Part of growing is learning to do things independently and also learning when to ask for help.
When I was growing up, I learned to be very independent — at least when it came to figuring things out or finishing a task. If I asked a question and the answer was obvious or something I hadn’t thought through, or just couldn’t figure out on my own, the replies from my parents were usually scathing. Why didn’t I pay attention? they would ask. I think they thought a lot of my questions were stupid, and so I stopped asking. Asking for help was just a bother, and it made people mad.
This translated over to school, college, and this past year, RCIA. If I ask a question, that makes me reveal my weaknesses. It makes me admit that I don’t know the answer to something, and I should know the answer anyway if I had just paid enough attention. Struggling with something on my own until I’ve figured it out is how I approach math problems, recipe directions, and everything else.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that I get frustrated a lot, but I don’t let onto it until I’m at the end of my rope and can’t take it anymore. I don’t think I’m even aware of it until I reach the bottom, to be honest. Then, I’m forced to admit — to others and to myself — that I don’t know something. I don’t get it. I can’t figure it out, and most of all, that I need help.
And I’m actually pretty good at making sure I take the descent on that rope at a pretty slow pace. This is why I almost failed finite math and my first elementary education class in college and then dropped out of student teaching.
To ask questions, you have to admit that you don’t know the answer. And that means your prideful self has to take a step down from the spotlight of your own design and toward humility. In my case, at least mentally, it means having to risk the backlash of family, friends, and coworkers who might turn around and say, “Well, duh, didn’t you know that?”
I started writing this post as a catharsis to confess that I’ve been independent recently. Too independent. I feel like I’m fighting the battle on my own this week — trying to make some much needed changes to my work schedule and figure out what the best approach is to do that, dealing with kids’ temper tantrums, realizing I have some huge expenses coming up. It’s all on me. It’s nothing I can’t handle, and I haven’t handled some of it well already, but that’s nothing I can’t fix without a little more work on my part. I can do it.
You see what’s missing here?
I realize now that I’ve pretty much told God, “It’s okay, I’ve got this. I can handle the kids. I’ve got a little bit of savings that will help cover that. I think this schedule will work.” It’s like I think I don’t need His help or guidance or something.
And I’m not sure if that staunchly independent attitude is a product of baby Catholic development or my own experience with family, but either way, it’s clear: Independence in the Christian life is dangerous. When we think we can do it all ourselves, a lot of not-so-wonderful things happen. We explode in frustration and anger. We burn out, physically and mentally. We become more prideful and develop an “it’s all about me” complex. We become prideful, and rather than serving others and serving God, we serve ourselves. We neglect our Family in Heaven. But most of all, and this is probably what bugs me the most right now — that pride that we develop (and pride is different than confidence in ourselves, or self-esteem) ultimately steals the glory that we owe God and points it toward ourselves.
I’m not passing judgment, but man, that is just an ugly thought. Frighteningly so. It reeks of a trap by the evil one, and we fall into it without knowing it. How that relates to sin is a question my 3-month old self isn’t really qualified to answer, but it has to be dangerously close to sin if it isn’t.
I got into this after reading through John 16 this afternoon (after my prideful self stayed home nursing an injured knee today due to thinking I was superwoman this week).
In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. (John 16:23-24)
I thought, why do we pray in the name of Jesus? Sure, we pray in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, but even Protestants will end prayers with “in Jesus’s name”. Why? So I dug through the catechism to find out more, and found this huge, rich section on prayer that I figured I should probably read — after all, prayer and I haven’t seen much of each other lately…
“Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. “Man is a beggar before God.” (CCC, 2559)
And that’s when the hammer hit the nail on the head for me. Pride has gotten the best of me; humble and contrite, I have not been. Not in the least.
We doubt, we forget, we neglect, we mistrust Him.
I have had three signs this week.
One was a sign on a church billboard that said “This is the sign you asked God for.” (You can’t make that up.)
The second was a verse that’s been chasing me around this week. Jeremiah 29:13. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
The third was the way God sent me on the amazing wild goose chase you just read about.
I am humbled.
Now I need to decide if I need to make it to confession today.