I love helping other people. It is an area where I have always felt called to step out. I even made a career of it. Compassion has always been a gift that God has given me, the ability to see most people through His eyes. Every now and then I will come across someone that challenges me to show compassion. I also know that if I have been working out of the flesh instead of through the Spirit that my compassion is less long suffering.
Here is the thing about truly helping people, it takes patience. It is easy to write a check and walk away. As someone who has partnered with a lot of nonprofits, I am thankful for those with the gift of giving. Funds are certainly needed to run any ministry.
It is also easy to be a one and done kind of ministry. There are always times where the need really is because of a crises situation, some may need help one time or for a short duration of time. During these times someone can provide access to immediate resources and know that the person will be back on their feet. Food ministries often feel this gap, or if someone has been off work and needs help with a bill, or a broken down vehicle. Again, these are much needed resources and ministries. There are so many people who live one crises away from homelessness or poverty.
I love walking alongside one and done ministries. I love being able to pour financially into a ministry that is doing great work. However, there is something so rewarding about walking along side someone in a journey that only God can navigate. It is not for the weak at heart and it takes patience that only comes from God. It is not something that you can step into lightly because God needs our words and actions to reflect Him when we climb into the pit with someone to help them out. That can sometimes be hard when you have your own issues going on, or if the person you are walking the along side has a lot of issues going on at once.
I won’t share some else’s story to drive home the point of patience, there are several people’s journey’s that quickly come time mind. Instead, I will pull from some different times in my own life where others had to walk along side me with patience. I am grateful that I have had people to step out and walk along side me in the darkest times of my life. I realize that despite all that was going on in my life, it is little compared to what some people face on a daily basis.
When I was twenty years old, my life was a mess. I will paint the short picture just to show the multiple factors at play in my life that I needed someone to walk with me through. I was a newly divorced mother of two children under five. I was also pregnant with my third child. My father was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. I was homeless. I attended church, but certainly did not love like a Christian the rest of the week. I did have a job, childcare, and transportation. My emotions were all over the place. I was running on empty 90% of time time.
During that time I had a huge learning curve because I was not familiar with welfare or most of the helping agencies in my community. I had to find housing on a budget that didn’t cover much. I learned about head start, childcare vouchers, HUD, food stamps, Medicaid. My homeless journey lasted six months. As I moved into housing, my father took a decline in health, he passed less than nine months from his diagnosis. I was at at point grieving the loss of my father, angry with God, when I delivered my third child. While I was on maternity leave, my mother broke both her ankles and was laid up at home unable to do anything for herself. I would go help take care of her during the day as my sister who lived with her was at work during the day. Looking back, I was also dealing with post-partum depression on top of the grief.
That was probably the longest year of my life. Most of it is a haze, even now; and I wasn’t even drinking or doing drugs during that time because of the pregnancy. I needed so much during that time, and usually one thing was dependent on the next thing. There was so much outside of my control, and to add depression on top of it, I know it was only God and the support He out around me during that time that I was able to make it out in one piece.
I know my patience was short during that time. I know I was not easy to be around. I was negative about everything. I was angry about everything. I was not motivated to do anything. I needed help, but I was not in a place mentally, emotionally or spiritually to want the help. There were several people that came along side me during that time. Some treated me with kid gloves. Others gave me tough love. I needed both. Some were there for a specific needs and made it clear the boundaries in which they could help me. It was helpful to know what I could expect and where their help would end.
Others made promises they did not keep. They did not have the patience to walk along side me through all that I was facing. They had a heart to help, but the obstacles I was facing were too much for them. Honestly, that can leave someone feeling like they will never get out of the situation they are in when an outsider can even handle to walk through it. Some people also started things and never followed up, it left me cleaning up additional messes that I didn’t need added to my stress. They didn’t count the cost before they made the commitment.
Boundaries and patience go hand in hand. When I am helping someone that has a lot going on, I set really clear boundaries. I want them to know the limitations to my availability and support in advance. It is for their benefit that I make it clear, because those boundaries will be tested. I want them to know the limits in advance because I don’t want to disappoint someone who is already struggling. I remember what that feels like, I don’t want to add to all the emotional chaos. I also know that without clear boundaries, when my patience gets tested I will want to walk away. I will get frustrated when those boundaries are tested, having the conversation in advance, I can just step back into the boundaries that were laid in advance and remind the person I am helping it is not about them, but about what I said I could do.
Stepping out to walk along side someone else take patience. It means counting the cost in advance and setting clear boundaries of how you are able to help and time frames if needed. Doing anything less, creates more hardship on the person that you are helping. Expectations can be very different if you are not clear about what someone can expect from you, there is bound to be disappointment. When we have the privilege of walking along side of someone through their journey, we represent Christ as we do it. It is important that we walk with patience. If we can’t minister with Christ’s patience, we might want to consider helping by writing the check to support a cause or helping with “one and done” ministries so that we don’t cause additional harm.
This post is part of a 28 days series on Stepping Out inspired by the #Write28Days Blogging Challenge by Anita Ojeda.