Thomas Griffin 3/21/22 (For Busted Halo)
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Oftentimes we convince ourselves that asking for help might mean that we are not willing to carry the cross that has been laid on our shoulders. I frequently tell myself that I should be able to handle everything that has been given to me. Sometimes I convince myself that admitting I need help means that I’m not strong or smart enough, or I’m not willing to do what God is asking of me. However, as I’ve learned, asking others for help and asking the Lord for aid are the two best pathways forward as we take up our cross.
I experienced this firsthand when my wife, Joanna, and I had our first child. Benedict was born a healthy 8 pounds and 6 ounces after an arduous and lengthy labor. Joanna had a tough recovery and Ben needed constant care as any newborn does. Those sleepless nights were difficult for both of us, but I knew that I was being asked to change more diapers and clean the house more so that my wife could heal and rest. All went fine and well for the first few months of his life, but things became more difficult once our circumstances changed.
I was back at work after a week or so while Joanna was on maternity leave for a few months. Once she returned to work, the challenges escalated. We knew that this would be a heavy transition for our family, but a blessed one because we were so happy to have Benedict in our lives. Joanna and I quickly saw that the stress on her to be on Zoom while answering constant emails and phone calls was tremendous.
She was working full-time while caring for a newborn child. I was constantly at work concerned that the tasks of the day were insurmountable for her. This time was tough for her because she could not give 100% to work or to Ben, and it was difficult for me because I knew how rough things were for Joanna at home.
For some reason, however, we did not turn to family, friends or even to God right away for help. It must have been the mindset that this is just what happens to families in America who find it necessary for both spouses to work full-time. Rather than ask for advice from our parents or practical help from babysitters, we put our heads down and tried to barrel through. We internally thought that this was a burden we just needed to carry.
Only because of an honest conversation with an older friend who had several children did we see that asking for help empowered our loved ones to act for us. This was a great discussion about the beautiful, but hectic nature of having a family as well as the need to bring the wider family together during challenging periods of time.
We saw that our family and friends desired to be there for us when things were most difficult and that, above all, God was intimately close to us in this season. So, we began to pray more for the awareness of how God’s hand was working through our daily encounters and we started to ask friends and family to watch Benedict for a few hours a day to help our family.
This opened the door for us to see that admitting that we needed help was not a sign of weakness or lack of faith, but simply a way to invite others and the Lord to play a larger role in the events of our real world experiences. The overall circumstances in our life did not radically change. There was still a need for Joanna to have periods of time when she needed to both complete work and care for Benedict. I would still be at work worrying that they were both having a good day.
Asking for aid did alleviate the sense that we had that we were being asked to go through a difficult time alone, something I’m trying to remember especially as we head into a season of renewal. Lent can be a great opportunity to reflect on the fact that we don’t need to have it all together in this life. Weaknesses and imperfections are taken up by Christ in his time in the desert so that our desert experiences become sanctified in the process. Christ wants us to know that we are never alone when we are in need of help and that asking for help unites us more to him.
The relationships with our friends, family members, and faith have continued to grow when we have relied on these relationships for more than just verbal encouragement. Viewing the concrete ways that God and loved ones have helped us allows us to be all right with asking for help and we become amazed by how good God is when we do so. This has made it easier to rely on God more, especially during Lent, when he reveals that remaining near to his son will supply all that we need.
Thomas Griffin teaches in the religion department at a Catholic high school on Long Island where he lives with his wife and son.
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