by Joanie Butman
What I failed to mention last week while discussing the gift of the ministry of presence is how close I came to missing it. The issue is, in order to be blessed by it, one has to be open to receiving it. I’m not sure when or where I adopted the misconception that being weak or needy is a negative. Regardless, debunking that fallacy is one of the many lessons I was taught through suffering. During my first two surgeries, I refused to allow anyone other than my immediate family to visit in the hospital. I didn’t even tell anyone about the third, which was minor compared to the others. In doing so, I was denying myself and robbing others of the opportunity to enter into the divine transaction I described last week.
Why do I feel like I am imposing by asking for and accepting help? Admitting I need help is anathema to me – probably because it takes a certain amount of humility to seek help (not one of my strongpoints.) Why do I feel like it’s my responsibility to always be the strong one? What a sick mentality but one our society fosters. “Buck up, man up, power through, get over it, grin and bear it, grow a pair, move on!” These idioms are but a few of the messages we’re saturated with, so it’s not surprising that many of us erect a façade of strength, which belies what’s really going on beneath the surface. It wasn’t until I got to the end of myself that I could fully appreciate and understand Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9-11,
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Requiring assistance isn’t confined to crisis moments when our need is obvious. More importantly, it’s in our daily walk where many of us fail to reach out to others, keeping our need well hidden behind a pretense of normalcy. It’s a difficult decision to expose your failings to others, but it’s also the beginning of healing. Paradoxically, it was the times in my life I've been honest enough to admit my weakness that I felt strongest.
In the same way I almost missed the ministry of presence offered by my family and friends, I wondered how often I missed the blessing of Jesus’ ministry of presence by powering through on my own, determined to go it alone. Regrettably, too many times to recall. That’s not to say that Christ would have necessarily alleviated my suffering. I just would have experienced them differently, growing ever closer to Him, developing an intimacy that can be achieved no other way.
The spiritual maturation process is a life-long endeavor. There are days I feel like a toddler, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as toddlers tend to be very trusting in nature, and have no trouble running to their parents when in pain. More often, I’m a teenager – rebellious and obstinate, refusing to admit my parental need. Spiritual adulthood is an elusive goal – perhaps because Christ wants us to be childlike in our faith. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) He yearns for us to run to Him in joy and suffering, with childlike trust that He will always be there waiting to embrace us in His everlasting arms, eager to share our delights and soothe our sorrows. Christ never wants us to outgrow our need for Him. Just the opposite. He wants us to grow into it.
Christ is ready and willing to offer His ministry of presence, but only if we’re open to inviting and receiving Him into our lives. If we want to experience His presence, we have to choose to offer Him ours.