“Roads in the Desert”

“Roads in the Desert”

I don’t like asking for help.

I have a couple of theories on this. The first is easier to digest: we Southerners are raised in such politeness that we are always willing to offer help and generally reluctant to accept it. There’s a charm, an old-fashioned chivalry in that belief. My second theory, though, is strikingly less noble: I am either too proud to ask for help or too fearful that I will ask too much–or worse, that I will simply be told no.

When I was newly single with two very young children, a friend and his wife offered to have pizza delivered to my home one night. They didn’t know how much I was struggling financially. They simply wanted to do something kind. (Tangent: let’s all work on discerning potential needs. “Let me know if you need anything” is unlikely to get an authentic response. The friends didn’t ask, “What can we do?” They said, “What kind of pizza do you like?”) When they asked for my address for delivery, my mind immediately began rolling through excuses I could give so they wouldn’t send it. Maybe I felt embarrassed. Maybe it was just a knee jerk reaction. I can’t accept this. After choking on my thoughts and words, I knew that this kindness would help my family, that this was a good person doing a good thing. Lesson swallowed–with pepperoni on top and humble pie for dessert.

Over the years, I’ve felt at times that Satan is literally trying to rip my house apart. In just the last year, I’ve had a hot water heater go out in my attic, my air-conditioner break, my car be rear-ended and totaled on the interstate hours from home, and storms damage my property not once but twice. I’m awfully stubborn, and I’m blessed to be young-ish and healthy; there are many tasks I’ve simply done myself through picking up random skills and watching “how to” videos online. Quite a few problems, though, have been out of my wheelhouse, beyond my skill set, or impossibly past my physical strength. I try to limit the number of favors I ask, to spread them amongst willing helpers. I’m frightened of becoming lazy and a burden for others, and sometimes it’s hard to know when to ask. Maybe you’ve known someone who’s constantly asking for favors. Maybe I’ve been that person.

Once I did have someone tell me no. It wasn’t a no based on money or time; it was the result of a complex relationship and a desire to remain “neutral.” (Just a thought: doing good is never a neutral act.) That situation tempted me with loneliness and despair. I shouldn’t have doubted Jesus would show up, though. He did just a few days later in the form of a coworker and his friend. These men, neither of them close to me (one a total stranger), saw the single-parent family as the modern-day version of widows and orphans, and they showed their “pure and faultless” religion (James 1:27) in looking after us.

Pride or humility. Fear or faith. How can a single parent balance this struggle?

I had some time to think about this when a whole tree came crashing down in my yard last week. For some reason, I just couldn’t get “roads in the desert” out of my head that day. John the Baptist, when questioned about who he is, responds,

“I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord’” (John 1:23). 

He’s citing the Old Testament prophet Isaiah–

“A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the deserta highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed . . .’” (Isaiah 40:3-5a).

What do Isaiah and John’s words about the coming of the Messiah have to do with my downed tree, you ask?

I did not expect Jesus to personally appear, show me the nail scars, and then lift the shattered trunk. But the friends who came with their chainsaw in hand were being Jesus to my family.

How can I keep my heart ready for Jesus as I navigate the rough waters of life as a single parent? How can I balance humility and work ethic?

Start with the small ones. 

I got my handsaw out. I don’t have a chainsaw, and I’m not sure I could wrangle one anyway (though maybe I’ll try sometime with supervision). I’m not strong enough to lift a heavy trunk. But I could cut twigs. Some smaller branches, too. I could clear the leafy sections and make a path to the big stuff. I couldn’t do the main job, but I could get it ready for the one coming to help.

Because help was coming.

I didn’t know who it would be. I didn’t know what day. But I knew someone would come. I’d spoken my need to my church family. Someone was going to be Jesus to me, and I’d cleared the path as best I could.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2)

Kyla Free, and RHC member, is a high school educator in Montgomery and parent of two children.