It was such a simple, innocent gesture. The sweet, young podiatrist's assistant asked me, “Do you want me to put your socks and shoes back on?”
I had just finished with my regular appointment to have my toenails trimmed and anything else foot-related attended to as necessary. “Sure, thank you!” I replied, although I could still have done it myself.
It caught me by surprise. I smiled and relaxed and let it happen. Well, why not? Full circle—navigating my nineties now, I had a flashback to when I was a toddler and my mother did that for me because I had not yet learned to do it myself. Soon on, however, I wanted to do everything for myself no matter how clumsily. Dependence turned to independence and being in control of myself for a long lifetime. Independence became a habit. I accepted that as the admirable, mature normal for adulthood.
Fast forward to the present. The new normal of the advancing in age process seems to be a diminishing of one's capability and relinquishment of being in control of one's abilities and activities. Gradual dependence looms ahead. I find myself needing greater assistance in some of the physical areas of life. And at the same time a resistance to being helped wells up within me. I must admit that I am not as strong as I was. I don't want to lose control. I want to stay competent and efficient. I want to remain independent. I want to stay strong. I don't want any help!
The facts are against all of this. We progress from total dependence as an infant through the seasons of life to at least a large measure of dependence in the last season of life. That's part of the aging package and the reality road to serenity we must embrace: to accept the things we cannot change; to change whatever we can, and wisdom to know the difference. The reality of needing assistance looms high on the roster of things we must accept or else we will make ourselves miserable.
I dislike that I need assistance, but I'm coming to understand that there are certain things I can't manage by myself anymore. It comes as a shock. I'm accustomed to quoting, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” That is not always so. To receive help is something difficult that one must learn. We can also be blessed when we have learned to receive. If we fail to accept assistance we reject the natural order of things. I dislike the four letter word weak. I have always been strong and in charge. Nevertheless, God's order is: there is a time to help others when we are strong, and there is a time to let others help us when we become more frail. I don't like the word frail either.
My friend's husband is elderly and becoming unstable in his walking gait. His doctor strongly advised using a cane for balance. His male pride got in the way, he refused the cane, stumbled, and ended up in the hospital, then in rehab, and now is confined to a walker. Examples of our resistance to assistance and the consequences are many. What a blessing awaits us if we accept help joyfully and thankfully! God provides that through family and friends and caregivers!
Resistance to assistance has its parallel in the spiritual realm. We have an innate desire to want to be in control, to “do it my way,” to devise our own way of salvation, to walk independently. God's normal is to want us to look to Him in all our ways, to lean on Him, to accept His help because “without Me you can do nothing.” He wants us to receive the bounteous help and blessings He has for us. It is in our weakness that we experience His strength.