There is only one thing a blind man can be beside a weeping angel. I fear helplessness, doing and being able to do nothing. For me, this often means not being able to speak, unable to move or open my mouth, trapped in a silent frost like Han Solo. Screaming and pushing with all my breath, without a single sound or movement of muscle.
For most nights, when I was about nine, I experienced consistent night terrors, awaking from sleep into a nightmare. This eventually ended, and I rarely have normal nightmares now, but from what I remember of then and what I experience now, most nearly all my worst dreams have one common theme. Helplessness, asleep is my greatest nightmare, in woken life my inevitable state. Till I was eleven I was helpless to learn to read, with few ever willing to help, till only a few years ago me and my family were helpless financially, and when I hope with the utmost want to talk to someone, I am nothing but helpless. I was born helpless, as we all are, and for some odd reason I’ve been kept such way, no matter how independent I become.
There is something, however, that’s absolutely fantastic in all of these, which keeps me assured that helplessness is not, while I fear it immensely, the worst thing in creation.
A while ago I tutored a student who had been deemed “difficult,” someone who struggled with english and who required an immense amount of patience. I’ve also, more recently, begun the most difficult tutoring I’ve ever had to encounter with any student, someone who hasn’t even been taught well enough to understand simple sentence structures. Most the time, it seems, I’m the one that all these “difficult” students end up coming to, all the students who complain a little too much, are a little too slow, or have a nasty tendency of cursing a bit when they’re frustrated, and maybe give up too easily as well.
When the first student began coming to me, I was one of the few avenues of english she had to encounter; when she graduated, she was a fantastic writer and understood english immensely well, was even brave enough to continue on for another degree. The latter student, in a few weeks of tutoring and a lot of work, has improved in leaps with all of her potential just spilling out. These students, who were labeled as “difficult,” ended up being only misunderstood without anyone willing to bother helping them, simply because they required a little more work than usual.
There’s a series of quotes that pass through Pinterest and the rest of the endless online world pretty thoroughly, which generally say something along the lines of, “Cut out difficult people in your life, and your life will greatly improve,” or “If someone makes your life worse, then they don’t belong there.” Even claiming these people never change.
Suicides, plagues, and genocide, yet the world is still more interested in not being bothered with “difficult people.” I suppose it follows the pattern of a changeless hell, a belief of the unredeemable, a belief of this new philosophy. I suppose those doing their best to cut out Christians in the middle east also hope for a life-improvement — as if a makeover was worth abandonment. Even Van Gogh was painted as hopeless, to the point of his own desired death. It seems everyone, this undoubtedly includes Christians, has a quick act of giving up, “letting go,” and moving on from people simply because everything doesn’t go perfectly for them. We’ve taken, “Put everything into the hands of God,” to simply mean, “Worry about yourself and let God bother with the rest of the world, because it’s far easier.” We’ve given up on the world.
There’s a story of a blind man near Jericho, which had been deemed just such, a “difficult” person who wasn’t “easy,” a man cast aside and ignored. I believe if we’re going to believe anything, let alone live by it, we might first consider how Jesus would have looked following it before we bother doing so ourselves; thus, let’s consider how Jesus would have handled this man with such new philosophy, just for a moment.
A great crowd gathered, traveling along the road where a blind man sat. After the man inquired what all the fuss was concerning, and discovered it was Jesus of Nazareth who passed by, he cried out, begging, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And after those about him rebuked him and told him to be silent, he cried out still even more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Yet, as Jesus walked by the man, he held out his palm and said, “Be silent, you are too much for me to bother with, for I have important matters to attend to. My life and ministry is just begun and I have many to see. I give you into the hands of God.” And so, Jesus left the man, silent and blind alongside the road.
I pray this isn’t who you desire Christ to be, the god you want to worship and follow, the Jesus you desire to have faith in, the savior you lie your hope and trust in — I pray not. Now let’s look at what really happened.
As Jesus came by the man crying out for mercy, He stopped and commanded that the man be brought to Him. When he was near, He asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the man said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” So, Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight, for your faith has made you well,” and thus, the man’s sight was immediately restored and he followed Jesus, glorifying God. And when all the people saw him they gave praises to God as well (3), for He was faithful and good to this poor beggar without any other help.
God dearly forbid us to even consider what He would have otherwise said concerning the cross. For, that is not our God; our God does not say, “Be gone from me, you’re too much,” or “Leave me, my life is more important than yours.” Rather, God extends His arms on two planks of wood and says, “I’ve got you, all of you, whoever comes to me, no matter what, just don’t let go.” God gives Himself no matter what, no matter how “difficult” someone is or how hard they make His life; if it means death, then death is what it means, He will not forsake, nor reject. God is the only one who never changes, while us below change every moment, fall every moment, and need to be risen every moment. Never will God “let go and let some other god” bother with you, for never will He give up.
