I don’t like to be weak.
Who does? I mean, it’s hardwired into us, the drive to take control. To decide how things go. Not just to get our own food or choose our own clothes, but to have others listen to us and do what we desire, to order our lives the way we like. Weakness and dependency are humiliating. When you can’t do things for yourself, you feel you haven’t got any worth. You haven’t got any dignity. Will, drive, ambition, these are all things we do, and when our hands are tied, we wither.
It needn’t be physical weakness, either. You do not want to talk to me on a day when I can’t think.
Now, this has it’s place, has a way in which it is right and good. Being strong and healthy, being able to work and contribute, these are blessings. They’re something to strive for. Planning ahead and ordering one’s life is how one becomes a good steward. It means that time and resources aren’t wasted. If there’s less waste, then there’s more for everyone. When we make things happen the way we want them to, there’s less worry. Less confusion. Less fear. It all works.
But life does not always work that way.
‘Cause the thing is, there is a lot we can do. There is a lot we can decide. Our knowledge and our technology have made it so we can build a beautiful structure of a life, that protects and shelters and helps and connects, a mass of walls and bridges and windows and a roof, of skills and knowledge and assets, with places to hide and places to look out, places to meet people and places to get things done, and some places just sit and be. And it is a good thing to build. But after awhile we think that it’s permanent. That it can’t go away. That it is strong and as lasting as we are.
And then it gets a leg kicked out from under it.
And as you watch it teeter and stagger, as you scramble to shore it up, to find ways to patch it, as you watch it come crumbling down, outmaneuvered by life itself, you can find yourself standing in the ruins and yelling how this wasn’t supposed to happen, that you’re more competant than that, that you aren’t weak.
Well, no. That’s not what went wrong. You can be as strong as you like. It’s just that life is just that much stronger.
Life’s huge. It’s full of billions of people, countless events, enough variables to make anybody’s head spin. Things are always going on. There’s so much out there that even the strongest of us has no control over. No amount of money or precaution can prevent stuff from happening – and if we tried, we’d be hermits, stuck in our own complacency. Even then, the whole structure could be torn down at any moment. We’re not safe. And the tearing down doesn’t ever take much: the right illness, the right death, the right coincidence, the right weather. And then we would need help putting a new one up.
For as self-reliant as we are, the fact is, we never built that structure by ourselves. Never. It’s impossible. I’m here because of my family and teachers and friends. I’m here because of my church and my bosses. I’m here because of my government and my community. Laws and customs can hold me up as much as they bear me down, but more than anything, I’m here because of those who love me and care for me. And I really hope that I’ve had (and will have) such an edifying effect on those around me.
We don’t like to be weak, but there are times when we will be. We can count on it. So when it happens to us, we have to be willing to let other people help. We can’t be ashamed of needing it. I saw an article in the paper recently about a homeless couple who refuse to go to shelter because of the humiliation. I mean, seriously? When all you’ve got is lying in ruins about you, whether it’s stuff or relationships or your entire life, nobody – nobody – is strong enough to rebuild that on their own.
The concept is old: “Lean on me” and its variations are deep in our past, but as advanced and independent as we think we are, it doesn’t change. We need to bear each other up, not thinking less of anyone who needs it, and knowing that we ourselves will need it one of these days. It’s the best way to keep life running.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, ESV)