Just this week after pulling up to standing on a small chair, our 14 month old shouted out a cry for help. He was stuck and didn’t know how to climb back down safely. Daddy heard him and went to his rescue.
Don’t we all find ourselves stuck sometimes? Just like our little ones, we get into physical projects or into complex relational interactions beyond the scope of our abilities. One worthwhile response can be to persevere– to keep trying. Yet, paired with the tenacity to persevere is the wisdom of asking for help.
Certainly, every person who has ever lived has needed help. At the time of infancy, each person must be clothed, fed, and bathed. Later, each child must be instructed and corrected. Much later, each adult must be supported and encouraged. Finally, each declining adult must be clothed, fed, and bathed by others once again.
Before I had children, I was at the pinnacle of independence. I was in my late twenties and balanced my time between a part-time teaching job, caring for our home, and pouring into our local church and community. Paired with my husband, we could spend our time to jump-start any number of home projects and build relationships with neighbors and students. One summer, with this abundance of energy, my husband crafted a set of Star Wars Mandalorian armor. I painted a trio of tulip watercolors to decorate our bedroom. Occasionally, we would ask for help with insight into a financial or relational decision. Or, for expertise on a car repair or translating the Gospel accurately into Spanish. We couldn’t be skilled at everything. And before we asked for help each time, we had to have humility to perceive that we didn’t have the knowledge, skills, or resources required. In addition, we had to exercise humility to ask for help.
This concept of needing one another has deep roots in historical Christianity: first, in the early Jerusalem church (Acts 2:45); later, in Paul’s letters to the early churches (Romans 12:3-13, 1 Corinthians 12:7). Each person in God’s family is a described as a member of His body, needing one another for the common good. This needing one another forms a healthy inter-dependence.
An additional example hails from human experience. The multi-generational family teaches us about inter-dependence as well. Babies need parents and grandparents. Middle-age adults need children and their own parents. Seasoned adults need children and grandchildren. The need of relational connection spans all three generations. Some needs differ according to the generation. So do the relational gifts they offer. The young ones need the most instruction and training. They also give the most laughter and innocent perspective. The middle adults need encouragement and family support. They also give the most daily care and energetic provision. The oldest generation needs renewed perspective and people to nurture. They also offer the most wisdom and experience.
Once I gave birth to our first daughter, I came crashing down from my heights of independence. Before then I couldn’t imagine a person needing my care so continually. After I began nursing her day and night, I did not have enough time to catch up on eating, showering, and sleeping. Yet, here she was, all precious 7.5 pounds of her. She needed to nurse 8 or 10 times per day. And nursing was an elaborate process that took between half an hour and an hour each time. How indescribably exhausting!
On top of caring for a baby, my own body was trying to heal from labor and delivery and was further weakened by a severe cold. My brain screamed for more sleep. But my ears awakened my heart every 1-3 hours to the real cries of our tiny baby. Thankfully, my husband had 3 weeks off from his job as an educator and my Mom had agreed to come live with us for at least a week to help us. Looking back, my stark dependence on both of them is so plain. They held and soothed our girl so I could nap. They prepared the meals and often washed the dishes. They went with me to the dozen doctor and lactation appointments we needed within the first month. I was sleep-deprived, inexperienced, and not physically or emotionally well myself. I needed my people in a way I could never remember needing them.
By God’s grace, we all made it through those tired months. One of my mama friends once asserted, “I’m going to celebrate our son’s first birthday. Not because he will remember it, but because we parents made it through the first year.” As you might guess, we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday with a large number of guests and she doesn’t remember it at all. Ah, but we do.
Parenting a newborn is the most physically strenuous season my husband and I have ever lived. (And we’ve lived it 3 times now.) One of the greatest ways we grew through those days was in seeing that we desperately needed help.
In fact, I still need help. I need it every hour and every day. I’ve learned how to ask for help. I ask for it on a regular basis and I ask for it during times when I foresee I will need extra support. Foremost on my call list is my Rescuer, Jesus Christ. I ask him when I need patience because my two oldest are quarreling about who has more food again. I ask him for wisdom when our son runs away crying from his growling sister. I ask him for energy when I’ve been up 3 times during the night (who knew that toddler days are filled with sleep interruptions too?). I need Him every hour.
In addition to asking Jesus for help, I’ve learned to regularly strengthen my relationships with other trusted adults by asking for their help. My husband and I aim for 2 dates out of the house per month (in addition to the 2+ ones at home). We need family grandparents and reliable friends who will nurture our little ones so we can focus in a kid-free way. I’ve learned to ask for help with big projects like canning and putting in the front flower garden. And each time God gives us another newborn, you better believe I’m asking in advance for people to join with us as we enter another starkly inter-dependent season. Everybody needs help sometime. Count me in with everybody.