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I used to dislike having my foods touch each other on my plate. I’d hold my fork in my right hand and use the tines to separate each item on my plate. I wanted to own a stack of plates with dividers in them so I could put the vegetables in one compartment, the protein in a different compartment, and guarantee they’d never run in to each other.

“It all gets mixed together in your belly,” a friend once told me. I knew that. But still.

Also? And, I’ll admit this is a bit strange, but when I was a little girl, I didn’t like other people touching me. Riding in a car, with three people crammed into the back seat — me in the middle between two grown-ups, with my feet on the hump in the floor, my skinny knees jutted toward the little plastic light mounted in the roof of the car. I’d wrap my arms around my knees and try to hold my little body steady over the bumps and through the turns in the road, so that my skin didn’t touch the skin of the people on either side of me.

I don’t know what my aversion was, or where I got it into my head that it was best to keep a reasonable distance. I’d have been glad to build compartments in the back seat of every car, just so I could ride down the Garden State Parkway without giving up any personal space.

It wasn’t so much about me touching others. It was more about them touching me. 

If I’m being honest, I have to confess I’m like that in my grown-up life too. I like to live life in the comfort zone of my own bubble of personal space. I don’t mind reaching out to you, because that’s on my terms. But when you start reaching out to me, I begin wondering what to do with my arms and wishing I could find a polite way to say, “Um, excuse me. But do you see the bubble here around me? Did you happen to notice that it’s a boundary?”

One day, I heard someone say that each time I say “No” to a person who reaches out to me with compassion, I rob that person of the opportunity to exercise her gift. I wish I could tell you where I heard this, but I honestly can’t remember. Suffice it to say, it made an impact on me.

I started thinking about all the times someone has offered to help me by cooking a meal, running an errand, making a few phone calls, or just saying, “How can I help?” I’d hear the offer and immediately reply, “Oh, I’ve got this. Thanks for the offer, though.”

I was grateful they had offered. But I didn’t really know how to accept. I didn’t know how to say “Yes” without having the strange feeling I had revealed a chink in my armor. What’s up with that? I had to wonder to myself.

So I started paying attention. When someone offered to help me, I said, “Yes.” It sounded like one, simple, three-letter word to anyone within earshot, but on the inside, it sounded more like, I think what you’re supposed to say here is yes, and even though you have a strong inclination to do the usual thing and brush them off and try to point out the little bubble thing you’ve got going on, you really and truly ought to say… “Yes.”

Ta-da! The world kept spinning on its axis!

The ground didn’t open up and swallow me. The person asking if they could help got right to work without batting an eyelash, and I had one less thing on my crazy list of things I had to accomplish.

Me walking around with my lines drawn, my compartments established, my walls built high was keeping me far from understanding the truth about the Body of Christ. Jesus tore down all the walls we build up to keep each other at a distance. I’m the one who keeps trying to build the walls up again. You too? Sometimes, I build those walls so high, I can’t see my way to the top, and I wonder how in the world I’ll ever get out again.

On a good day, I remember Jesus telling me that He, Himself, is the Way. He’s the way through the walls I build up. So I turn the knob, swing that door wide open on hinges oiled with grace, and there you are on the other side, smiling and asking me, “How can I help?”

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  1. 1

    Such grace…

    Beautiful words to remember that allowing someone in can be a blessing to them as well. I don’t like to show my chinks either, but the times I have, I have been touched with His amazing grace. Thank you for this reminder to do this more often!

  2. 2
    Grace A says:

    I do the wall building too Deidra, always willing to help others but not wanting to be vulnerable enough to admit that I also need the help so this speaks volumes to me… thank you..

    • 3
      Beth Williams says:

      Amen! I don’t actually build walls, Just don’t ask for help much! I guess I just want to prove to myself and everyone else that I can do it all!

  3. 4

    Deidra,
    I was raised with the notion that “self sufficiency” is a virtue. It was modeled to me that you did things on your own and heaven forbid you actually reach out for help. I have learned, though, much the way you did that we are robbing others of their gift to help if we are always saying “no”. When we say “yes”, two people are blessed and God is glorified. If I’m not careful, I allow the boundaries to go up again, so thank you for the encouragement to turn to Christ to break down those walls.
    Blessings to you,
    Bev

  4. 6
    Andrea says:

    Love this! Smiling and nodding this morning! Thank you for the reminder!

  5. 7

    Oh but yes and Amen … it’s taken me a many year and many days to allow others to help me and mine … but when we think about it … if we are designed to be the HELP, then we are designed to receive the HELP.

