So often we forget how close God is and how deeply he wants us to let him help us.
When I was a child, I was stubborn and strong-willed. I like to attribute it to the fact that my siblings and I were taught to be very independent: doing dishes, helping with the housekeeping, cooking for our selves, all at a young age. (It could also be that I am just naturally stubborn, too!) Often I would rebuff help as a three year-old might, “No, I can do it!” I would say to anyone who offered a helping hand. I am embarrassed at how long it took me to learn what my fierce independence had meant to those who tried to help me with the best intentions. I had been robbing them of the chance to show me friendship, kindness, and most importantly, I wouldn’t let them bless me! How selfish of me! I used to think I was being selflessby not needing others to stop what they were doing to help me, but I have learned over the years how deeply selfish it is to deny help when you need it most.
Recently, my husband was going through a crisis of faith. He had let the stresses of his job, his demands as a father to two young sons, and the weight of being the sole financial supporter for our family drive a wedge in between him and his Almighty Father. (Isn’t it funny how busy-ness and business are the same word?) When he would think about getting back into a prayer routine, he would feel defeated, wondering where he would find the time to read scripture or talk to God. Overwhelmed with the situation as he saw it, he would give up, affirming to himself that he was a failure, spiritually.
One afternoon, while walking our dog, I tried to offer some advice for how I had dealt with similar feelings or circumstances in my own life. He confided, “I just want you to understand that I am really struggling here. It isn’t that I don’t find your ideas helpful; it is just that I don’t even know where to start! I know what I should be doing, but I simply don’t do it, and then Sunday comes around and I feel terrible all over again!” I realized then, staring into my husband’s eyes, blazing blue as he looked into the setting sun over my shoulder, that what he needed was for me to recognize that he was drowning. He needed someone to swim out to him and save him.
It was then that I said, “Let me offer this last piece of advice. Stop trying to claw your way UP to God, and just let him come down to help you. He is as close as your breath, right behind you, and he is just waiting for you to ask for help.” My husband had been floundering around in the water, waving his arms, splashing, and making a ruckus as he tried to swim out to meet God, but what he needed to know at that moment, was that God doesn’t make us swim out to him, he walks on the water to help us where we are drowning.
A number of years ago, I was taking part in my first sprint triathlon. The first leg of the race was a .33 mile swim in a small lake. There were lifeguards in two small fishing boats posted at the perimeter to render aid as needed. Before getting into our groups for the start, the announcer instructed, “If you can not complete the swim or if you find that you are struggling, simply remove your swim cap, wave it in the air, and tread water until the boat gets to you. DO NOT panic. Relax, wave your swim cap and we will be there shortly. “ Sure enough, when my wave of swimmers had hit the water, less than ½ way through the swim leg, a woman behind me began to panic. She was screaming and splashing, creating a commotion in the water. I wanted to look back and make sure everything was okay, but I knew that I couldn’t help her, and that there were so many swimmers that I would only get churned up in the water if I stopped moving. I took a deep breath and refocused myself on the buoy just ahead of me for the turn around. As I was swimming back to the shore, I saw the woman in the boat with the lifeguards, safe and sound. In that moment, when she found herself struggling to keep her head above water, surrounded by other swimmers’ arms and legs, and she began to panic, surely she didn’t realize how close the lifeguards were to her. She must have feared she would be out there for a while before they could get to her. In reality, they were closer than she could have known from where she was out in the water. They were merely moments away.
God wants to help you. When you are exhausted, simply take off your swim cap, wave it in the air, and he will be there. Sometimes the simplest prayer is all it takes. Just cry out, “help!” God is as close as your breath. He hears your prayer. He will provide.