In “The Gift of Helping,” we are exploring the spiritual gift of helping and how it applies far beyond the scope of acts of service at church. The gift of helping is a series of scripture meditations orbiting around personal anecdotes about 10 people who helped me in life saving ways in the last 10 years by exercising the unassuming gift of helping.
“Boundaries” is every therapist’s favorite word. In the emotional landscape of today’s West, every person is to have a clearly thought through and established list of every behavior they will accept, every attitude they will not, and a plan for how they will present themselves in every still frame of their lives as fully enforcing their own little set of Ten Commandments.
I have never heard of anyone successfully, or consistently, re-enforcing their $150/per word boundary statements in the context of their actual relationships. Why, is a simple explanation. Relationships require flexibility. Flexibility is a thing that a boundary is not.
Relationships with difficult people– you know, like ones whose world have just been shattered by psychosis, whose friends seem to fear them, and whose churches do not want them– relationships with difficult people require Elastigirl, supermom of The Incredibles, capable of actually turning her body into a parachute while she falls with you.
Brittany was a year behind me in high school. She was home waiting to start grad school after college. I can’t remember how we reconnected, but I was just out of the hospital and spending all my time in bed.
All I wanted was to be able to do normal things. Things like take a shower, eat a meal, wear clean clothes, and do more than move from my bed at 1:00pm to the couch until moving back to bed at 10:00pm.
Brittany, whose vibe as long as I’ve known her is full of sweetness, pep, and an ability to turn an idea into an action, offered to meet me at Carmel Beach to go for walks on Mondays and Wednesdays.
And she meant it. Mondays and Wednesdays. Like all of the Mondays and all of the Wednesdays.
We walked and talked the length of Carmel Beach for hours over weeks. Every Monday and every Wednesday, Brittany would text me to confirm that we were meeting. Sometimes I wouldn’t text back. My alarm would have gone off half a dozen times, but many days it just wasn’t happening for me. Sometimes, Brittany would text that she was at the beach waiting for me, and I’d tell her then that I wasn’t up to it.
Were Brittany a “boundaries” kind of friend, our walks would have happened maybe twice or three times. Thankfully, Brittany is a “persistent” kind of friend. She was a “selfless” kind of friend. A friend that bounced back from my offenses. A friend who put up with my prickliness, listened to me bad mouth a God whom she loved, and never stopped engaging with me.
Brittany also shared with me what was going on in her life. I was not a project, I was her friend. After hearing about her secret crush, I later got to attend their wedding. She wasn’t evangelizing me in my lostness, she was sticking with me, for real.
“A man of many companions comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” Proverbs18:24.
In the months fresh from my mania, psychosis, diagnosis, and prognosis, I definitely did not have many companions. I did have one companion though, and she stuck close despite every reason to feel disrespected by me.
Companionship is a function of the spiritual gift of helping that builds up God’s church. Companionship sticks. It takes walks. It calls. It reschedules. It tries again. It rolls with the punches. It shows up, and is ready to be real.
You cannot underestimate the way in which you can rebirth life into a person by tenaciously spending time with them.
Brittany, thank you for extending to me the gift of “helps” through your companionship.