Last weekend, the American Cancer Society sponsored the local “Relay for Life”. We participated in the Relay last year, but not this year. When I read about the “Relay for Life”, it reminded me of a post I published last year called “Interdependence“. During last year’s “Relay for Life”, God used several events to remind me to live a life dependent on Him and interdependent on other believers.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are both dependent upon God, and interdependent upon one another. Unfortunately, society teaches us to be independent – neither dependent nor interdependent. We’re taught to learn for ourselves, fend for ourselves, care for ourselves, earn for ourselves, and do for ourselves. We’re taught not to admit that we need help from anyone nor to accept help from anyone. This is the nature of American society, but it is not the nature of the follower of Jesus Christ – he or she has a new nature.
This point was driven home for me last Friday. Our family arrived at the event location for the North Raleigh / Wake Forest Relay for Life around 5:15 p.m. We were supposed to drop off our canopy, chairs, tables, etc. – which we did. The committee was supposed to pick up our stuff and take it to our site – which they did. I was supposed to park my vehicle – which I did – while my family walked to our site – which they did. Everything was going according to plan.
Except… as soon as I parked our van, it started to rain. It wasn’t a slow sprinkle, it was a gully-washer – at least, that’s what we called it in Alabama. The entire time that I was walking – running – to our event site, I could picture my family standing in the middle of a muddy field getting drenched by the rain. Imagine my surprise when I reached our site to find that two teenagers from a nearby site had come to their rescue! The two young men were helping my wife set up the canopy, and they had pulled all of our equipment under the canopy. Those two teenagers were my heroes that night! After I arrived, I helped them finish setting up the canopy, and we stayed as dry as we could while the rain continued.
Not long after our canopy was set up, another team arrived at the site next to ours. The team – at this time – consisted of a mother, her teenage daughter, and two or three more teenage girls. My family helped them spread their canopy over their stuff. We offered to help them raise their canopy, but they said they didn’t want to raise it yet. Instead, they stood under some umbrellas and waited for the husband to arrive.
When the husband arrived, I again went over and offered assistance. I told him that some boys from a neighboring site had helped us, and that we would love to help them set up their canopies – they actually had two. He said no. He didn’t need the help, but thank you anyway.
We watched and listened as he struggled to raise the canopy in the wind and rain. He was obviously getting frustrated because his family was not doing things the way he thought they should be done. They often spoke loudly – shouted – at one another as they tried to raise the two canopies and keep their stuff dry at the same time.
When the shouting had subsided for a moment, and when tempers seems to settle a little, I again walked over and asked if I could help. He said… and I quote… “No, we like to fight while we do this.” I told him that I would be glad to help, if he decided he needed anything. Then, I walked back to my canopy.
As I think back over this encounter, I recognize the church acting in this stubborn, independent manner many times. It seems that even believers have the attitude that they can do everything by themselves and they don’t need any one’s help. It often appears that many feel that asking for help or accepting help from others is a sign of weakness or spiritual immaturity.
This is such a travesty and a misunderstanding of what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ. God provides us with relationships with one another so that we can love one another, accept one another, help one another, give to one another, and serve one another. We cannot make it through this life alone – at least, we cannot live the way God wants us to live alone. We need God, and we also need one another. Independence may be an American virtue, but it is a Christian vice.
The next day, Saturday, my family was helping one our young, single, female friends move. (I mentioned this briefly in my post called “Weekend of Service“.) A few weeks before, this young lady began telling people that she needed help finding a place to live. Another family asked if she would like to live with them. They shuffled their boys’ bedrooms so that our friend could have a room to herself, and Saturday afternoon, a bunch of us got together, packed up her belongings, and moved her into their house.
After unloading all of the boxes, another friend brought dinner for everyone. While I was sitting there enjoying a homemade meatball sub, I remembered the encounter with the man who refused to acknowledge that he needed help, and refused to accept help when it was offered. What a stark contrast to my friends, one of whom acknowledged that she needed help and accepted the help that was offered, and a family who was willing to put their own comforts aside and offer help.
This is a beautiful picture of God’s family. Brothers and sisters recognizing their complete dependence upon God and willing to live interdependent upon one another. That evening, I couldn’t help but thank them and praise God for the example of community that he had shown me that day.