    • 8

      So true! If we’re all going around being the helpers, then where are the ones that we can actually help? Sometimes we think we’re so slick, don’t we? But really, we’re just walking all around the actual point. Thanks for this, Sonya!

  6. 9

    Yes, me too.

    I battle this. I grew up in a good, safe home..but I also grew up in a home that had high walls and bolted locks. I learned early – that allowing people in to your world too seriously was risky business. Most offers for help were rejected. Few people outside of kin ever dined at our table. People were sometimes looked at as an inconvenience. (As an adult now – I see clearly some of the wounds my sweet parents were operating from at that point. so no judging or bitterness there. My parents are lovely.) But here I am – on the verge of carrying out the same kind of home here.

    When we allow people in to our space – we feel vulnerable. They may encroach on our time, our plans, our hearts. They may even disappoint us. But fellowship and relationship are worth it. We were made for both, really.

    Thank you…for this reminder. I truly needed it :)

    Blessings,
    Kate :)

    • 10

      When I wrote this, I thought maybe one or two people would “get” it, but I had no idea so many others have actually lived it. Thanks so much for sharing your story, Kate. And for the grace with which you talk about your beautiful parents…you honor them, and that is a beautiful thing.

      It is a scary thing to let others sit at our table. They might criticize our cooking, or eat too much, or stay too long. And then what? Fellowship and relationship. Absolutely worth it.

  7. 11

    I was the same way. I never wanted my food to touch…in fact I wanted a different fork for each food..lol! I wasn’t brought up in a loving home. No one ever hugged. Now, I do struggle with that bad. You can talk to me…just don’t touch me. I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t even want my children to touch me. I try, I really do but it is very difficult. When they were little it didn’t bother me so much but now that they are older I’m like personal space please! It is a battle that I’m not sure I can overcome. Sometimes I do feel alone but it’s my own fault. Oh well!

    • 12

      You know, I hear you. And I’d say don’t be too hard on yourself. I think it’s awesome that you shared this here. Talking about things like this is like opening up that door in the walls we build up. It’s like a first step to saying, “Hey, can someone help a sister out?” And we can! These (in)courage women and I will absolutely pray for you, and cheer for you. It’s an honor…

      Jesus, thanks for Tami and for her brave, brave words here. Thank you for her willingness to share her struggle. Thank you that we get to pray for her, and for your promise that you hear our prayers. Thank you for the internet and for virtual hugs that share compassion without invading physical space. Thanks for loving Tami and for holding her close. Amen.

  8. 13

    Not my struggle (usually…at least not at this place on my journey) but good to know. If I ever have the privilege of meeting you, I will give you fair warning before I hug you so you can take get ready :)

    I’m a hugger and I definitely know when I am hugging someone whose “love language” is physical touch. They will squeeze you to death! Ha!

    • 14

      Oh, I’m definitely a hugger! For some strange reason, hugs have always been a favorite of mine. Maybe that’s because hugs are (mostly) a mutual endeavor, you know? And somehow not the same as admitting I need help.

      I hope some day we meet in person and share a hug or two. No warning required. <3

  9. 15

    I was having a conversation with my mom and her caregiver about sayings that are not verses in the Bible. I threw out the saying “God helps those who help themselves” and reminded my mom that it wasn’t in the Bible. She looked at me just as seriously as she could and said, “If it’s not in there, it ought to be.” Now that she’s gone, I smile when I remember her sweet stubbornness but am also sad that in my family to need help, to ask for help, to not be able to carry your load, was a sign of weakness and one of not being “spiritual enough.” It truly is more blessed to give than to receive but you will never really give until you have learned to receive. Thanks for this reminder Deidra.

    • 16

      You’re right. Receiving a gift of help from someone else is a sacred act. For both people, really. And both the giver and receiver grow as a result.

  10. 17

    Great words, Deidra. I remember the first time we met and you hugged me so tightly!! This is me in a nutshell but I am learning to loosen up! Thank you.

  11. 19

    thank you for writing “me”, for that so speaks what i was…..how wonderful that through whatever pain God has allowed us to endure, we grow into someone who can be used by Him…and allow others the privilege of using their gifts….for us, to us, and because of us! what an awesome lesson to learn, as hard, and long, as it was!!! praising God with you that He loves you so much that He has brought you to this place also…and shared it with us, who understand, and agree, how wonderful the grace and love of God is…..
    thank you, from the bottom of ever-growing heart!!!!
    with love,
    a crack pot who is letting God’s light shine through those cracks!!!!

