Fighting Rescue

I had just been hired at the church as worship and music director.  I was nervous, excited, and so afraid all at the same time.  For the first time in my life I was going to have an actual, paid job.  I was cautiously optimistic— so ready to give it my all but yet so afraid that somehow I would mess everything up.  I hadn’t even gotten started and I was afraid to fail, but I wasn’t about to tell anyone that.

Just days after I was approved for the position, I was scheduled to meet with the pastor.  Since I am unable to drive, I arranged time in my schedule to allow enough to time to walk over to the church for my appointment.  What I didn’t arrange for was the coming rain storm.  Now, since I walk everywhere, I am typically aware of the weather, but that day, I figured I could work around it for some reason.  I kept an eye on the radar as I finished up some correspondence for camp and did some promotion for my recently released book.

At one point, I realized it was getting pretty dark.  I checked the radar again and sighed.  If I didn’t want to get caught in the rain, I would have to leave my apartment then and there.  Judging by the movement of the animated green blob on my computer screen, the rain was about 30 minutes away.  It took me about twenty-five minutes to walk to the church, but I needed to stop at the bank first.  I figured I might just make it in time.

I put on my coat and shoes and was soon out the door with my purse over my shoulder.  I walked a little faster than normal, determined to reach my destination before the rain.  I was only about a block from home when my cell phone rang.  At first, I ignored it.  I had no time to talk, and with my purse over one arm and my cane in my other hand, I couldn’t get to my phone that easily.  But as it rang, I realized my phone was announcing that my pastor was calling.  So I stopped on the side of the road and fished my phone out of my purse.

“You’re coming to the office at 3:00, aren’t you?” he asked after we exchanged brief greetings.

“Yes,” I said.  “I’m on my way right now, but I have to stop at the bank first.”

“Um… you know there’s a storm heading this way, don’t you?  I mean, I don’t think you’re going to make it over here in time before it starts.”

As if to confirm his statement, I heard a rumble of thunder in the distance.  I started walking again even though I fumbled with everything I carried in order to hold on to the phone.

“It will be okay,” I told him.  “I’ll hurry.”

“I don’t know…” he said hesitantly.  “I have to pick my daughter up from school in a few minutes so I’ll be out and around.  Let me pick you up.  I know your route, so I should be able to find you pretty easily.’

“No, really; it’s okay,” I said quickly.  “You don’t have to do that.”

He sighed.  “Are you sure?  I’m thinking it won’t be long before its really raining…”

I was almost to the bank at that point.  I figured I would just wait it out at the bank if it started to rain.  Yes, I would be a little late to my appointment, but at least I would be getting to the church by my own ability.  As you can probably tell by now, I was pretty stubborn that day.  I’m still pretty stubborn now.

Once more, I assured him I would be fine, and he finally hung up.  I increased my pace and found my way to the bank to the accompaniment of rumbling thunder.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I entered the lobby.  I was completing my transaction and chatting with the teller when another bank employee remarked that it was pouring outside.

“I guess I’ll be hanging out here for awhile,” I told the bank teller.  I proceeded to relay to her my recent conversation with my pastor and how I was bound and determined to get to the church on my own.  He had plenty to worry about without needing to pick me up on the side of the road.

No sooner had I finished my tale than my cell phone rang in my hand.  I looked down to see my pastor’s name in the display window.  “It’s him, isn’t it?” the teller asked.

I groaned and nodded as I stepped away from the counter.

“Where are you?” he asked without so much as a greeting.

“At the bank,” I replied.

“Stay right there,” he said, his tone leaving no room for argument.  “I’ll be there in five minutes.”

I knew in that moment that it was over for me.  I had lost the battle.  I had tried so hard to be independent, and here I was on the first day of my new job needing help already.  I was disappointed, hurt, and almost a little embarrassed.

A few moments later, my pastor made his way through the lobby doors with umbrella in hand.  Without a word, he led me outside where his daughter was waiting in the car.  It was raining in earnest now, and the sky was so dark that the streetlights were already coming on.

