Wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.
This description is given in the Bible to fit one kind of person.
A person in need of the grace of God.
I’ve understood for a long time that I need God’s grace. Back when I was six years old He made me unbearably aware of my sinful state in His holy presence, and my need for a new, clean heart. Over and over since then, by sending unchangeable limitations into my life, by disciplining me as a Father, He has taught me my intrinsic weakness and ongoing need of His strength, His grace.
But He is doing something new. Something that is painfully uncovering a place of comfortable self-approval my heart has built for itself.
I know I need God’s grace. I believe that every bit of good in me has its source in God. I’m convinced this is true.
Despite this, I have not loved to be the one who needs help. I have loved being the helper. When others have shown kindness to me, I have been most comfortable feeling that I can repay them in some way. I have not seen myself in that Biblical list of adjectives, that description of an utterly needy and helpless person.
But God has relentlessly been sending others to help me. They are pursuing me with practical kindness, insisting on showing mercy and care to our family, and oh, most painful of all, inconveniencing themselves in order to help us.
See if I can piece this together…
Tomorrow is the most colossal day of our family’s year. It’s the annual Big Picnic that we started several years ago to help connect our friends with one other. Not having a natural ability to plan and organize on a large scale, I need all my faculties to carry it off, and this was the final week.
Sunday I began feeling the effects of snuggling with many sick toddlers.
Monday I realized that the remedies I was fighting back with weren’t going to win this time. Maybe my immune system needs more sleep than is typical in late pregnancy?
Tuesday I was sick in bed.
Wednesday was very hot and humid. By late afternoon, croaking and coughing, I dragged myself out to a little Amish grocery to pick up something we had to have by the weekend. I took the six youngest children with me, without making an effort to put shoes or clean clothes on them. If you know me in real life, you know that I just don’t do things like that.
One day left to get ready for this picnic. Both of our oldest sons would be working all day Friday for my brother. I wanted to have the van packed and ready by Thursday at supper time.
So yesterday in the late morning, totally unaware of any of the extra demands of the week, Joe’s aunt next door called to tell me that she had a free afternoon and wanted our younger children to come over and play in her air-conditioned basement for a few hours. It was another hot and humid day. This was their first time to her house, and they loved it! She gave them a snack and let them work on little crafts. In those few hours, we did get the van packed, and a little food prep done ahead.
(Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones? I can’t write all this without tears.)
Then around bedtime last night, a friend called to say that she had a little something for us, and could she bring it over? But then she was prevented by a severe thunder-and-lightning storm with huge downpours. We arranged for me to stop by her house on my way home from taking the boys to work early in the morning. By this point, Joe was also coming down with the sickness. We both had a very restless night.
So this morning, I’d had 2 1/2 hours sleep when it was time to get ready to take the big boys to work. When I stopped at my friend’s house, I found that she had provided food for breakfast and lunch for those of us at home, with some other loving little extras. She said she’d pray that I would be able to get a nap.
Before we had finished cleaning up from the special breakfast, yet another friend called and said she’d like to come over and help us get ready for the picnic. She came with her two girls after lunch and they pitched in with whatever needed to be done, including folding laundry, ironing my clothes for tomorrow, cleaning up from lunch, and bathing the four little boys. As soon as they were tucked in for naps, she left so that I could lie down too. I slept.
I was wakened by my brother’s call to say that the boys were done work for the day. He offered to bring them home so I could go back to sleep!
Sprinkled in between all these other kind acts were phone calls and email messages, some to see how I’m doing, some to ask if there’s anything they can do to help with the picnic, some to *thank us?!* for letting them help us, some to say they were praying for sleep for me, some to say “I love you.”
Tonight our house is tidy and peaceful, we are ready for tomorrow, and my heart is overflowing.
Who am I to receive all this? I am a helpless beggar woman who is having abundant amounts of mercy poured out onto her. Mercy that she needs and doesn’t deserve and can’t pay back. I am overwhelmed to tears by this tangible vision of God’s boundless love and grace to me.
And it has been true along, and I have not felt it until now.