I stood up on my tippy toes and reached my right hand up as high as I could go, slapping at the taped paper. With my left hand, I gripped the top of the ladder with white knuckles. I thought to myself: don’t die. Do not die today. Your obituary should not read: death by Goliath.
It was Saturday. On Monday, I had had a great idea for a children’s sermon. We’ve been acting out the “Big Bibles Stories” of our faith, and I wanted to make a giant Goliath figure for the week’s story: David and Goliath. The problem was: I had no idea how to do that. Arts and crafts are not my spiritual gift. So, I googled: “how to make a Goliath.” The internet, sometimes being wonderful, took me to a Pinterest page, where a lovely person of faith had created and made available a free download of a 9.5ft Goliath. There it was, made just for me. A craft for the non-crafty. Just print these 84 pages (yes, 84 pages) and follow this graph to put on your wall. It wasn’t hard …
So they say…
On Saturday during my children’s nap-time, I took the stack of Goliath ready-made sheets, a roll of tape, and a ladder into the sanctuary. 9.5 ft. That’s not too bad with a ladder. Except it wasn’t 9.5 ft because the biggest blank wall had a heat duct and rail. I started above it so as to avoid a truly fiery Goliath. It added 3 ft … Slowly I started building the now 12.5ft high giant, following the instructions. It came together nicely. I folded the sheets and taped each one. I made it up to Goliath’s waist and stood back: it didn’t look too bad. I kept going higher and higher.
By the time I reached the shoulders, I knew I was in trouble. That’s about the moment when I thought: I should call for some help. But… I immediately thought of what said help would say when, for instance, my dear husband found his klutzy wife up at the top of a ladder taping a Giant to the wall. He would say the exact same thing I would say if I found him doing such a thing: laugh really hard and ask: what in the world are you doing? Why are you trying to do this alone? Why didn’t you ask for help in the first place?
I didn’t need that kind of judgment, I thought, so I kept going … alone.
That’s how I ended up white knuckled on a ladder praying not to die at the hands of Goliath, while taping up his big giant head. David made it by attacking Goliath’s head, why not me?
Actually, when David went up against Goliath, he had also made some quick (maybe even poor) decisions about doing it alone. He went out to face a giant all by himself with a sling and a rock. By the grace of God it worked out for him, and by the grace of God it worked out for me too. Though David was a boy who later became the greatest king of Israel. Me, I’m just a 40-year-old pastor hanging off a ladder, with paper and tape. There are a myriad of differences between King David and you and I, as well as thousands of years. Yet, perhaps we aren’t so different. Somewhere in the heart of each of us is this drive to try to go it alone.
I wonder what’s behind that drive to do it ourselves? Sometimes it’s perseverance: I think I can. Sometimes it’s confidence: I know I can do this. Sometimes it’s tenacity: I will do this when others say I can’t. Sometimes it’s a necessity: This has to be done.
Then sometimes, it’s because we fear asking for help. We don’t ask because we feel silly. We don’t ask because we’re afraid people will say no. We don’t ask because we’re afraid people will say yes (and will then see that we don’t know what we’re doing). We don’t ask because we don’t know who or how to ask. We don’t ask because it might mean admitting something hard or scary. We don’t ask because we don’t think ourselves worthy of help. We don’t ask because we feel like we are actually alone.
Back in the Spring of 2021 when vaccines were ramping up, but nothing had really opened up, I was feeling stuck. (Languishing, if you will). Nothing was changing or moving forward. Church was “re-opened” but only a handful of people came in person. Many were safely worshipping online. Many, I feared, weren’t worshipping at all. What could I do? How could I bring us out of this? How could I have all the answers? What was I supposed to do. One night, I told my husband that I was feeling helpless and hopeless and weary of trying to make important decisions. He wisely reminded me: “Why are you acting like you are doing this alone? Isn’t that why we’re Presbyterian? We do this together. Tell your session you are feeling stuck, and ask for ideas for how to move forward.”
Oh right. Duh. I’m not alone.
We are not alone.
You, my friend, are not alone. No matter what trial or difficulty or crisis this life has thrown you, you are not alone.
Where to seek help depends on our different circumstances and connectedness. For some, it’s calling a spouse or partner or parent or child or trusted friend or an old friend or a new friend. For some, it’s seeking out a community. For some, it’s seeking a church family. For some, it’s some it’s seeking out a doctor. For some, it’s seeking a therapist. For some, it’s seeking a rehab or support group. For some it’s garnering up the courage to make that text or call. For so many of us, it’s simply admitting: I can’t do this by myself.
We cannot do this alone. None of us. Sometimes, we need to be reminded that people are almost always willing to help if they are asked. Too often, we look at other people and think that their lives are perfectly together. Maybe we even think: I can’t ask them for help, they might judge me for not having it all together. The truth is that none of us do- some are better at hiding it than others.
Maybe you think that of me? That I have it all together (or you thought that before you started reading my blog). While I have been blessed with many good things: a job I love, a loving husband, and 2 adorable kids, I’m also just an idiot on a ladder, taping a giant to the wall. I also struggle with anxiety and anger and courage and conviction and health and exhaustion and so many things I can’t even count. We all have our struggles, though they all be different.
The truth is that most people are ready and willing to help if asked. The truth is that when we open ourselves up to conversations, allowing others see our faults, struggles, and vulnerabilities, we often find companions for our journey. We find beloveds who also struggle and want to walk this life journey with us.
The other morning, I was alone in the sanctuary doing my daily devotional …or I thought I was alone. For as I prayed, the giant wall Goliath loomed out of the corner of my eye. Dark and menacing, I could feel the giant’s gaze. It felt ominous, like he was saying: I can still conquer you … you still have to get me down. I went back to my devotional, trying to concentrate. But just then another image shone out of the corner of my eye. Someone else on that same wall was illuminated in the morning sun. Jesus was luminescent in light and glass. On either side of that menacing giant problem, light broke through in beauty, grace, and promise. In our church’s stained-glass window, Jesus is “standing at the door, knocking” (Rev. 3:20). He almost looks like asking: “Hey? Are you okay in there? I’m here to help. I’m just outside the door if you want to talk.” For the truth is, in Christ Jesus, we are never alone. In Christ Jesus, we are illuminated in a light that shines brighter than any giant or any trial or any struggle.
So next time you find yourself hanging off a ladder, know that you can call me, or your friend, or Jesus, or whomever you need. And next time I’m hanging off a ladder, I promise I really will ask for help, knowing that my said help will laugh with me, as we support each other through our giant trials, silly and serious.