When you see someone stopped by the side of the road on their mobile with the hazards on, its pretty clear something is up. Most emotional support issues are less clearly flagged.
Your friend comes round for coffee and you can know pretty well instantly if there is something bothering them if you have time to give them your full attention and no distrations.
Our lives often are not like that though. Our moments even with close friends are sometimes hard to carve out of our busy lives as taxi service to our children, working and running a home and we all have our own issues, too. Is there room in your life to notice when someone you know needs extra support? Kindness is I believ often the first sign we receive that God loves us.
I was driving along to work earlier – instead of my usual route I decided on a whim to take the more scenic short cut. Pop. My car veered over to the left and power went – conveniently I rolled directly into a lay-by. I got out and kicked the tyres as though I knew what I was doing. But no sign of a flat tyre. Hmm
I was grateful to the Lord I was not on the main road as I usually would have been and extrememly grateful I was not 30 minutes further along on the slip road to the Motorway. What could I do?
Two years ago I was hit by another kind of breakdown. My toddler lost the plot for the umpteenth time and something inside me went “Pop” – I could not cope. Every school pick-up time he would delay our journey, screaming, dragging his heels, pulling away as we were crossing roads, refusing to hold my hand, throwing himself to the ground – backwards with head lurching to concrete.
Hubby was doing a long commute so no support there – no family living close by, church would tut about him so no support there either. What could I do? Who would help me without passing judgement? My mother in law in long phone calls often told me what a failure I was. My parents said I was not strict enough. Friends said I was too strict. I did not need more of that.
Today at the side of the road I made a call – not to the breakdown company. The first thing you think of when you breakdown, assuming it is safe and undramatic, is “what will this cost?” Its the first thought that comes to mind when you are facing a personal crisis too. What will it cost me to ask for help? I have to admit I have failed and while most other people can handle normal every day family life, apparently I cannot succeed. The cost here is vulnerability and humiliation.
So just as when the car broke down I made a phone call before I asked for help. Today I asked my husband if we could afford the call out fee, back then I asked friends if I should go on a parenting course. Back then the response about seeking help in parenting was overwhelmingly “No”.
I think this was misguided, but love motivated. Honestly, they did not see how much I struggled. Much like the car all the problems were hidden ones. It all looked fine on the outside and they too worried that I would lose more than I would gain in confidence, guilt, sense of failure and so on. I prayed about it though, I knew that I could not fix things on my own.
I tried driving the car forward by myself. It made disturbing noises and gave out on me a few times. I limped it forward to another layby. I called our mechanic who said that to carry on in that state could risk permanent damage, so I should wait for the breakdwon van who was able to assess it and then he could bring the car to the garage.
We do try and go on by ourselves though, don’t we? We are proud of it too – what we don’t realise is how much more damage we can do that way or that asking for help, humbling though that is might bless not just us, but others as well.
It was a very reassuring moment when the orange lights of the breakdown truck pulled up behind my car. The breakdown guy in his Hi Viz jacket did not condemn me for my lack of maintenance on the vehicle or question my actions he simply helped by saying it needed repair.
This was much like my experience of joining the parenting group. There was no judgement or inquisition on how and why I had come to need help just an acceptance that help was needed. The group much like that Hi Viz mechanic: they moved me forward when I was stuck. The parents did not try to fix one another’s problems, but they readily identified with them, while the leaders helped to provide wisdom and practical suggestions we could try. That was exactly what the breakdown guy did today – he looked at the problem and suggested the approaches my mechanic might try. Acceptance that your problem is real is a very basic part of encouragement.
Towards the end of the group sessions some parents shared problems they had settling their children. I had shared these issues with my eldest child but my youngest despite the tantrums was easy to settle to sleep. I shared with them what helped us: praying together at bedtime. Its so much easier to sleep when you set down your worries from today, share your hopes for tomorrow and think of happy memories you have shared and that is what we do in our prayer time.
“You don’t have to be a believer to do that sharing together as you wind down from the day” I said. But another mum chimed in that she did pray with her children too. And then somehow as a group we came closer – the other lady invited everyone to come to the toddler group run by her church and invited us all to lunch after, and little by little through these friendships another of the ladies came to faith. And a year later yet another of the ladies has had her children baptised.
I thought when I joined the group what I needed were strategies to help communicate with my son. What I received were lifelong friendships and the blessing of seeing whole families through these women come to faith through friendship. Now I know two of those parents, as well as having lovely well adjusted children, also have many friends whom they reach out to in kindness and generosity and I know are seeing and they will continue to see fruit from that.
The toddler group where we all received such a warm welcome is still going strong – it is now led by my friend who became a christian because of the work of the Holy Spirit which followed receiving kindness. So be encouraged ladies. God, like the mechanic who fixed my car, can see past all looking well on the outside to what your needs really are and he will meet them if you will have humility and ask for help when you need it. May God bless you today and all your encouragement of one another as you offer deeper friendship and share needs with those around you.
2Corinthians 4:16-18 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.