Are you the kind of person who values your independence? I think most of us are, but some find it harder than others when they lose their independence. One of the things that gives me a sense of independence is my car and my ability to drive. The feeling that I can get in the car and head off anywhere, at any time, gives me a great feeling of freedom. Imagine my horror, therefore, when my car broke down a few weeks ago. To add to the problem it was a Friday evening with no chance of getting to a garage and a range of services to deliver in different churches on Sunday.
The problem with the car was not disastrous, although it was worrying. I couldn’t get the car into first gear; I could pull away in second gear and so I could still drive it but I felt sure that this was not doing the car any good. I was also dreading the diagnosis and cost of any repairs! At this point the wonderful support of members of the community stepped in. First of all came a very generous offer from a neighbour to borrow a car. Then a “knight in shining armour” appeared in the form of someone with engineering experience; he managed to free the obstruction and I could get the car into first gear. My independence was restored and the travel to Sunday services was no longer a problem. Wonderful!
The following week I booked the car into a garage and they identified the problem. The mechanic was highly amused to tell me that a squirrel had been hoarding his nuts in my car and a large nut was stuck in the gear box! He even gave me the nut, the size of a large walnut, as a souvenir.
We all enjoy our independence but there are times like this that show us how much we rely on each other. Of course there are many more serious situations when we face restrictions to our independence – as we become older or weaker, or through illness or bereavement. I think that it is particularly hard to have to rely on other people when you are ill; accepting help can be a humbling and uncomfortable experience if you are used to being independent. My mother was a fiercely independent person and, in many ways, this gave her the strength of character to cope with difficult situations. But when she became ill she had to rely on friends and neighbours to help her with the basic tasks that she used to do herself. Her mind was as sharp as ever but she needed help with transport and cleaning and shopping. Fortunately she had many good friends who helped her with these basic tasks.
When we help each other we are modelling our actions on Jesus who offered us the example of a life of service. The first verse of this song that we sing at church sums it up well but in the last two lines it tells us that there are times when we must be gracious in accepting help.
Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.