I find myself reflecting this morning on the events of this past week, how it is I was able to do not one but a myriad of things I’ve been intending to do for weeks and months, even years (?). Why now? What enabled me to finally take the steps I’ve talked about needing and wanting to take time and time again?
Within the span of four days, I managed to show up to two new groups of enduring interest (which for a raging introvert like me is quite an undertaking). I also chose to apply for a scholarship to a writing workshop I’m hoping to attend this summer, a bold step toward acknowledging my desire to continue this discipline of writing. Ordinarily, any one of these things would be a challenge for me to follow through with. But, if I’ve learned anything in this season, it is this: we cannot do life alone. I can’t tell you how frequently I’ve felt the distinctive need for others over the years. However, it is not until I–and we–act upon the need or desire, that the kind of knowing which leads to change can actually take root within.
And so, before the week began, I asked my friends for help: “These are the things I truly want to do,” I said, “but I know as the week unfolds, I’ll come up with innumerable excuses to back out. Will you help me?” It was such a simple request, and yet, so powerful. My friends not only became aware of my intent and my need, but also expressed affirmation that these things were in fact good and befitting steps to take, bolstering my ability to follow through. And when the time came for these events, I actually showed up. Not only that, but in the middle of the week I made the decision to apply for the writing workshop scholarship—something that was not even on my radar when the week began. In the midst of my new-found willingness to act upon desire, I thought, what the heck. What do I have to lose?
And so it goes: life feels far richer this week than it did before these steps were taken. The people I sought help from, the gracious bestowers of support and companionship along the way. How dependent we are on such help. The poet David Whyte says it so beautifully:
Without the understanding that we need a particular form of aid at every crucial threshold in our lives and without the robust vulnerability in asking for that help we cannot pass through the door that bars us from the next dispensation of our lives: we cannot birth ourselves. To ask for help and to ask for the right kind of help and to feel that it is no less than our due as a live human being; to feel, in effect, that we deserve it, may be the engine of transformation itself. (from Consolations: the Solace, Nourishment and Meaning of Everyday Words)
Amidst a culture that communicates the value of absolute independence, there is another way—one far more gracious, vulnerable, and fulfilling. It is the way of surrender, the willingness to admit our need for help, and begin the simple yet radical journey toward freedom.