God is often cut out of the picture though. This forsaking god seems to be our “new Jesus,” who we often end up following, giving up on everything and everyone. It almost appears that God is given up on most the time. Christians seem to dance from wanting to be like Christ to just being His cheerleaders. Yet, both paths frequently end up giving up on Him. The first can fall into burnout as they realize they aren’t God, while the latter is in fear of developing a messiah complex and thus afraid to do anything besides talk about some great guy two thousand years ago. Either people become controlling, upset no one is listening to them, and shift from being Christlike to wanting to be God, or people do nothing but talk, excusing their lack of action for their “inability” to save. We are called to be Christlike, and we are also called to act, yet salvation is not always going out and fixing everything for everyone. Salvation can be simpler than that.
Sometimes salvation is as simple as believing in someone. That’s what the helpless need; they don’t always need someone to tell them what to do or what must be, they don’t even always need someone to “save them.” Most the time all they need is someone to actually believe in them. There are times when stepping in is necessary, but most the time this is just for a defense of belief, of love. May we defend one another’s honor, for though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him, and three is not broken (6). Sometimes all someone needs is to be believed and acknowledged as someone who isn’t without help, who has value and importance, who has support and defense.
Much of the time, however, that is exactly what no one gives them. First Corinthians 13:7 is ignored, shoved to the side, and forgotten; love no longer bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, nor endures all things; love just gives up, pulls out the nails, and walks on its merry way with a selfish and cold shoulder to its convenient life, to never bother again. Love trades real care and compassion for silence, fake smiles, and disinterest.
We cry out,
I want someone to beg for help from,
Someone who will save me,
Because God is silent.
But no one is there,
Everyone is silent.
Love does exist for all of 13:7, however. For, helplessness is not being without help; helplessness is the inability to save yourself, the necessity to rely on others. Helplessness is the human condition, the reality of being born in a world surrounded by others. It is the reality that love is designed to rule. “We are all mere beggars telling other beggars where to find bread,” wrote Luther; we’re all helplessly made to rely and support each other, to exist for one another. God is a communal being who designed a communal world, always dependent upon others: creation to humanity, humanity to humanity, and humanity to God.
We cry out,
I want someone to beg for help from,
Someone who will save me,
Because God is silent.
And I sought and found
Someone who believed in me,
And I heard God’s voice from behind them.
We might pretend and try to trick ourselves into believing we can do it on our own, but in actuality we can’t — and that’s okay. It’s not a bad thing to be helpless, it’s just not a very convenient thing. Last I checked though, life wasn’t really made to be terrible convenient, that’s what couches, cars, and phones are for. If it is convenient, if God does bless you, then bless by the blessing, and do not withhold what only God has given. For only by grace is life ever convenient.
Being there for someone, like the rest of life, is born into helplessness. To help anyone, to bless anyone, to be a friend, to love, to show care, is dependent upon the fact of it being a mutual action and being. To care is to rely upon God, not to replace Him, and to communicate and live life with another in grace, to be helplessly connected to each other, as we all are.
If you’re going to care, then care; don’t pretend to care until it gets hard. Be willing to dance with both God and those around, and unshaken by slips on the stage. If you’re going to say yes, then take a moment to consider what that yes means, what is entails. Be responsible in how you care, otherwise you’re just careless and bound to destroy the world about you.
In my helplessness to read, I became a Christian; in my financial helplessness I learned to trust God; speaking, I am entirely dependent upon God’s voice and His grace in others. My helplessness is not hopelessness; rather, my helplessness is my dependence upon hope itself. Helplessness is essentially beautiful, for it necessitates “trust me,” it creates dependence upon God, upon grace. Helplessness makes who God is the much more important, for it defends His authorship of the impossible, His being creator, healer, and God. Helplessness puts us at mercies feet, to depend upon the beauty of grace.
Nothing is ever truly broken, and nothing is ever too impossible. I believe we are all “bigger on the inside.” People are never small, so why make assumptions about how far they can go, why limit what can be. We’re all just brimming with potential, ready to do the impossible, no matter the difficulty we might face.
As another student would exclaim, “She can be taught!”
And as Van Gogh once said, “If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” (10).
- Silence, Henry Fuseli, 1799-1801
- The Third of May 1808, Francisco Goya, 1814
- Luke 18:35-43
- Christ on the Cross sketch, Eugène Delacroix, 1845
- St George and the Dragon, Anthony van Dyck, 1599-1641
- Ecclesiastes 4:12
- The Sower, Jean-François Millet, 1850
- Two Dancers on a Stage, Edgar Degas, 1874
- Self Portrait with a Grey Felt Hat, Vincent Van Gogh, 1887
- Meditation XVII, John Donne, 1624