  12. 20

    Mmmmm. Yes.
    At time
    life seems
    an endless series
    of bumping into walls
    I’ve put up
    not realizing I was boxing myself in.
    God is good to show me this.

    Lovely, transparent post with a wonderful nudge, Deidra!

  13. 22

    My struggle is usually more on the other end. It is particularly hard to let go of friendships that were intimate in the past and have changed. I am the one puzzled when I blunder into someone’s bubble thinking I am showing kindness that I truly feel, and then get a fearful, cold response. Thank you for sharing this perspective. Most of all, I am thankful for a Savior who leads us, gently, to a place of understanding.

    • 23

      Friendships that grow cold — one of life’s most heartbreaking experiences. I’ve been there, too. Not fun. Thank God for replacing those friendships, though. And for walking through the heartbreak with me.

  14. 24

    I love this so, so much. This: “I heard someone say that each time I say “No” to a person who reaches out to me with compassion, I rob that person of the opportunity to exercise her gift.” Yes. So true. Mercy is my spiritual gift, so–when I act in the realm of pastoral care–I’m doing my deal. I am never, ever happier–more on fire!–than when I’m caring for someone. When someone allows me the privilege of doing my deal, (s)he’s feeding my soul. It’s (hopefully) a win for everyone. Are you an introvert, Deidra?

    • 25

      I am an introvert. Yes indeed.

      It took a while for me to figure that out, because I know how to act like an extrovert, and I think I thought people like extroverts better. Everyone wants to be liked, right?

      I can SO tell that your gift is mercy, Brandee. You live into it so well!

      • 26

        You know I’ve never really looked it, but I’d bet more of my friends are introverts than extroverts. It’s really not about how much social grace a person has, as I’m sure you know, but how (s)he recharges: alone or with others. What I like about introverts is that–given that they need lots of time alone–they invest in fewer close friendships than the extroverts. I love that feeling of being chosen…of being one of few. I love the loyalty of introverts. Also, I find that they make good use of their time alone and have so many brilliant thoughts to offer when you get them out of their cozy nests. :)

  15. 27
    Birdie Cutair says:

    Oh, yes, I definitely didn’t want others to touch me. I thought it was because I had grown up as an only child. I really didn’t like it when we would visit relatives and they wanted to hug me and kiss me. So, I’m learning that others have had this same experience. I’m better now, but it is difficult to say “yes” when I’d much rather just be by myself.

    • 28

      Oh, I know that struggle. I am a homebody. I love to be home with my husband, my dog, a book, and a glass of sweet tea. Half the battle of going out to hang with the girls is getting there. Once I get there, I’m so glad I chose to say yes!

  16. 29
    SoCalLynn says:

    Deidre, I always read your posts, you always touch on something so true to my heart. This in particular, and some of the ladies’ responses, describe me to a T. I struggle with this greatly, as I was raised in a home by two wonderful people who just believed in a do-it-yourself way, don’t let others in, and weren’t physically demonstrative. I struggle to this day, at 50 years old, to live more freely. Thankfully, by the grace of God, I recognize more often now when I have put up too-high walls and too thick a bubble.

    • 30

      I live in a part of the country that prides a good work ethic. I haven’t always lived here, so it took a while for me to figure out what that meant…because it’s got layers. One of the layers is the “I can do it myself” approach to life. Everyone was always “Fine” and everything was “No problem.” Now that I’ve lived here a few years, I’ve gotten better at finding the places I can come alongside a person in her journey. But before that, I felt useless, helpless, and shut out. So, when I realized I was doing the exact same thing, I was devastated.

      That’s the thing about those of us who build walls. We really don’t want to shut others out, or make them feel helpless. We’re just trying to protect our hearts, without realizing that sometimes opening our hearts is the best way to protect them. Weird, huh? All upside-down and backwards…just like the Kingdom of God.

  17. 31

    so good… and so true. I am very much the same way. Touch was not positive or taught growing up so it is not easy to allow it now time. My personal bubble surrounds me and my heart although in the last two years my heart has learned to open a bit and even break. Your words are good.

    • 32

      I’m so glad I’ve *met* you here on the internet, Sharon. One day, I hope we get to meet in person. I’ll ask if I can give you a hug.

  18. 33
    Jeanine Conner says:

    Right there with you on that one. God is breaking down my defenses as we speak. I didn’t even know how to ask for help when I needed it. God has provided in ways that make me stand in AWE OF HIM. I am learning my HEALTHY boundaries and trusting in the Lord.

  19. 35

    Love this!! Good words Deidre!
    (I tell people that all the time – robbing the body of blessing – such a good reminder for ME!)

