By Joyce Thomas
What is it like to have companions as we walk through this Christian life? We all need special people in our lives to help us hear, learn, and practice what we are called to do and be in this world. Companions are those supportive people God sends to us as we attempt to live our best lives. These people are the ones who assist us when we need them, both in good and bad times. What a gift it is to have such people in our lives. The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 4:9–10 that it is good wisdom to find companions for our journey: “Two are better than one... If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (NIV
Some people tend to think they can do everything on their own. It might be because they think doing something well means doing it themselves. Or, perhaps they avoid help because of bad experiences in the past. Whatever the reason, this seems to be common among spouses of clergy members, myself included. As a clergy spouse, I also tend to avoid help from others. For most of my life, I have tended to take care of things myself. I’m not sure if it’s because I haven’t trusted people to do the right thing or because I'm quite capable at caring for myself and others, but I rarely ever ask for help, which has almost become a point of pride. However, I now realize I've missed many blessings from people who were willing to stand by me, care for me, and help me when I was in need.
For the last five months, a woman with whom I had become acquainted extended herself to me as I was caring for my ill mother who lived three hours away. She called me almost every day to pray with me, offered to drive me to my mother’s house, and asked what she could do to make my load lighter. I declined her help because I thought I could do everything on my own, even though I was exhausted most of the time. I have always pushed myself to stay strong and get done whatever is necessary. This woman told me that she respected my decision but felt compelled to help anyway. She continued to call and pray with me despite my refusal. My mother eventually passed, and, once again, she was there waiting to lend a hand. I told her I didn’t need anything, but she persisted. She and her husband attended the funeral, and, on the first Wednesday after the burial of my mother, she called me. She said she did so because she remembered I always spoke with my mother on Wednesdays. Her call made a difference for me that day, and I greatly appreciated that she remembered about the weekly calls my mother and I had.
This woman has been true to her call to assist others and has caused me to reconsider allowing special people in my life, especially as my life is changing to a new normal after the death of my mother. I realize now that God places people in our lives for various seasons, and it would be wholly unwise to not receive God’s gift of companionship when I need it most. No longer trying to be the strongest person in the room, I’m unchaining myself and allowing others assist me.
Spouses of clergy members, I need you to hear this: we must allow ourselves to be open to those who want to be companions to us, to stand by, lend a hand, and encourage us along the way in our ministry. We don’t have to isolate ourselves from everyone, especially those who show us that they care. I know it is hard to be vulnerable to others, but let us learn to put down our guard and let people in.
Dr. Joyce Scott Thomas is the Associate Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration.
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