The Grace of Letting Others In



The other day, I had the most wonderful time in my vegetable garden. I was working with a lovely young woman I’ve spent time with over the years, gardening, mentoring a little, and listening. We got so much done, and the garden is in wonderful shape now. Those moments of connection would never have happened without the health issues I experienced a few years ago. When I was sick, this young woman volunteered to come and help, out of love for me and love for this garden.

Those moments in the garden also wouldn’t have happened if I couldn’t relate to being young and struggling.

When I was 25, I wound up on welfare. I’d just returned from teaching in China for a year and came back exhausted, very thin and ill. The sending agency dropped us from their insurance the minute our feet touched American soil. My graduate program hadn’t started yet and I had no safety net. I needed to get better to get into school to get the insurance that went with my studies.

It’s rarely comfortable, but sometimes admitting that you need help is the only way forward. I had nothing. So I signed up for welfare to get the coupons to go to the doctor so I could get well enough to work. I was so ashamed to go through that door and apply. So embarrassed to have to use those coupons because I couldn’t pay with money.

Now I can see that the things I’d been trying to escape—that set of parents who were such a disaster, that frailty of growing up vulnerable—comes back around, but in a new way. Not in the defeat of my mother who gave up on life, but in this new Kingdom economy that says when I am weak, I am graced and blessed if only I will be honest and admit my need.

So, the other day, when I felt so awful in the morning I called this young woman, and went and picked her up, and got help. We had another smashing day puttering in the yard, and I listened to some struggles and shared some experiences I’d had in those same years of life.

There is strength to be found as I stop trying to power through things in a way that wears the fabric of my being thin. I’m recovering strength and quiet joy, riding my new bicycle all around town, and learning not to be so stubbornly independent. I’m learning to let others in.

This mending and fraying, working and reworking, breaking and sewing in the fabric of my past allows a texture more rich and varied and subtly-hued than the one straight and square and flat from the factory. This fabric has stretched to wrap around my family and those who’ve joined us in need of a stable place to be, even when we felt anything but stable ourselves.

It is frayed and thin in spots, and even torn, but it is being mended. The mending includes the threads of those we’ve reached out to, coming back around and blessing us, gathering with us, upholding us. I’m so grateful for those who’ve trusted us because we have known a bit of the world and a lot of the heartbreak, and a whole load of hope deferred.

These are the gold threads of those who’ve picked up our frayed strands and gathered them as one, brought them back in, and rewoven us—stronger, more beautiful, more richly painted.

I am finally able to mean it when I say the fraying has been worth it, both in my long ago past and my recent past. I am giving up trying to be a heavy sailcloth. I’m learning to be more like a sari, a head cloth, a multi-colored wrap around a Guatemalan mama, or a cedar fiber, strong in its own way and pliable and rooted—something light and practical and beautiful.

I am soil and I am paper, I am sky and I am fainting thirst. I am becoming known in my needs greater than I ever could have in my strength, and the gaps in the fabric, that is where those who are truly in need can enter in. In the entering in, they support and lend strength and grace and joy. Those who perhaps have been most ill-treated by the world, who may have the least, seem to bring me in my life the most.

SheLovelys, is there a place in your life where it’s time to admit need and get help? Is there a place where you may not feel strong, but can offer connection to someone in that same weakness or vulnerability?