When We’re “Just Trying to Help”

woman shrugging

woman shrugging

It was a frosty Friday morning, and I was gathering and preparing two grandchildren for the simple task of ushering the oldest to preschool. Any mom knows it is only a simple task when we need to slip our coats on and walk out the door alone, right? The four-year-old was ready and waiting with his shoes on but needed his coat zipped. Turning my back on his two-year-old sister to zip his coat allowed her the millisecond she needed to “help” Mimi by slipping out of hers. I turned to find her coatless and fighting to remove a shoe. “No, no, Emery, leave them on. We need to take Mason to school.” One more time, I help her slip her arms in the sleeves as I listen to her cries of, “No, Mimi. I do it. I help. I do it. I help.” My little helper wants to do just that: help.

Finally making our way out the door, we hop into the Jeep, and I buckle each child up in car seats. I listen to the cries of, “I wanted to do it” as I drive along. Once we arrive, Mason removes his coat and heads down the stairs to class with his little sister following close behind. As I reach for her hand, I hear, “No, Mimi, I do it myself” while we make our way down the stairs. We might have a crisis if I were to pick her up and carry her; she can, after all, do it herself.

Following our return home Mimi had a few things to take care of, and Emery decided she would find ways to help. Walking into our mudroom, I discovered she had “helped” by feeding the dogs.  “I help,” she said as she filled their dish— and the floor —to overflowing. Dog food scattered from one end to the other and the bowl was piled high. “Thank you for your help, hunny girl” I said as we swept the mess up together. I spent the next few minutes showing Emery how much food we put in the dish—in the dish—and what we do if we spill some. ☺

Another task on Mimi’s To Do List that morning was cleaning the cat litter box, one of my least favorite chores. This day, however, I would have my little helper standing over my shoulder watching and waiting. She was waiting for her turn to—you guessed it—help. As I scooped, I was stunned when the broom suddenly met the back of my head with a whack. A hard whack. A painful whack. Mimi’s helper had decided she would help by sweeping up the messy cat litter Mimi was spilling. I’m fairly certain I heard, “I helping,” through the throbbing of my head.

Emery’s next stop in helping her Mimi that morning came when she discovered the mop water I had left next to the cat litter box. After emptying the box, I carried my mop water out and then took the garbage to the garage. “Look, Mimi, I helping,” I heard as I stepped back into the room, along with the sound of mop water dumping all over the floor. There she stood, mop in hand, feet in a puddle and a big grin on her face. “Thank you for your help, sweet girl.”  (“Now hand over the mop and no one will get hurt,” may have also slipped through my gritted teeth.) I’m sure the floor sparkled after all that mopping.

“I help.” The famous words of a two-year-old who delights in the opportunity to be a help are also words which breed so much mayhem a clean up crew is needed. I found myself growing weary and somewhat frustrated with my helper when I began to relive a few finer moments of my own when I was just trying to help.

Such as the time I crushed a young woman who had been attending our youth group with harsh, unkind, corrective words. I was attempting to help her recognize where her pattern of choices had repeatedly led her and ultimately left her mangled in a heap of misery.

We’ve heard the cliché, “the truth hurts,” so when someone is wounded by “truth” it is tempting to quickly brush away their injury as something they need to “get over.” I was convicted later when I realized my approach was less than kind; in fact, it added to her struggle by making her feel condemned. I find we Christians often remind ourselves we are supposed to speak the truth but fail in our commitment to do so in love. Goodness, it took some time before I was able to adhere myself to the wisdom Solomon shared reminding me, “There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7).

On the flip side, we’ve got to stop allowing the enemy to fill us with offense when the Lord brings a perfect word of correction through the lips of an imperfect person. Words hurt when not spoken in love, but words of truth can carry a sting even when fully saturated in it. 

We have two options when we feel the sting of truth: We can build up walls of protection with the mortar of offense, or allow ourselves “to grow up in all things into Him, who is the head—Christ“ (Ephesians 4:15).

I’ve over-filled, over-scooped, and whacked a few too many times—believing I was helping—when I’ve found myself in a puddle of a mess. The Lord has done more damage control for me than I dare share. My mouth and good intentions (really, I promise, I have good intentions) may snare me, appearing hazardous at times, but I can assure you, I was just trying to help….

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