I hate needles!  Not a little bit, but with everything that I am.  Think I’m exaggerating?  To me, the worst thing about childbirth—and my daughter was born sunny side up, for those of you who know anything about back labor—was the IV, and the very idea of voluntarily allowing someone to shove a sharp foreign object through and under my skin for such a silly thing as unbearable tooth pain and jaw deterioration delayed my having wisdom teeth removed for roughly twenty years.

Last week, I had to have some tests run that required my having blood drawn from my arm.  Well, you can imagine how excited I was about that!  I put on a brave face and forced my feet to follow each other down the short hallway to the lab to have it drawn, climbed up on the table, and laid my arm down, wrist up, knuckles white.

The poor lab technician assigned to the task didn’t know me. I almost felt sorry for her as she prepared the huge vile and slipped on her gloves.  At her approach, my arm began to twitch.  I couldn’t help it.  I knew what was expected of me and tried my best to do it.  Sucking in a deep breath, I stared at my arm and willed it to obey me, but my will alone was not enough.

Seeing that she was getting nowhere with me, the lab tech smiled politely and stepped into the hallway.  “Psst,” she called, “I’m going to need a little help in here.”

“What? Oh!  Sorry.  I forgot you have Angela down here.” A familiar chuckle.

I smiled.  Andrea, my nurse for over twenty years, my friend, the woman who has coached me through my worst phobias, accommodated my strangest requests, and seen every stinkin’ inch of me swished in with a smile. Grace in action.

Without a word, she leaned over the table, took my arm by my bicep and wrist, and pressed it to the table with firm determination.  With calm authority born of experience, she gave quick instructions to the tech and made transparent small talk with me that, somehow, always does the trick even though I know what she’s doing.

Within minutes, the ghastly vial was full, the floating black dots in my peripheral vision were subsiding, and I felt for the umpteenth time a heart full of gratitude for the woman who helps me when I cannot manage by myself, without judgement, without jest.

It’s the same kind of help that we all need spiritually. Following Jesus is hard sometimes, not so much the knowing what to do—if we belong to Jesus, the Holy Spirit helps us to understand the Bible God has given us if we will just read it—but the actual doing of it.

We don’t like to admit that we struggle because it makes us sound fragile, weak.  News flash: We are, and it’s no surprise to God.  The Bible tells us He remembers we are dust (Psalm 103:14), so whom do we think we’re fooling, exactly?  Why do we go it alone, leaving questions unasked that others could answer, harboring fears that others could help alleviate, carrying burdens that others could share, trying and failing over and over again to do the right thing because we lack the willpower to accomplish it on our own, all when God has provided the perfect support system for us in our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Sure, they are quirky and selfish and flawed, but so are we.  Who better to understand what we are going through and what we are trying to achieve than people who share our struggles and ultimate goal?

Last week, a friend of mine said something I didn’t want to hear following a lengthy conversation about the past.  “Angela, you need to forgive that person,” she coaxed, without blame, without judgement.

Indignant, I met her gaze, hoping to end the talk that had taken an uncomfortable turn.  “I have.”

Long seconds later, she countered, unblinking and correct, “I don’t think you have.”

I didn’t want to hear it, but I needed to hear it.  Forced to consider her words, I went home and did what needed to be done.  Within days, the burden was lifted, an ache decades old began to subside, and I felt for the umpteenth time a heart full of gratitude for one of my Jesus sibs and the Heavenly Father who gave them to me.

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