I love watching little children who are just learning how to stand and walk. They stand on their feet for a few seconds and then plop down. When they finally get their balance, they try to take a step—and usually plop down! There is a lot of holding on to whatever is handy to help them hold themselves up as they learn. We adults stand by, excited, with arms ready to help. Some children readily accept our helping hands as they learn how to walk. Others are determined to do it themselves.
When we are new to something, many of us are like a child who is willing to accept, even ask for, help as they learn to walk. Once we know what we are doing or where we are going, we stop asking for help. The very idea of accepting help becomes foreign to many of us. Often our pride keeps us from asking for or accepting help. We don’t want to look weak, needy or a “charity case.” Instead of humbling ourselves and getting help, we try to walk on our own, and sometimes end up flat on the ground!
The story of the Good Samaritan could also be called the story of the Open Israelite. The Israelite had to be open, willing to accept help from the Samaritan. He needed to love his neighbor by letting his neighbor help him when he couldn’t help himself.
Perhaps you’ve heard this joke: A man was in a sinking boat. Another boat came by, and the people on board offered to help. The man said, “No thanks—God will save me.” The boat kept sinking, and another boat offered help. Again the man said, “No thanks. I have faith–God will save me.” A third boat offered help. Once again the man refused: “God will save me.” Of course the man drowned. When he reached heaven, he asked why God didn’t save him. God replied, “I sent three boats, but you turned them all away.” We are all like that man on the sinking boat when we refuse to accept help. We do it with people—more, we do it with God.
In 1896 Charles Monroe Sheldon published In His Steps, based on a series of sermons he preached in his church in Topeka. In Sheldon’s fictional story, a homeless man came into a church one Sunday, and asked why none of the people in church had offered him any help if they were serious about living like Christ. Several people in the church, including the Pastor, decided to live each day and make each decision by first asking, “What would Jesus do?” In the book, Sheldon didn’t picture that as an easy life—some of his characters lost jobs or even their spouses as they took on this challenge. As they constantly asked, “What would Jesus do?” their relationship with God became stronger and they felt their purpose in life more deeply. They helped others, but they also found a need to ask for and accept help that they didn’t have before.
It takes courage to put our pride aside and be open to receiving help, from God and God’s people. God will walk with us through every challenge, if we allow ourselves to be open to his constant presence in our lives. Would you join me in making one of your daily prayers a petition for courage and openness to accept God’s help, in whatever form it comes?
Amy Otto serves on the Student Ministries staff at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.