Featured Reading: Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Lots of people have amazingly romantic stories about the moment when they proposed to their beloved. Some folks tell stories of walking along fragrant, flower-filled parks when their beloved suddenly dropped to a knee and popped the question. Others tell of a story set in a fancy restaurant where tuxedo clad violists arrived at their table and brought a container of champagne filled with ice - with a beautiful engagement ring tucked inside. Still others tell stories of being in a vacation resort like Las Vegas and having one of the card dealers slide out a ring in place of the gambling chips. You name the scenario, and I’ve heard it over the years.
Well, the day I popped the question was a scenario unlike most others. Let me take a moment and set the scene for you.
The day I popped the question to Mike was a day in October of 2002. I had been serving Mountain View for about six months by that time. And like most new pastors, I had worked my fingers to the bone. So by the beginning of the month, I had started to feel tired and run down. Of course I did what I always do in those circumstances: I kept going – until by the third Tuesday of the month (October 15) - I was completely out of gas. Whenever that happens, I get sick. So guess what condition I was in. Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.
Now as someone who had lived as a single person for my entire adult life – I was not use to having someone in my life that could take care of me. Most folks were far more used to having me take care of them. So whenever I got sick, I did the same thing. I disappearred from the world for a few days, nursed my illness, and then re-emerged once I felt good enough to take care of others again.
Mike and I had been together for nearly a year by the time the day had rolled around, and I had never been sick before. So this whole notion that there would be someone in my life to actually take care of ME was totally new. In the first few days of my illness, he did all the right things. He picked up the Tylenol on his way home from work; he made sure I had chicken soup; and he turned the ringer on the phone off - all without me asking.
But that Tuesday afternoon, there was a turning point when – as my temperature continued to rise – I became as fidgety and fussy as a colicky baby. As Mike was preparing to get his things together and head out the door for work, he said: “You look pretty awful. I feel bad about leaving you here like this. If you want me to take today off work and stay with you, I will. All you have to do is ask.”
In that single moment, Mike said something that challenged me to the core of my being.
I realize for some of you, the notion of asking for help might not sound like a big deal; but for me it was HUGE. For you see to that point, I had lived my life with the illusion that I could completely take care of myself. Sure, I struggled with things from time to time, but often folks around me - familiar with my ego and control issues - would quietly come along side and offer help before I ask. By doing so they saved me from the indignity of asking for help. But in this one moment, Mike unintentionally forced me to face the fact that I couldn’t do it all alone: I needed help.
Mike’s offer opened my eyes to a new way of living. He opened my eyes to the fact that for the first time in my life I had found a relationship with someone where I didn’t have to pretend that I had it all together. I found a place where I could be vulnerable. In other words, I found home.
“Oh, don’t worry about sticking around today,” I said as I turned all shades of green. “But there is something else I would like to ask you. What are you doing for the rest of your life?”
And with that, the bed-ridden, semi-delirious pastor set out on a new course in life. One in which he was no longer alone.
Friends, many of us find ourselves in a similar predicament when it comes to our spiritual lives. We find ourselves clinging to the illusion that we can do all of it on our own. As a result, the last thing we would consider is asking someone for help – even if that someone is God.
And yet there God is. Lovingly lurking in the background with an unlimited supply of love, mercy, and grace – not wanting to intrude or force Godself into our lives. Simply waiting for that one moment when we do the unthinkable: ask for help.
In looking back on my first encounters with this morning’s psalm, I realize that I used to get pretty worked up by the psalm. I would rage to others, crying out, “What kind of a God would sit back and let things deteriorate to the point that we find ourselves in desperate situations?”
Now, I’ve turned that question around; I’ve asked myself, “What kind of a person am I that I would wait until things got to a desperate situation before I ask for help?” That shift in perspective has made all the difference in the world.
Friends, I know each of us has arrived here from a different point in life. For some of us, things are going pretty well. For others, not so well. For still others, things are downright desperate.
Regardless of where you are coming from this morning, take it from me –someone who spent years satisfied by living in proximity to God’s love and grace, yet never willing to take the risk and dive in. Take that risk. Dive in. Ask for help.
Once you do that, I guarantee you’ll find the thing you least expected: a true soul mate - for this lifetime and beyond.