The Vulnerability of Asking
Last week, I wrote about growing up evangelical, feeling left out and getting hurt. If you haven't already, you can read it here.
At the beginning, I wrote these words:
"I used to retreat to a corner of the room during worship. The lights were off, or dimmed. As a freshman in high school, sometimes I would put my face in my hands as if I were deeply moved, possibly crying.
Sometimes, I did cry.
I always hoped that someone would come find me, slip into the seat next to me, or sit down beside me on the floor, maybe put an arm around my shoulders. That kind youth leader, perceptive friend or cute drummer would ask if they could pray for me. I would nod wordlessly.
They would pray words of power, joy and hope over me. They would pray intimately, knowing God and I well, speaking to us as friends, as dear ones.
This did not ever happen."
This was a hard post to write, for a lot of reasons. One of the reasons is that a part of me still sits in dark corners. Sometimes it hurts too much to venture into the main event, staying a spectator allows me to see everything that goes on. Being rejected in a corner is a whole lot easier for me than being rejected in the center of the action, where everyone can see me.
I edited that post more than I've ever edited a blog post. Finally, I let it go and went to bed, but I couldn't sleep. I kept thinking about what I'd shared, and about that girl in the corner, hoping for an arm to steal around her shoulders.
When I awoke, my post was already out into the world. I have never received a response as quick and as powerful as I did that day. Women I barely know (and some that I know well) sidled up beside me and put a warm, figurative arm around my shoulders. Some of them were there too, seeing their story reflected in mine, others were not. Their words ministered to that 15-year-old girl in the corner in a way that I could never have predicted.
This was a true "little did she know" moment.
I felt the comfort and joy of the Lord as I walked through my day. I had wrestled with Him the night before about what I would share, and how I would share it. He had asked me to bring it all out into the light.
At the end of the summer, some hard things happened in my life. I wrote about deserts and wildernesses here on the blog, I talked vaguely about "what I was going through" and "needing rest." I waited as long as I could before I asked for help, and when I did, it was almost wordless, uncertain, afraid. But I did ask, and help was given.
I'm very good at "keeping it together." Recently, I talked to a friend in more detail about what was happening. "If only you weren't so calm," she said. "I had no idea it was that serious."
When I talked with another friend, feeling a little hurt that she hadn't answered my cries for help, she reminded me that I'd never asked. I'd told her what was going on, articulately and neatly, but I'd never asked for anything. That was it, that was me crying out for help.
My mother, who knows me almost best of all, told me that she had no idea that things were so hard. She sees me daily, loves me to pieces and pays attention.
I realized that I learned a long time ago that if you're quiet, no one sees you in the corner. Sometimes, I think, they see you and they keep their distance purposefully, thinking that you want to be alone. They don't know that you have run away, wanting to be found, that you want to be like the 100th sheep who has so much value to the Shepherd that He leaves the 99 and comes to find you.
Last week, I called out from the corner. I wrote a post about where I'm at, and why. Instead of being ignored, or even asked to come out of my hiding place, they came and met me there, off the beaten path.
It brought tears to my eyes.
I want all my relationships to be like my relationship with God, if I'm honest. I want people to know my innermost thoughts and hopes without my telling them. I don't want to ask for help, I want them to know that I need it and come of their own accord. Of course, the people in my life are not God. There will never come a time, no matter how loved I am, that people will just know what I'm thinking and act accordingly.
I've often wondered why it is that God wants us to ask Him for what we need and want. He knows, of course, He sees inside our hearts and minds. Still, He asks us to tell Him. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus says: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." The Greek verbs suggest a continuous movement, a tenacity, as in "ask and keep asking, and seek and keep seeking". There is a persistence to the words in this verse.
When I ask something of God, I watch eagerly for the response. When He answers my prayer, I connect the dots. Were He to attend to each need without my ever saying anything to Him, I might forget where every good gift comes from.
God desires that I have a relationship with Him, not that He takes care of me anonymously.
With people, I am learning to "ask and keep asking," to get past the awkwardness of making myself vulnerable before them, to acknowledge that I am in need. Baby steps. Sharing out of the depths of my heart and watching people respond to it, I heard God say, "See? That wasn't so bad, was it?"