Sunday, February 21, 2016

Of Grace and the Broken Cord

I think I've always had an independent streak. When my sisters and I were very young, Dad often referred to us as "Little Miss Independence". Usually when we were asserting our right to 'do it myself'. My earliest memories are dim, but there is photographic evidence of my efforts to do more than I was capable of.

 I also remember Dad saying the same about my younger sisters. For the sake of our continued sisterhood, I won't post photographic evidence for them, but I do recall at least one sister stomping her foot, arms folded firmly, "I DO IT!" at about age three. "Ok, Miss Independence!" Dad responded and smiled as he watched her. 

As I grew older, I often preferred doing things myself over asking for help. While seven months pregnant with my oldest son, I rearranged the furniture in our apartment, lifting a heavy bookcase onto the top of a desk by myself. I'll admit to being tired afterwards, but I really thought the 'adoo' made by others over this apparently risky behavior was a little unwarranted. Arms folded stubbornly, I claimed there was nothing wrong with doing it myself.

Sometimes I lack the patience to wait until someone else is available to help. I recently undertook a project of painting my large wood entertainment center. It comes apart, the sliding center shelf is heavy, and I realized I couldn't take the thing apart by myself without risking damage to the TV underneath the shelf. I called two trusty helpers from church who lived nearby, "Hey, Home Teachers!" and they happily hurried right over to assist. 10 minutes and the shelf was dismantled. I was quickly reminded that people love to help when asked, and I was thankful they were available and most wiling to help.

When painting was complete and I was ready to reassemble it, I decided I was independent/strong/stubborn enough to put it back together without help. This involved lifting the long, heavy center shelf with loose inserts up over my head and settling it onto the four small brackets by simultaneously sliding the inserts out towards the sides. I figured the brackets would hold the shelf up until I could secure them to the shelf with screws. I lifted...the inserts both suddenly shifted...and before I knew it, the entire shelf slid down the wall and slammed to the floor behind the cabinet. I had to crawl behind the cabinet to get the shelf out, but it didn't appear there was any lasting damage other than additional distressing on the already distressed paint finish. Good enough!

But then I found damage I wasn't expecting: a broken electrical cord. I'm not sure if the shelf slamming to the floor severed the cord, or if the cord snapped from being stretched tight, but I now held in my hands two parts of the power cord for my stereo speakers. No power, no sound. I sadly realized that if I had just asked for help, the broken cord would still be whole and the speakers would still work. (The music lover in me points out this is a great loss).

What prevents me from asking for help? For me, it's most often impatience...I just want something done NOW and don't want to wait for someone to come to help. Other times, I prefer to work alone because I don't want to work someone else's plan. How stubborn is that? 
Sometimes I overestimate my own strength. I knew I could lift the shelf, I just hoped the sliding boards wouldn't shift. When they did, the shelf crashed to the floor.
And THEN I asked for help. Of course! How many times do I pray for Father to undo a mess I created? 

This is SO like my spiritual self! The Lord willingly offers all that I need and more: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." He promises that I don't have to do it all on my own. And if I ask for help, the Lord is not only eager to help, His Atonement is perfected as he does! Paul's words tumble into my heart, "Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Suddenly my weakness is a happy thing, a thing that brings me closer to Christ. I need not be afraid of asking for help. I promise to work at not stamping my foot and insisting on my own way. And as I do, His Grace is sufficient for even that impetuous act. 

Looking at the severed power cord, I think that I could probably fix it myself (I've done a few things like that), but since I am practicing a better way, I unfold my stubbornly crossed arms and resist the urge to stamp my foot. In a sheepish text message, I confessed the broken cord to my son. "Can you fix this?" 
"Probably" he says. The offer of a pizza and game night sweetened the deal, so he brought his family. We played games, we talked, he fixed the cord. The symbolism is not lost on me, a son repairing that which was lost. He was happy to help, even though it caused some strain on his already tired hands. And he gave a warning...if the cord gets warm, it's best to just get a new speaker than risk a fire. Whole power cords are better than repaired ones. 

Our Savior's Love
Shines like the sun with perfect light,
As from above
It breaks thru clouds of strife.
Lighting our way,
It leads us back into his sight,
Where we may stay
To share eternal life.

I understand it now! My limitations are not something to be ashamed of, rather they are the means by which I may become a partaker of His Grace. We cannot save ourselves. And so I will most gladly glory in my infirmities. With His love, I am not afraid of letting others see my weakness. I no longer want to stomp my feet through life, my stubborn nature creating bigger struggles along the way. How much better to leave the power cords whole by asking for a couple of extra hands at times, than to insist on doing it all on my own? 

And so, this morning, I called a friend, “I need your help…..”