I heard a silly little story once that has popped back into my mind this week.
A man walks into a hardware store with a brand new tool belt and a purposeful walk. He walks right up to the front counter and tells the salesperson: “I want a new cabinet, and I want to do it myself! What do I need?” The employee walks down one of the aisles and points to a pre-fabricated kit. He points and says, “That has everything you’ll need. Instructions, little wrenches, screws…all of it. It only costs…” The customer interrupts him rudely, “No, no, no…I don’t think you understand! I want to DO IT MYSELF. I don’t want instructions or wrenches or anybody else’s help!” The salesperson pauses, a bit miffed, and replies, “Better head to a clothing store first. You’ll need a flannel shirt to wear for cutting down the tree.”
I think we con ourselves into thinking we are completely self-sufficient at times. We convince ourselves that we can do everything ourselves and we don’t really need much help from anybody. We like to pride ourselves on being self-reliant, “self-made” women and men. On your average day, this idea goes unchallenged for many of us…we manage to go to work, do things around the house, take care of things on our own.
But every once and a while something happens that shows us how much we truly need each other. And when these moments happen, I usually react in one of two ways: I either feel embarrassed and try as hard as I can to refuse help or perceived “charity,” or (on my better days) I stand back and realize my vulnerability and need. I see that I really wouldn’t be able to do much in life without the help of others.
I don’t know about you, but the past couple of weeks have provided a crash course in realizing that I can’t do a whole lot without the help of others…or, more importantly, the grace of God. I have also realized how blessed I am to be a part of such a thoughtful, compassionate, trusting, and adaptable congregation. The challenges are and will be many…but the message to us from Elders and Deacons making calls and tough decisions, from the healthcare workers pulling double shifts, from the thousands of workers keeping shelves stocked and utilities running, from neighbors who have reached out in new ways, from teachers adapting and creating on the fly, from people from all over the world is clear:
We do not face these challenges alone.
It’s pretty amazing that connection is the main takeaway of isolation, huh? Thanks be to God, we have been able to send and share that message these past few weeks. It is the message we have sent while scrambling with new technology to see familiar faces and provide a kind word in the midst of fear. It is the message we send going on grocery runs for people at risk. It is the message we send through calls and texts. It is the message we send through patience with those we now see over and over every day. It is the message we send when we pause to rest and pray.
The pictures and realities of this crisis have been hard to grasp. We know that our world is hurting, and it’s hard not to fall prey to fear. But in these moments, we have seen God’s response. We have received a kind voice, a sign of help. We have been strengthened to share. We have responded with prayers, with time and resources, and with offers to help. We have been there with intention, with words of comfort and support, and with understanding and patience as we have continued to adjust and make changes around new realities.
In other words, Northminster has been the church—caring and pastoral, generous and kind, powerful and inspiring. And we have seen the church in those around us, reaching out and bringing hope…to us and to others. It is a powerful reminder of the amazing gift God gives us, a gift that gives us the power to stand together even when we feel alone.
The gift of the Body of Christ.