I broke last week.
More specifically, I dislocated my patella and (hopefully only) sprained my MCL and meniscus. My lovely and hilarious doctor said “no running for 2 months, wear your knee brace every day all day (except when sleeping) for 2 weeks and take these anti-inflammatories and these pain pills. I mean it. I’m the boss of you. Do it. See you next Friday for a follow up”
I hobbled out to the waiting room and looked at my friend Lisa, who was patiently reading a magazine, (Dr. Reed has the best fashion and celebrity gossip magazines, she was having a mini mommy vacation) “ok,” I sighed “I’m ready”. She looked up at me and grinned, “ok we will stop by the drugstore to get your prescriptions and is someone home at your house? Cause I don’t want you to have to manage alone” I stared at her, open mouthed. She had already given up multiple hours of her day (in the middle of finals!) to drive me to the doctor, wait while I got examined, and now she was cheerfully treating as a foregone conclusion the fact that she’d drive me to the pharmacy and get my medicine. More hours wasted lugging me around.
I hate asking for help. Hate it. It stirs in me some of the worst feelings of weakness and inadequacy. I couldn’t tell you when it started, but I can tell you that injury and illness as a form of weakness and lacking has been a theme throughout my life. When I was a kid and I got hurt my family’s rally cry was “is it bleeding? Are there bones sticking out? No? You’re fine”, ballet teachers wrapped up wrenched ankles and bleeding feet and pushed us back out on the floor, I had a friend tell me at 15 that my period cramps, made debilitating from endometriosis, were all in my head and exercising would fix it – I limped and puked my way around the track, my ex-husband told me time and again that I “got sick to much” and that the food poisoning I got while we were moving apartments was a mental block to get me out of lifting and carrying. Over and over the message I received and internalized was “You are not really ill or injured, sickness and injury are weakness and make you less than, and if you were just strong or smart enough you’d never get sick or hurt”, this message, I realize, is incredibly stupid, and yet somehow my brain applied it with vigor and only to myself.
Because I love taking care of people. I love bringing meals to people who are under the weather, rubbing my babies backs when they are poorly, bringing my husband cold drinks when he gets a rare cold. I love feeding people who come into my home and offering them a place to stay. Allowing oneself time to heal and take the best care of one’s body is something I hold in high regard as a health practitioner. To me needing help FROM ME is not a sign of weakness but of acceptance and welcome. “I trust you enough to be vulnerable with you” a person who needs me seems to say.
But I have never been able to fully get to that headspace for myself.
When I fell on Monday my friends were there to literally pick me up off the ground. They fed me and drove me around because I couldn’t. My mother and stepdad came up to watch the boys so I could go to the doctor. My husband took off work early to get our oldest and people volunteered meals…and wine…and alternative healing therapies. I had help coming out of my ears. And I was freaking out: ALL these people could see what a drain I was, how weak I was. They had to know I was injured so they could understand why I couldn’t go to events or was wearing a brace but now they also knew what an idiot I was for allowing such a mild injury slow me down. I would take a pain pill and get so fuzzy and sleepy that my husband did all the housework and cooking to give me a break to rest, but as I fell into a fitful sleep my thoughts were of anger and defeat and shame.
I sat down with my Bible in the midst of this. I’m not doing a study right now but I try and read my bible every day, I pray a little about what’s bugging me and ask God to guide me to some scripture that will ease it, I give a little thanks every day for a handy dandy guidebook to life at my fingertips, that sort of thing. So I sat down with my Bible and I prayed about how frustrating it was for all these people to see how weak I was. How angry it made me that all these people thought I was stupid and less than for getting hurt. Couldn’t God do a little miraculous healing magic? And I cracked the spine right to 2 Corinthians 12.
Now those of you familiar with the good book are nodding sagely. The passage God led me to is less than a whispered wisp, it is a firm LOUD command. (Sometimes God recognizes that we need it spelled out for us, what can I say?), in2 Corinthans 12, Paul is recounting the story of a time when he was in great pain, when he was brought so low. He prayed fervently that God remove this weakness. And God said this:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”
And I was stopped cold. Because the next lines spell it out even further:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I WILL BOAST ALL THE MORE GLADLY OF MY WEAKNESSES, SO THAT THE POWER OF CHRIST MAY REST UPON ME.
And I realized that asking for and accepting freely given help is really a tiny little version of my conversion played out every day: I was broken and hurting and limping along and I asked God to carry me, that I would admit that I couldn’t do it alone and without hesitation, with great joy and love, He swept me up into His arms. God wants to help you, to hold you close, to rejoice over you…you just have to admit you can’t do it alone, that you are broken and hurting and you NEED all of those things and He will lavish all of His grace and goodwill upon you. This stupid injury, painful and debilitating, was forcing me to ask for help from my friends and family…and they gave it freely and joyfully.
What an incredible gift God gives me when He allows me the chance to ask for help: A tangible reminder of His endless grace in the form of a ride to the doctor, a casserole, a sitter.
I have a couple more months before my life can get back to normal, but in the mean time, I’ll ask for help when I need it. And praise God for the opportunity to be weak…and rest in Him for a little while.