As a parent of two young children, I have had to readjust how I do about pretty much everything. Grocery shopping is one of the trickiest. My current method is to put my oldest in the shopping cart seat (luckily she is still small enough for that) and to put my youngest on my chest in a baby carrier. This mostly allows my hands to be free for pushing the cart, getting items off the shelf and onto the belt, keeping up with my shopping list, and generally entertaining two kids while trying to accomplish the task at hand. It works, but it also feels like trying to manage a tornado. I am happy if I remember most everything on my list and get the groceries and family home safely. But I can only imagine what this chaos looks like to outsiders; and truthfully, I have never taken a moment to observe how others see me.
So imagine my surprise this week as I was trying to keep my oldest in the cart and my youngest from crying on my chest while unloading our groceries into the car, when, out of the blue, a young woman appeared and asked me if I would like some help loading our car. I really have no idea what direction she came from, how long she had watched me scrambling, or what made her approach me. And I must admit, my first thought was to worry about a stranger seeing the other chaos that is my car trunk. Dumbfounded by the offer, embarrassed by the knowledge that I must have really looked like I needed help, and humbled by the fact that I really could use some help, I hesitantly allowed her to help me. Before I knew it, the car was loaded and she was gone. As I got in the car, my brain was filled with questions. Had I thanked her sufficiently? Why didn’t I ask her name? What was her story? Why did she offer to help me?
But the question that lingered the most was, “Why was I so hesitant to receive her help?” I have worked for several nonprofit agencies that help those in need. I have often given lip service to how my children are not just raised by me, but raised by a village. I often preach about the value of vulnerability within community. And yet, my immediate reaction to a stranger offering to help me was to insist that I could do it on my own.
Of course, this is often my struggle with God too. How often have I gone to God in prayer, and then immediately tried to take control again when I felt like I was sufficiently at peace? How often have I complained to God about an issue and then refused help from someone who was likely sent by God in the first place? How often have I been willing to wash others’ feet, but not allowed Jesus to wash mine? My parking lot experience this week reminded me of how much my pride gets in the way of authentic, vulnerable, beautiful relationship with God and my neighbor. It takes a tremendous amount of trust to allow that kind of intimacy. But when I do, I continue to be amazed at the ways that both God and my neighbor really do rise to the occasion.