Hang Up the Cape.

“The man who thinks he can live without others is mistaken; the one who thinks others can’t live without him is even more deluded.”

~Hasidic Saying

Awhile back, I wrote about carrying one another’s burdens, putting emphasis on the fact that we all need to learn to accept help as often as we offer it. This theme hasn’t quite let go of me, as I see it lived out in different ways by different people in my life. So, if you read this, and wonder if I’m talking about you, I’ll be honest: I might be. Read this with an open mind and heart, and look inward prayerfully for a moment.

I write from experience, having learned this difficult (and disastrous to my pride) lesson. I have not fully mastered it, but I have made great strides in it, by the grace of God. My desire in dwelling on this subject is to bring comfort – to give my fellow sisters permission to hang up the cape and give up the superwoman act. It’s see-through anyway. We all know there is no such person as superwoman.

I think we all need to examine ourselves carefully, and see if our rejection of help from others is really not a prideful rejection of God’s hand.

The man who thinks he can live without others is mistaken…

We each have our own daily, mundane duties we need to perform; each of those has the potential to become an act of worship, pleasing to God, and bringing peace to our souls. Many of these we are perfectly capable of doing on our own, most days. The basic upkeep of our homes, the feeding and nurturing of our children, and providing companionship and conversation to our spouse.

I think part of the mistake comes in believing this falsehood: If keeping up as best we can is an act of worship; then when we fail to do so, we are directly dishonoring God, and we should be ashamed of ourselves for falling behind “so easily.”

Perhaps our misunderstanding of the godliness of these duties comes in during out-of-the-ordinary circumstances. Illness, the absence of a spouse, a special need that comes up, major repairs, and moving are all events that can throw our basic routine completely off. Many of us make the mistake of thinking, during these times, that we must maintain our daily duties without interruption for any reason – no matter the cost to ourselves physically, mentally, or emotionally. That to do so would be somehow less honoring to God.

We “keep calm and carry on,” as the laundry, bills, and everything else piles up to impossible heights, believing in all sincerity that wearing ourselves down to the bone (sometimes literally making ourselves physically ill), in order to maintain a perfect balance, is somehow more honoring to God than letting the dishes sit in the sink overnight once in awhile, so that we can go to bed at a decent hour. Of course, that shouldn’t be the norm in a home, but there are plenty of times that (I believe) that doing something like that is, in fact, the right and God-honoring thing to do. Especially when I consider the cost to my family of a mother who is barely functioning.

There is a difference between being strong, and making a sincere effort to keep up in the midst of trials, and foolishly refusing help because we “can do all things through Him who strengthens” us.

I think it’s high time we learn that He may strengthen us – not to “do all things” physically speaking, but to swallow our pride in order to ask for and receive the help we need to carry our burdens.

Do you not know that we are His hands and feet as the body of Christ? Do you not know that He meant that very literally? That it is through our very physical hands and feet that He often ministers? Yes, He uses our hands and our feet to minister to those around usu, but who are we to think that we need no one else’s hands to minister to us?

That belief is absolutely ludicrous, and only serves to isolate us from one another instead of unifying us in the spirit of agape love.

“…the one who thinks others can’t live without him is even more deluded.”

Nobody needs superwoman.

That is the truth. Superwoman has nothing to offer anyone, because she is empty. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, she is empty. She allows her reserves to be constantly drained, and thinks that she needs nothing more than a “daily quiet time” to subsist upon. She offers her hands and feet to others, without understanding that others do not need hands and feet that are tired and worn.

Others need hands and feet that are clean and strong, well-rested and healthy. It is the sick who need a physician, not the physician who needs the sick.

To superwoman I would say this: All rest is not laziness. All respite is not idleness. All work is not necessary, all the time.

Our desire to please God should, indeed, lead us to give every effort we can to do what He has asked of us in our daily lives, and to help others when we can. However, if we are so busy playing superwoman, how can we legitimately offer to be His hands and feet to anyone else without suffering for it? Suffering for the Gospel is one thing – suffering for suffering’s sake, in the name of “giving glory to God” is utterly silly and foolish. Doing so does not bring Him any glory!

