“I can’t do this.” I let my pregnant body collapse back into the sofa. Immediately, my two toddlers darted for me and tackled their little sister, still in utero. This wasn’t what overwhelmed me though–their activity; rather, I had just heard that we would soon be hosting visitors from the States.
Because it takes a certain brand of tenacity to move overseas with young children, the I-can-do-it-all mentality must be common among expat moms. We live far from family and familiarity yet determine to mother as impressively as if we are in our home countries with grandparents living down the road. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” right? We shrug off the offers of help with a casual “Thanks, I’m good!” and carry on with the work that must be done.
So when I learned that I would have houseguests during my third trimester–my stubborn independence still balked against the idea of assistance. Why? To ask for help is to admit inadequacy.
The ending of this story is a good one, though–because God broke me down physically in order to knead through my obstinate self-sufficiency. My pregnancy took a turn toward difficult and never regained the high road, so by the time my guests arrived, I was beaten down enough to accept their help–even to ask for it. They watched my kids, hung laundry, let me rest. I begrudgingly let things go, specifically my mirage of perfection. Little by little, I unclenched my hands and opened them to receive. Day by day, I let myself be instead of do, and through this, I understood more about the gospel.
To accept help may feel like failure. It may be admitting insufficiency. It may even break our proud hearts. But why are we so deathly afraid of these emotions? We cower from transparency, as if our weaknesses will disappear if they are hidden. We ignore our shortcomings and broadcast our accomplishments, yet it is in only in our need that we can receive.
We receive Jesus. We receive grace. But we only receive salvation if we have first felt the weight of failure, admitted insufficiency, fallen prostrate in brokenness, and pleaded for deliverance. Before we can receive righteousness, we must first go low, and this is necessary. “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me,” Jesus said to Peter. Without cleansing, we are not His. And how can we come for cleansing if we feel ourselves already spotless, immune to filth, unable to receive?
Likewise, when I live my expat-mom-life without accepting any help, I am living in the illusion that I need nothing from anyone, including my God. Like Peter, I cry out, “Never shall you wash my feet!,” thinking my words show great generosity, yet this very pride discourages friendships instead of building them. I bet more mom bonds are formed over mutual brokenness than mutual superpowers. If we would just admit our limitations, we can open ourselves to receive. The truth is that we desperately need each other, especially when living abroad.
After my houseguests left, I knew the pain of exposure, for they had seen my failures firsthand. But I also knew cleansing, for I had received their love despite and their help just because. From this experience of accepting support, I learned that dropping my mask of with-it-ness was inviting, not appalling. I turned, then, to my friends living around me overseas and asked for help through that season of difficulty–and many times since. The response then was wildly encouraging. Friends offered to babysit, to grocery shop, to prepare meals, to clean my house. Still, their most meaningful gifts were unfiltered, sincere conversations that spoke truth and life into my weary heart.
To ask for help is to admit inadequacy. Exactly. And to receive help is to welcome a gospel-like gift: an empowerment of grace, a reminder of our need, and a humbling image of salvation.
Do you likewise struggle with accepting help–just so it seems you have it all together? When does receiving support (in any form) become irresponsible? How can we find a balance that is both healthy and God-honoring?