As I woke to yet another round of snow heaped all over the driveway, patio and sidewalk, I knew what my afternoon’s activity would be: shoveling.
This was a beautiful blanket. Probably four inches worth of sticky, thick snow. I leaned into the task and mucked my way toward the curb. I began with gusto, enthusiastic (almost) for the opportunity for exercise that didn’t involve a gym or a video. I paused occasionally to enjoy the sunshine and the sound of water dripping off the roof.
Eventually my pauses became more frequent; I grew tired. My mood sloped downhill with my driveway. Pretty soon, I was standing in the gutter, both physically and mentally.
Scrape. Lift. Scrape. Lift. Scrape. Lift. With each repetition, I dug myself deeper into self-pity.
- I bemoaned my husband’s inability to do it with me. (Okay, for me.)
- The previously-extended offers of support during a period of need seemed empty, as no one stood beside me in this effort. The evidence: my snow-laden pavement.
- I resented the size of our driveway. (Seriously. I can’t believe how far I let myself go down this road. Utterly humilating to admit to you all.)
Suddenly I was pierced by my lack of gratitude. So ashamed. The Lord pressed on me, firmly but lovingly, reminding me of those who tread these waters alone, day in and day out. Whether lost to death, divorce or disability, many women have no spouse to lean on for such help. They have neither the luxury of fatigue nor of delaying the effort until someone arrives to assist. Instead, they must put their shoulder to the grindstone, whatever the task.
A few truths stood out starkly against the brilliant white backdrop of snow:
- Competence can chamouflage need. Sometimes a person doesn’t appear to be in need of help. But the fact remains, we all have needs and we do well to remember one another despite the appearance of having it all under control. Just being thought of in a simple way can minister deeply even if the need isn’t profound. Pray that God would open our eyes to see how we can be the hands and feet of Christ.
- Our own lives can legitimately limit our ability to come alongside another. As such, I must not expect it of others. (I
maywill require a reminder of this, however.) Expectations inhibit relationship — especially uncommunicated and unmet expectations. If I have a need, I bear the responsibility to seek support, even if it’s hard.
- The most expedient cure for self-pity is service. Deliberately turning aside one’s own feelings of dejection to meet the needs of another instantly eradicates the sense of entitlement that results in self-pity. Instead, it fosters gratitude and generosity.
I had complained my way into the gutter, but I didn’t want to stay there. I knew what I needed to do. So, after I finished my own shoveling, I made my way to help one such single woman. As I cleared her driveway of the heavy, wet snow, I wept. And I prayed she would be blessed by the knowledge that someone (anonymous) cares for her.
I was even more tired than when I’d finished my own, but my heart was full, as gratitude had once again taken up its rightful place in it.
I don’t share my labor to earn respect from you, for then I would
have received my reward in full (Matthew 6:2).
I reveal it here only in hopes that it might pull someone out
of the gutter I found myself in today and inspire
similar loving service toward another.
CBH and TSM: I dedicate this to you! You have
my utmost respect and love.