Sometimes it's Okay to be a Liability

What is it that distinguishes a friend from an acquaintance? Is it the amount of time that you spend with them? I would have to say there are some people that I spend quite a bit of time with who really should be looked at as more of an acquaintance than a friend. Actually, that has been something that has made me quite sad—the shallow depth of relationship that I have with people I encounter on a regular basis—people that I like, but am not going to pick up the phone when I have a crisis. That’s when you find out who your friends are, as they say. In Galatians 6:1-2, Paul says, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. My last article related more to verse 1. We don’t often look at the person who is trying to gently point out a sin we are entangled in as our best friend. But this is someone who cares about our spiritual growth, even at the risk of our retaliation. Today I want focus on verse 2: bearing one another’s burdens. While this sounds obvious, our digital way of living has really put a hurten’ on this gift of intimacy. We feel pretty pumped up about all our friends on Facebook, but we can be very careful about what we want to share with them. It is easy to portray a shiny image on this glamorized scrapbook that never really shows our struggles or even our deepest desires. This is an area that I really think God has been working on in my life. While my husband was in the hospital last week, and my daughter was sick, I had to rely on the help of others. I hate asking for help. I like to help, but I hate to ask someone else to carry part of my burden. My prideful heart actually deceives my thinking to rationalize this unfriendliness. I tell myself that it is my responsibility, and I don’t want to inconvenience anyone else--even my own mother. She jumped to my rescue to take care of my daughter so that I could be with Matt through surgery. As I was waiting in the O.R. waiting room, I read this from Dennis Johnson and Elyse Fitzpatrick’s, Counsel from the Cross: Another problem with much counseling outside of a local church context is the lack of ongoing accountability. People seem to want to get help anonymously, thereby avoiding the struggle with sin in front of the very people God has placed in their lives to help them. This flies right in the face of passages like James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,” and Galatians 6:1-2…Within the local church there should be ongoing confession of sin, personal prayer, and bearing one another’s burdens” (48). This confirmed what I had just written in my last article, while powerfully convicting me at the same time. (Obviously, this quote is more in the context of relationships in the church, but it certainly can be extended to our friendships outside the church.) My mom was so happy to come help me out. She brought dinner, stuff to do with the kids, an overnight bag, a bag of coffee, and a bottle of wine. She knows me well, what can I say? Why did I feel so bad asking for help? I quickly realized that carrying my burden was not only a blessing to me, but to my mom as well. And that is what I prayed for her right then and there. I wasn’t only thankful that she came, but prayerful that God would bless her in a special way for her service. As the week went on, I had to ask for help from others, as well as thankfully decline to the many who wanted to cook me dinner or help me with my responsibilities. I already had more than I needed. I have to say, the hardest part was cancelling on the ways in which I wanted to be of help before all the illness hit: people I wanted to have over for dinner, small groups that I was supposed to hostess, church nursery... That made me realize even more that I enjoy piling up for myself the blessings of helping others with their burden’s, but that I was being stingy in not sharing my own. And so my super-mom facade had to suffer another crushing blow.  What a blessing it’s been! I needed to come face to face again with the fact that even though I don’t have so much of an issue with sharing my weaknesses with my friends, I have a hard time allowing them to get their hands dirty and help me. Of course the gospel reminds me that I once was completely helpless, and one of the first responses to God’s grace in Christ is turning away from my own efforts to trust in the One who has truly accomplished righteousness for me. As a Christian, I also have the blessing of friends in Christ’s church--friends in Christ. Johnson and Fitzpatrick reminded me that “It’s here, within gospel-centered relationships, that the Spirit will reveal the Son to us” (49).