I am a proud woman.
I don’t mean that I’m confident in who I am and what I want to do. I mean, I’m incredibly stubborn and the last thing on earth I want is to appear weak in front of others.
I smile when I feel like crying. I try to share only the good happening in my life. When I do share about struggle I tend to put a positive spin on it. I choke on the word “Help” because it means I’m incapable of handling something myself.
This past week served as a painful yet beautiful reminder that when I present a completely polished and put together person I’m actually doing myself more harm than good because I’m insisting on handling a burden that was never intended to be carried alone. Worse, I’m robbing others of the opportunity to share their strength.
As much as I hate to admit it, I’m one of thousands of American’s who have lost their job because a poor economy. I have a degree, I have experience, I have the desire, but I still have been unable to find permanent work. And I have looked all across the country. Fifteen months later, still nothing.
Like many, I’ve kept myself afloat doing odds-and-end jobs. I’ve been an end-of-life caretaker, I’ve worked in temporary hospitality positions, I housesit, I’ve freelanced. Each little job has ensured that I can take care of my basic needs each month, and my parents have been gracious enough to loan me a couple of rooms in their home for as long as I need. For all this, I have been incredibly thankful.
This month, however, I had no work. Last weekend while visiting with my sister I noticed on the calendar that the first was quickly approaching and I had no resources with which to meet it. My savings had been drained, and my checking wasn’t far behind. I tried desperately not to panic, but the all-to-familar stabbing pain just below the lungs and just above the stomach was starting to spread to my cheeks, my fingers, and my toes.
As I looked over my situation, I realized the only thing I could do was cry out for help. Then I got weepy and my sister’s shirt got snotty.
Each morning this past week I woke and thanked God for His daily provision these long months. I thanked Him for remaining faithful to me when I was often so unfaithful in return. I thanked Him that in all the time I’ve been unemployed, not a single bill had gone unpaid and that though my account had little in it, it had never been empty.
Then on Wednesday I said something I didn’t expect: “Lord,” I said, “Even if my bills do go unpaid this month, I still will trust You. Just show me in what direction I need to go next.”
Later that day while in the car it seemed as if a voice said, “Share what is really going on with your friends online.” My immediate instinct was to respond, “I am not complaining about my situation on Facebook. I hate it when people do that.”
“It’s not complaining when you share a legitimate need,” the non-voice replied.
“I’m not a beggar. If I post that people will know I can’t take care of myself.”
With that one word I felt like I’d be physically slapped. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized my problem wasn’t that I am unable to take care of myself. It was that I was unwilling to let others come alongside me and help. I couldn’t even let my sister buy me a $2 coffee the weekend before without feeling upset and ashamed.
It wasn’t strength I’d been relying on all these months. It was pride. And that pride needed to crumble.
When I got home, I stared at my profile page for a half hour and prayed about what I should share in my update. In the end I submitted the following:
This is really humbling for me to write, but most of you know I’ve been out of permanent work since December 2011. I have been blessed that in the time since I’ve been able to meet my financial needs through odd jobs, however, I have not had that opportunity this month so for the first time I’m facing due dates with an empty bank account. Since there really isn’t anything I can do about this, I would like to ask for prayer that work would come my way and that I’d continue to be able to meet my (small) financial obligations. Thanks!
Not five minutes passed before people started responding en mass. Promises for prayer, words of encouragement, a note from my favorite barista telling me I had better keep showing up at the coffee house, and another from the owners of my favorite comic shop saying they had a couple projects they needed help with if I’d be interested.
Then came a phone call from an angel asking to know the exact amount I was short this month. Yesterday while I was working at the comic shop, a courier delivered an envelope to my parents with a cashier’s check that covers everything for February. I’m still crying, but today the tears are different.
Three days later, people are still adding their encouragement to my Facebook post. One comment this morning said, “Perhaps it isn’t God challenging you. There were too many little links that made a perfect chain. I think God was allowing us to share your burden.”
In this I’ve been reminded of Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. When it comes to facing struggles, it’s better to have many than one. Yet I have been insisting on walking all this way alone. I don’t know what February will hold for me, but I do know this much: I’ll be far better equipped to meet whatever it is head-on if I allow others to walk alongside me.
Thank you, my friends. I’m sorry I kept pushing you away for so long.