I had to teach her to ask me before jumping in and doing something when it involved the baby. Because she was little, she was not always able to make good judgments. It was a safety issue sometimes, a practical issue others. "Help is only helpful when it is needed" we'd say together. I wish I could tell you that I was always sweet and gentle with her about it, but I must confess that at times my irritation showed.
Occasionally we still face this issue with her. This weekend it became clear to me that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Our family was working on a farm project on Saturday, and my husband, The Bard, had a frustrating problem. I jumped in to help him and immediately made the problem worse. He was mad. I backed off and apologized, then without thinking, did it again not ten minutes later. Not surprisingly, he was mad again.
Did I think, "Oh, of course, help is only helpful when it is needed"? No, of course not. I thought, "Why is he being so mean! I am just trying to help! Aaaargh!" I knew that it was in everyone's best interests, given my emotions at that moment, to clear out. So I went for a walk. As I walked I fussed and prayed. I was embarrassed and frustrated. That man... so impatient... it just wasn't fair!
As I turned to head back it dawned on me. I had never asked him if he wanted help, and if he did, what might be most helpful. I just shoved myself into the situation, not having all the information, and made things worse. It felt very familiar. Not only did it remind me of my experience with The Princess, it reminded me of myself just about every day.
That kind of self-realization is a bit uncomfortable, to say the least. And it wasn't done. The very next day, I stuck my nose into another situation where it didn't belong and was called on it. Ouch!
The alarming thing to me is the underlying arrogance in this habit. Yes, I have long prayed for a servant's heart, and I believe God wants me to help others. And there are times when I am going to need to make a judgment call on how best to help, without the input of the other person. But to operate under the assumption that I know best how to help others is just plain arrogant.
This morning I was praying for wisdom to help a woman in dire circumstances. Her situation and background are so profoundly outside my realm of experience that I am completely at a loss. As I was praying, God brought to mind His own son.
Mark 10 recounts the story of the blind beggar Bartimaeus. As Jesus came near where he was sitting, Bartimaeus cried out repeatedly, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"
And Jesus stopped and said, "Call him here." So they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you." Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus.
And answering him, Jesus said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" And the blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!"
And Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road. (Mark 10:49-52)"What do you want Me to do for you?" Jesus, who knew most what was needed, who of all people never had to ask that question to know the answer, still asked. There are all sorts of theological implications of this - we must desire to be healed, God never forces us, it is a relationship, we are cared about as individuals, and more.
But for me, today, what stands out most clearly is the fact that He asked. What an example. I too need to be asking, "What do you want me to do for you?"
Like Bartimaeus, I want to regain my sight. I want spiritual eyes that will see my world and myself rightly. I want to see when my outside actions, no matter how righteous they might look, are driven by inner sin, and I want to expose that sin to God's healing touch.
Because I know what God is seeing:
"God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7Today I am going to go to the house of the woman I was praying about. She doesn't have a phone, so face to face I am going to ask her what she needs. Would you pray for me? I am out of my comfort zone. I don't know her well, and it is difficult for me to communicate with her. But I feel strongly that this is what God is calling me to do.
"What do you want me to do for you?"