I've grown up thinking it was good and preferable to always be strong and be able to take care of myself and to be able to do all things that I need by myself and to always have everything together...basically, to be more or less completely self-reliant. Asking for help always seemed like a weakness, and--understandably--has always been very hard for me to do. On the plus side, this mode of thinking has encouraged me to learn and pursue things that I never would have otherwise, and so has broadened my talents and interests. However, over the last several years, I've been gradually beginning to think that maybe the island life isn't really the best, after all.
The recent dollar store incident (see previous post) caused me to think about the value of other people in our lives who act as a check and balance--whether it's someone close who serves as a mentor and accountability partner, or if it's a stranger who points out a blind spot. What kind of arrogance makes me feel like I alone know what's best for my kids? I mean, God has given me that sacred responsibility to raise and nurture them, and I embrace that responsibility wholeheartedly! But, we've all heard it said, "It takes a village to raise a child," and I think there's wisdom there.
- It's good for a child to learn to respect adults other than his/her own parents.
- It's good for parents to glean wisdom from other parents' experiences.
- It's good for the young to learn from those who are older and wiser.
- It's good for the old to learn from the young who have not lost their childlike faith.
- It's good for all of us to interact with those who are different from us, and maybe to glean valuable nuggets from a different way of life or a different perspective.
- And, equally importantly, it's good for parents of young children to have a break now and then, to rejuvenate their own spirits.
That last point ties in with the verse someone shared with me today. As I mentioned above, I tend to feel like it is required of me, as a capable human being, to do everything myself and not to burden others by asking for help. I guess I tend to think that it's selfish of me to ask someone else to do something for me, or am afraid that they will feel burdened, or feel like I am failing my God-given responsibility to pass off tasks for which I am responsible. Or something.
So here's that verse:
Exodus 18:13-18 "The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, 'What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?' Moses answered him, 'Because the people come to me to seek God's will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God's decrees and laws.' Moses' father-in-law replied, 'What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone." Moses' father-in-law went on to instruct him that he should teach the people all of God's decrees and laws, and then select capable and trustworthy men to serve as judges, so that only the difficult cases would be brought to Moses.
I felt floored when this verse was shared with me. Not that it was a new passage that I'd never heard before, but God used the person sharing the verse to bring me new insight, and it was something I needed to hear. God gave Moses the responsibility of leading the Israelites and teaching them God's laws--a seriously important responsibility. Moses had stood in God's presence, and daily he sacrificed himself in the Lord's service. What he was doing was good, and no one could argue otherwise.
Except his father-in-law. (Leave it to those in-laws, right? *wink*) If you were Moses, and arguably had the most intimate relationship with the Living God of all the people in the land, and God spoke to you audibly and performed amazing signs and wonders through you, and entrusted you with the well-being and teaching of an entire nation of people, and you sacrificed yourself daily to this exceedingly difficult task, wouldn't you want a little pat on the back or an encouraging "What you do is good--keep it up"? Wouldn't you be a little upset if a family member, who hadn't been with you on the long journey, and who probably wasn't even a believer in the same God (Jethro was a priest of Midian), showed up and said, "What you are doing is not good"??? Chalk it up to Moses' deep humility (which is attested to in Numbers 12:3) that he listened and took his father-in-law's advice.
But the point I'm trying to make is that just as Moses needed help to perform his God-given responsibility, so do we need help with ours. None of us is an island; God created us to be in community. That is why we are called the body--parts of a whole, who work together for the betterment of both the whole and each part. God can teach us and help us grow anywhere, at any time, through anyone, as long as we remain humble, open, teachable. (Hey, this is not my strong suit here, so I'm certainly not preaching...just sharing what I'm learning!)
This week, I learned two valuable lessons from two different people, both of whom I'm not close to, and was blessed. And that, I believe, is just a foretaste of one of the incredible benefits of living in community: to bless, and to be blessed; to sharpen, and to be sharpened; to help, and to be helped.