I have a CDL; a commercial driver’s license. I can drive things. Big things.
I can drive just about anything I climb up in to. I can also drive horses and fence posts and a hard bargain. I can drag a harrow, push a plow, fell a tree, and hang drywall. I’ve installed toilets and garbage disposals, ceiling fans and light fixtures. I can change a tire, old oil, and the color of a house in two days flat.
I build things, too. Delivered on a truck or packaged in a box, I can build it. From bar-b-ques to barns, fence rows to retaining walls, I’ve laid down lines and stacked them up, each and every one, brick by heavy brick.
I can also build a big case of Pride without ever realizing it, without so much as breaking a sweat.
It’s not like I’m the only female in these parts (or any part, for that matter) who can shove a clutch and grind a few gears and man-handle something exponentially bigger than herself.
But I’m proud of what I can do just the same.
I make a few bucks with the abilities I’ve amassed, hire out my hands and back and a bit of blood along the way.
I met with a client recently who owns a few rentals and hasn’t the time nor the inclination nor the know-how for such manly sorts of things. In this way we’re a perfect fit, like a couple of opposing gears.
I meet with her and she’s giving me the low-down on all she needs done and I nod and say “no problem”.
She stops, looks at me a bit wide-eyed and asks, “How do you know how to do all these things?”
Before I know it, before so much as a thought, “because I had to” falls from my mouth.
Because I had to.
I wasn’t with Dad a year yet when he started leaving. He was courting my fourth mother at the time and she was a couple hours away so that’s where he was whenever he could be. It may as well have been a couple states away for all I knew. I saw him before school on Friday mornings and didn’t see him again until after work on Monday evenings. On Thursday nights he was later than usual, stopping at the store before home. He’d rustle a brown bag or two through the back door, set them on the kitchen counter and say, “Here you go.” Inside those bags was milk and cereal, a couple pizzas, maybe a Hungry Man or two; easy stuff. Easy and enough.
And that was that. He’d go to bed, rise for work the next morning, and be gone. Some part inside myself was saddened on these days, some part way down deep, but the bigger part of me was relieved, the part on the outside; the immediate, important part. His leaving meant my peace coming. For a few days I could unclench my teeth and let my muscles loose and walk on the flats of my feet. For a few days I didn’t have to side step cracks and egg shells and his moods. For a few days I was fist and fear and touchy-feely free.
For those few days it was easy, and that was enough.
I was eleven and the enough was elating.
And that’s when it started, the making do and getting by. The fending for.
How it festered into such a deep self-reliance was years in the making; years and necessity and plain bullheadedness, brick by backbreaking brick.
And as I was amassing all this know-how I was building a Me apart from every needful thing, a Me who didn’t need and didn’t want and “No, thank you” came so very easy, brick by heartbreaking brick.
So when my client asks me how I know all this I feel my Self fall inside, feel this little drop somewhere deep down, a bit of shifting underneath and I second-nature steady myself and tell her I had to and that’s when I notice the muscles tightening and the jaw clenching and the chest puffing up and out like some kind of center ring boxer, some kind of he-man prize fighter ready for the next bout, ready to wrestle something exponentially bigger than my Self.
And then the eye. I lost the eye those few days and I couldn’t fend anymore. I couldn’t drive any thing big or small, and I couldn’t build so much as a simple sandwich without the biggest mess. I couldn’t read and I couldn’t write and I couldn’t even make it through the house without hitting this or knocking over that, without downright walking right into walls and those poor cats I nearly squashed like bugs. With each and every awkward stumbling step I felt my chest cave in and the shifting start and the panic set in as I realized:
I couldn’t do Me.
I couldn’t do the Me I knew how to do.
* * * * *
My phone rings and it’s this woman from church, this woman I don’t even know, and she’s calling to say she’s so sorry about my eye and is there anything I need, can she drive me anywhere, maybe bring me some dinner, and my mouth is forming the familiar “no, thank you”, and my mind is belting it out for all it’s worth, but my need spills out a feeble, crumbling “Yes. Please”.
For days women are on the other end of my phone and in my mail and at my door. They bring me this and take me there and offer anything they can, “any thing at all” they say. They offer their help and their abilities and their very selves in any way, “any way at all”, they say. And as if that wasn’t enough they offer more, and more, even more.
So much more.
These women lean in close with ears and shoulders for fear and tears and they hold out hearts on open giving hands, hearts so much wider than their arms around me.
And it’s not easy. No, all this taking is not easy at all, but it’s enough.
No, it’s so much more than enough. It’s elating.
It’s elating as brick cracks
and fending-for falls,
when Pride crumbles
and Self comes down.
It’s elating when Self-full succumbs to Need-full,
when grace and mercy lean in and wrap you up, piecing you back together,
when there’s nothing left but great piles of gratefulness all heaped up at His feet.
It’s elating as souls and selflessness and big love all come together, binding, building a family of His own making.
* * * * *
These days in darkness brought me down from my high and mighty do-it-all-don’t-need-nobody place. These days took me down to that shifting place, unstable, unable, incapable of anything but sitting right there, clenching my knees and my teeth, eyes shut tight, waiting on rescue.
All my days in darkness I puffed my chest and rose my fist and cursed my God for leaving me lonely and fending for.
* * * * *
The phone rings and it’s a Sister asking how I am, can she bring me anything, do I need her.
(Oh, how He saves me, from beginning to end, over and over again.)
“Oh, yes,” I tell her. “Yes, I do.”
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12: 12-27 NIV