Are You Helpable?

The servant leader must be a helpable person, someone who is willing to accept help from others, rather than repel it.
— Bonnie St. John

"Are you a helpable person?" It was an intriguing question. In fact, it is still rattling around in my mind. The question came from Bonnie St. John, a remarkable woman with a remarkable story.

  • Amputee at age five.
  • Raised by a single mom.
  • Started skiing at the invitation of a school friend.
  • First African-American ever to win Olympic or Paralympic medals in ski racing.
  • Harvard graduate.
  • Best-selling author.
  • Consultant to business.
  • Friend to presidents.

I was thinking about Bonnie's words last night while finishing my dinner. It was a meal that came compliments of a member of our church, someone who wanted to help us as we are temporarily helping to care for some of our grand kids.

At first, Bonnie's question intrigued me. Who thinks about being "helpable"?

  • Working hard? Yes.
  • Pushing oneself? Yes.
  • Pulling your own weight? Yes.
  • Helping others? Yes.
  • Serving others? Yes.
  • Being helpable? What?!

While Bonnie's question may defy the "pull-yourself-up-by–your-own-bootstraps" theology so prevalent in our country, it is perfectly in line with biblical theology and the way of Jesus. 

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
— John 15:5 ESV

The Christian faith is predicated on the fact that we need help. We have nothing to offer God. All our so-called honorable or righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Jesus reminds that we need his help every second of every day (John 15:5). Paul admonishes us to "bear one another's burdens." Fulfilling that means we must drive the two-way street of helping and being helped. It means shouldering the challenges of others, but also allowing ourselves to "be carried" by others.

Some of us have a hard time doing that. We know that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" so we give, but are we willing to make ourselves so vulnerable as to receive.

I was at a picnic yesterday after church. While there I was talking with a person in our church family who is in the midst of hard times. She needs help, but with a pained expression she said, "But it is just so hard to ask."

It is hard to be helpable. It means being vulnerable and who wants to be vulnerable?

I appreciate the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

The second service that one should perform for another in a Christian community is that of active helpfulness. This means, initially, simple assistance in trifling, external matters. There is a multitude of these things whenever people live together. Nobody is too good for the meanest service. One who worries about the loss of time that such petty, outward acts of helpfulness entail is usually taking the importance of his own career too solemnly. The Cost of Discipleship

As Bonhoeffer noted, "Nobody is too good for the meanest service." Christians help people, but the reverse is also true. Christians receive help from people. And nobody is too good to ask for help: Can you pray for me?, Can you help me move?, Can you watch my kids?, Can you push me a little harder to reach my goal? Can you help me?

Remember, we bear one another's burdens. That means we help, and sometimes we ask for help.

Are you helpable?