His daughter chattered in the backseat as we drove toward the church, but I didn’t say anything.  There was a certain tension between the two adults in the car, and I knew it was all on me.  He didn’t say anything to me until we were moments from pulling into the church parking lot: “Cassie, Cassie… when will you ever learn?” he said finally.  I didn’t look at him, but I imagine in that moment that he was shaking his head in bewilderment.

He had just rescued me from the deluge outside, but I felt no relief in that.  Instead, I felt like a failure.  Not only had I failed at acting out my independence, but I had also failed at graciously accepting help from someone who appeared to genuinely care about me.  I had tried so hard only to come up short.

In that moment, I felt so alone, but it turns out that I wasn’t the only one to battle through a storm and be in need of rescue.  In Matthew 14, Jesus goes off by himself to pray while his disciples set out on the lake.  The wind comes up during the course of the night, and the boat is tossed here and there among the waves.  It is close to dawn when the disciples see someone walking on the lake toward them.  At first they think it is a ghost, until Jesus reveals his identity.

Wanting to be sure it is Jesus, Peter calls out to him and asks if he might walk out to meet him.  Jesus says “Come,” and Peter steps out on the water.  But when he sees the wind and the waves, he falters and begins to sink.  He cries out to Jesus to save Him, and Jesus does just that.  But in addition to saving him, Jesus makes this a teaching opportunity, almost chastising Peter for doubting and possessing little faith.

Now obviously, Peter and I faced very different circumstances.  But what we had in common resonates deeply with me.  In a bold move, Peter takes a leap of faith and comes to Jesus on the lake, but when he begins to fear all that is happening around him, he begins to sink in defeat.  I’m sure he felt great disappointment, wondering what Jesus would think of him.  I’m sure he was very aware of his failures in that moment.

I was also afraid to fail, but unlike Peter, my determination to continue down the road without accepting any help was the moment when I began to sink.  In my stubborn independence, I had shut others out, and as a result, I felt I had no other choice but to make something happen on my own.  Besides, I spent so much time asking for rides and requesting help from people that I just wanted to accomplish something on my own.

I didn’t want to appear needy.  I didn’t want to bother anyone.  I didn’t want to appear weak.  I didn’t want to fail.  Although my pastor didn’t chastise me for having little faith, he did take the opportunity, as Jesus had, to speak some truth into my life.

“When will you ever learn?”  This question seemed to say to me: “So are you tired of fighting on your own?  Do you have to have everything figured out before you set out?  Are you beyond accepting the help of others?”

Ouch!  Now, of course, he didn’t actually say any of this, and I’m fairly certain he didn’t imply it either.  But in thinking about that rainy day on the streets of my hometown, I came to recognize a key reason why I couldn’t seem to reach out to others for help.

It all came down to my compensation mechanism.  I have talked about this in other posts, so bear with me if I seem to be repeating myself here.  I don’t like to be on the receiving end of assistance very often, but the truth is, I often need to be on the receiving end just because of my circumstances.  As a result, I try to compensate by doing as much on my own as possible, and that includes walking to and from work.  It almost causes a physical pain within me when I realize that I have to ask for help because I have reached my last resort.  It isn’t that I do not value help from others; it’s just that I long to step out my own.

But on that rainy day, I came to realize that I can’t change my circumstances.  Just because I couldn’t get to work on my own didn’t mean I was a failure.  That afternoon taught me that I couldn’t do everything in my own power.  I may not have had the same experience as Peter on that lake, but nevertheless, we were both afraid to fail.

And it was then that I realized that this was an exercise in faith.  It increased in me a semblance of gratitude toward the people who were willing to support me and even rescue me on days when I was too stubborn to reach out.  It also reminded me that I needed to be dependent on God to bring me through.  I was crazy to think that I could accomplish everything on my own.  And finally, the experience of that afternoon taught me that I couldn’t let my fear of failure— this being needy— to control my next steps forward.  I might not have been walking on water, but the constant shifting of my circumstances sure felt like rolling waves and winds.  In the midst of the storm, I was reminded that I didn’t have to endure on my own.  I had friends who cared and a Savior who was ready to rescue me no matter how far I wandered.

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