dog walkers appeared and gave Len a chance to nap while tiring out the pups. Guys showed up with hot chocolate to play a game of chess with Len and provide some adult conversation in the midst of his cabin fever.
I didn’t truly know what I needed until God’s love showed up through the hands of the Body. It wasn’t that God’s love was absent for a time but, in the midst of crisis, it can be difficult to see. In the wild tumult of a storm, we need something tangible to cling to, and the body of Christ is that lifeline. It is the physical presence of God’s love and comfort: warm and tactile and solid.
The next time an offer of help is on your lips, I urge you to simply show up. You know your gifts. Use 1 Peter 4:10 as your stepping off point: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” Show up. Trust that whatever gift you have been given will serve a need for someone currently unable to articulate.
I’ve been in counselling for six months now… I no longer feel lashed to a sinking ship in the midst of a storm intent on killing me. I’m learning to articulate needs, to realize when I need help. My anxiety is managed and I’m able to sleep again.
And the Body is still showing up in those moments where my learning is lacking… God quietly at work in them for me.
Show up, friends. Doing so provides the beginning of solid footing for those about to drown. Know your gifts and use them. Show up.