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A few months ago, Ike and I added a new parenting milestone to our resumé: we were sick at the same time.
Maybe “milestone” isn’t the right word–the experience was somewhere between a trauma and an accomplishment–but either way, we did it. We survived. And lest you think this was a little sniffly cold that descended on our home, it was not.
It all began on a Wednesday when both of us were feeling off. I remember going to the gym and walking extra slow on the treadmill because my stomach was cramping. Not long after, Ike called me and asked if I had been having stomach pains, because he had too.
After lunch I decided to take a nap and sleep it off. About an hour later I found myself crawling to the bathroom just in time to unload the contents of my stomach. I had the stomach flu.
Ike’s insides soon followed. Before we knew it, we were both puking our guts out in unison, and totally unable to help one another, which had never happened to us before. Until then, our illnesses had always been slightly out of sync, staggered just enough that we could still take care of one another. Ike would get sick, and then Isaac, and then me. By the time I caught it, Ike was well enough to pick up my slack.
But when you’re sick at the same time–as in, both of you are on the floor in the fetal position, relaying trips to the bathroom–it’s pretty much every man for himself. There’s no one to take care of you, no one to bring you saltines or ginger ale or a cold wash cloth for your forehead. The only thing to do is ride it out.
For that reason alone, being sick at the same time stinks. But what makes it even harder is adding a child to the mix. That first night, Isaac was literally wandering around the house by himself because we were too sick to chase him down. And that’s when I started panicking. All of our relatives live in North Carolina–a 14 hour drive away–so there was no immediate family to call.
That’s when I began texting people from our church.
About 15 minutes later, one of my friends showed up. What’s amazing to me about her is that she has 5 kids of her own. Five. She wasn’t just sitting at home twiddling her thumbs waiting for people to call on her. She has a home brimming with children and activity and life. But she put down everything to rush right over because we needed her, and that was enough.
You know, it’s funny. You never expect yourself to be one of the “least of these,” but ever since we had our son we’ve been kind of needy. Without family nearby, we have to ask for help more than most people do. Whenever there’s an emergency, we can’t call our parents or siblings for help–we have to call our church. When we need someone to watch Isaac in a pinch, or drive us to the airport, or help us move, we depend on our friends.
Honestly, this is hard for me. Last week I confessed to a friend that I feel like dead weight. Everyone else has family around, so we’re usually the ones asking for things. It’s humbling. It’s easy to feel like a burden.
But I’m learning to see it differently.
When Ike and I first got married, we made a budget that included monthly tithing to our church, as well as other annual giving. However, we didn’t want to limit our budget to pre-planned donations. We wanted to have margin in our budget for unexpected needs. If someone came to us with a financial need, we didn’t want our budget to be stretched so thin, every penny so accounted for, that we couldn’t help out.
So we’ve always had extra margin in our budget for the unexpected. Not just unexpected emergencies in our own lives, but for others as well.
Until now, it never dawned on me that we should view our time the same way we view our finances. That is to say, we should keep an extra margin in our schedule for helping others. But we should, because sometimes the needy don’t need our money; they need our time. And in some ways, time is an even more precious commodity. After all, how many of us would rather give our money than our time?
I never saw it that way until I was the needy one. Having been on the receiving end of other people’s generosity, I’ve come to realize just how important it is to be generous with your time. If your schedule is too slammed full of commitments, or if you view your time as “yours”–rather than God’s–you can’t be generous with it. You can’t give your time to people in need.
And that’s happened to us. We’ve needed people, and they were too busy to help. Of course, I’ve done it too. I’ve made excuses to duck out of helping others. We’ve all done it, haven’t we?
When Jesus called his disciples to follow him, they dropped everything. They didn’t tie up loose ends, or complain that they were too busy. They simply followed.
I see that same spirit in the friends who came to our aid. And I am so grateful for them. I am grateful they saw my need and recognized that, when they dropped everything to help me, a “least of these”, they did it for Christ. I am grateful they viewed their time not as their own, but as a gift to be stewarded for God. I am grateful that their generosity does not end with their finances, but extends into their lifestyles.
Our spending habits say a lot about our priorities, but the same is true of our schedules. That’s why I am grateful not only for generous givers of money, but for generous givers of time. They have been Christ to me.
As a final note, if you’re like me and you’re one of the needy ones, let me just encourage you to ask for help. Some people will feel inconvenienced, but the majority will consider it an honor to serve you. Accepting someone’s help can be an invitation into a deeper relationship, so don’t let your pride or embarrassment or fear of imposing forfeit that treasure. We all need help sometimes, and God knew it. That’s why He gave us the church.
Thanks be to God!