Accepting help from someone who is obviously overworked, over-burdened, and worn out pricks the conscience of any decent human being – and it should!

The strong should carry the weak, not the reverse.

At all times, there are some who are strong and healthy, with full reserves, as well as some who are weak, tired, or sick. We will all occupy one or other of those places at varying times in our lives. The trick is recognizing when we are weak, and our need for the strong to come underneath us and carry us for a time.

If we are able to learn to do this, it will not be long before we will be strong again, and better able to offer help.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” ~Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)

While this passage is speaking about judging others, I think the principle of looking at ourselves first applies here as well. How on earth can we see clearly to help others in their need, when our own need is so great?

Silly superwoman, first take the time to heal and get strong before you try to heal and strengthen others! Part of taking the time to heal may very well entail letting the strong into your life to help you! Fear not – someday, the roles will be reversed, and it will be you who are strong and able to help the weak around you.

Life isn’t easy for anyone, but persisting in daily martyrdom while insisting that everything is fine, and thinking that we are somehow glorifying God is ridiculous and prideful. Allowing others to admire us and extol our virtues while we are soul-weary and sick only puts unnecessary pressure on us to keep that cape on, smiling broadly.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the Proverbs 31 woman does not exist, and never has. She is a standard to strive for, an ideal, a picture of perfection. I would even venture to say that she is more a picture of the true Bride of Christ (i.e. The Church), as a whole, than of any one woman.

The real superwoman in Christendom is made up of all of us, knit together in unity as sisters. We all have strengths and weaknesses, that when put together, become something greater than the sum of its parts.

We are ONE in Christ – and we are better together than we are apart.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” ~Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

This passage goes on to say that we should each carry our own load (vs. 5), but what we need to understand is that our load will lighten or become heavier at different points on our road. I’m just asking that we begin to see that, sometimes, carrying our own load means hanging up our cape, and letting other people fulfill the law of Christ in our lives.

I know this is very strongly worded. I don’t offer an apology for it. I believe strongly that this is one way the enemy of our souls is trying to divide us. You are probably wondering if I’m living it – I can honestly say that I am. I do not hesitate to ask for help these days, but I do still need a wake-up call once in awhile.

Just recently, I made an appointment with a homeschooling mentor of mine, because I am flat-out lost right now. I wanted help in figuring out where we really are, if we should be farther along or not, how to tell, and what I can do practically to get where we need to be – if we aren’t. Whew. Did you get that?

Anyway, I really didn’t want to, because I am thirty years old! I was ashamed of myself for not getting it figured out by myself. After all, God has called me to homeschool my kids. Therefore, I should be able to do it without so much difficulty, and without sacrificing anything else in our lives. Turns out, that’s bull puckey. I sat at my mentor’s desk, crying, because I felt like such a miserable failure – because (surprise!) I can’t do it all!!!

I asked her for help, and she shook me up pretty well by reminding me that my value is not attached to my abilities, or the lack thereof. My value lies in who I am in Christ.

So, I let her help me examine my life, and am now taking steps to say “No” to un-necessaries, while saying “Yes” to the top priorities. This woman has stepped in to help me in very tangible ways to help me straighten out the tangle my life has gotten into lately. It hurts to have growing pains again, but I’d rather have the pain of growing than of suffering under the weight of burdens I shouldn’t be carrying on my own!

I’m figuring out where I need help, and I’m asking for it – and yes, it hurts my pride to know that I cannot do it all, let alone do it all well!

Oh well, my pride could always use a good beating anyway. I will not object to more humility in my life. I know who I am in Christ. I know who I am not. And for now, I’ve been strengthened to run another lap in this race.

All I’m asking is that you search your hearts, pray about it, and see if you need to let more people in. And asking for prayers is good, but go farther. Ask for something that requires hands. Then, sit back and see the blessings the Lord will pour out on His children for loving each other so!