Ah, Valentines! That romantic (or daunting) holiday on which so much seems to hinge. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about hand holding. Not limited to couples hand holding, mind you, although that is part of it. I’ve been thinking about the times I’ve wished that someone was beside me to walk me through something difficult. Often it’s minor, usually only a mundane technical issue with software. Normally I’m doomed to stumble through it alone, repeating the same mistakes over and over until by sheer chance I blunder out of the maze on the other side. Never mind that my sanity is in shreds, my head is aching, and I’ve barely avoided the urge to cuss. Think of the expressions we have for the idea of being helped. Lend a hand and hand-holding both describe a personal touch that helps or guides. When we hit a rough spot in the road, isn’t it wonderful when there’s someone who comes alongside and lends a hand?
Coming alongside spiritually. Recently I’ve had the rare privilege of being mentored spiritually one on one by a spiritually mature lady my own age. What a delight! I feel the luxury of someone caring for my soul. She is taking time to listen, teach, and pray with just me. Wow! This is a treasure.
Coming alongside mentally. How many times a day do I wish I had a business coach? Every time I spin my wheels in indecision unable to decide on an important piece of my business strategy. I know I shouldn’t be trying to re-invent the wheel … or spin them, either. But if only I had someone successful to ask. And so I listen to yet another online tutorial. Which brings yet more options to decide on. We’ve all had favorite teachers. Perhaps you were lucky enough to have one who positively impacted your life in a big way. Sometimes the impact is mostly on an intellectual level. I had an elementary school teacher who I wasn’t close to, but she taught me grammar in such a way that I have never forgotten it. And my readers 55 years later benefit from her influence. Later, in college, I was a teacher’s assistant to a dear professor who showed me such kindness that the subject he taught took on a glow for me. I’ve never had contact with him after graduation, but every time I think of him, my heart is grateful for the gentleness and consideration he showed to his struggling assistant. And the food he smuggled into his office in a food free zone for me while I typed syllabi and corrected papers long hours after class. (I think I need to do some psychological counseling on why I fondly remember people who gave me food. It seems to be a pattern. I guess you now know how to make yourself memorable to me!)
All of us have felt like the little red hen. ” Who will help me plant the seed?” “Not I!” says each ‘friend’. “Then I’ll do it myself. Who will help me hoe the plants?” No one. “Then I’ll do it myself. Who will help me harvest the wheat?” No one. “Then I’ll do it myself. Who will help me grind the wheat? Who will help me bake the bread? Who will help me eat the bread? No, I’ll do it myself.” This fable hits close to home. How can I ask for help? How can I avoid resentment when my request is denied? This is where I flounder. Because I don’t believe anyone will want to help, I don’t ask. I judge them in my mind as unwilling to help. First mistake. I’m not as brave and persistent as the little red hen who repeatedly asked. But I definitely must guard against her resentment. When I feel others have failed me, I find it easy to cut them off. First, I need to get brave and ask clearly. If I’m refused, I have to forgive and move forward instead of forming a ball and chain of unforgiveness that hampers my forward movement.
“The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength … and he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.” Paul in 2 Timothy 4:16-18
While I believe that our work is our own responsibility, and we should never expect others to do it for us, there are plenty of times when we need some encouragement and thanks for our work. And that’s when we need someone to come alongside emotionally. How grateful I am for friends who leave an encouraging comment on this blog or email me personally and let me know that they’ve gained something from reading it. That’s soul fuel! I’m grateful for a husband who always thanks me for a tasty and healthy meal. That’s definitely stimulus to keep cooking! I thrive on gratitude from clients who express deep pleasure in the product I provide. Receiving appreciation is receiving strength to keep going. Nothing sucks the life out of us like not being thanked. Note to self: remember to thank others at every opportunity. It’s life-giving. It’s a way of coming alongside others to encourage them, even if only for a moment. When we thank a clerk, a waitress, or especially a family member it shows that we noticed their effort and we value it. In other words, we noticed them and we value them.
There are plenty of lonely places in this old world. Ask any leader. Ask the stay-at-home mom. Ask the elderly. Ask the single mom. Ask the foreigner. Ask the ill. Who can you and I come alongside to lend a hand spiritually, mentally, emotionally, or physically?
I’m comforted to know that someone is always with me. He refuses to leave my side when I blow it. If I insist on repeatedly choosing hurtful things, he has to turn his face away and I miss the sunshine of his sweet smile, but he doesn’t let go of me. And as soon as I choose to do the right thing, he’s happy to forgive and renew our closeness. His firm grip reassures me and his strength flows into me. His continuing commitment to me anchors me in times of trouble. There’s a scar on his hand that reminds me how much he gave to prove his love. You see, there is a nail scar in the hand that holds mine.
because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus in Matthew 28:20