  20. 38

    You’ve reminded me of this experience: Last winter my husband and I were both sick at the same time. A friend from church called, wanting to make chicken soup for us. “Oh, no,” I said immediately. We’re getting along fine.” But she wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and told me, “Chicken soup is my gift! I LOVE making chicken soup!” I saw her favor as work; she saw it as a pleasurable thing to do! When we refuse the help of others, we not only steal their blessing, we may very well be spoiling their fun!

    • 39

      Last month I was under the weather. My friend Michelle heard about it and sent me a text: “We fixed dinner for you. When can I bring it over?” There was no getting around it. She and her family wanted to help, and they weren’t taking no for an answer. It was a good lesson for me, for the days I’m on the helping side. And…my husband and I got to eat the most amazing enchiladas and peanut brownies ever!

  21. 40

    OUCH, Deidra, did you really have to go THERE?? Did you honestly have to write, “Me walking around with my lines drawn, my compartments established, my walls built high was keeping me far from understanding the truth about the Body of Christ.” I’ve jokingly referred to it as my capacity conundrum, but you just called it out for the sin it is. I have built my entire life within a carefully, beautifully constructed veil, and I liked it that way. Oh well, back to the drawing board…
    Does anyone else feel as fully called out as I do right now? Thanks, lady, you’ve done it again. A swift, loving smack to the back of the head.
    Amen.

    • 41

      Oh, no head smack intended. Just telling my story, girlfriend!

      I do think there’s something to be said for capacity. We each have our own helping of capacity, and when it runs out, that’s no good for anyone…at least in my case.

      Some days I do need to just chill on the couch without a phone call, a text message, a blog post in sight. But when I actively and repeatedly refuse help when it’s offered, or keep pressing on refusing to let on that I really do need help, I think maybe I’ve crossed the line from introspection and regeneration to isolation.

  22. 42

    I am so amazed! You have described me – in soooo many ways. I, too, have a bubble that I struggle with. I find it very difficult to offer others an “open-door” policy inside my bubble. Sometimes, because of it, I find myself feeling very alone. It is a daily struggle because I enjoy my “me” time. And, without it, I am not a happy camper. It angers me when others barge in – uninvited! Thanks for sharing. I don’t feel like the lone ranger.

  23. 45

    Wow can I relate to this! My story is so much the same. And the thing that cured me of it was also the same – that we deny others the opportunity to serve when we don’t allow them to help us. I of course learned this the really hard way. At 24 years old I got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Many days I could hardly get out of bed. I had to learn to accept help, rides, money everything. I am so grateful that I learned to accept the help that was offered as I don’t know where I would be today (30 years later) without the help and prayers I get from so many.

  24. 46

    Heads UP! I’m hugging you next time we are together – Whether you like. It. Or. Not! =) You know I love you, Susta!

  25. 47

    Deidra,

    I loved that line about compartments on a plate…so funny, and I have completely had that aversion, but I have gotten through it! :) I am not sure why it is difficult to say yes, other than the fact that somewhere along the line it will look like we actually need help…when what we really want is for everyone to think that we have it altogether all the time! I need to work on this myself, thank you so much for the reminder!

    God Bless you and keep you in everyway as you continue to allow people to minister their gifts to you!!!

    Love & Blessings,
    Brandi

  26. 48
    Shereen Lynn says:

    I remember the first time a good friend said, “I love you”. It was as if a little girl was screaming from somewhere deep inside. I wanted to be “liked” not “loved”. Love was too risky and certain to bring pain. But God gently loved me toward that friend; yes, through times that were painful as well as those that were wonderful. He has helped me move out of the cold, dark castle of people-fear and into the wide-open of spiritual community. I marvel at how well He loves me through others.

  27. 49
    gloria estes says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing this best kept secret…

  28. 50
    Beth Williams says:

    I find it difficult to ask for assistance. Don’t want to bother people with my little problems. Besides, I can handle/do it all by my self! Don’t need much help.

    On the flip side–I want to help all the time. Usually I just go ahead and do something, cook a meal, and take it to them. To late to say no & I realize they truly appreciate my thoughtfulness. I want to be the arms, hands and eyes of God!

    • 51
      SoCalLynn says:

      Beth, I am the same… I LOVE cooking a meal, making a comfort bag for a sick friend, buying formula for a friend who is fostering a sick baby. I love it and don’t think twice about it. So why do I feel so awkward and unworthy when a friend asks to do the same for me?

  29. 52

    This–> “I didn’t know how to say “Yes” without having the strange feeling I had revealed a chink in my armor. ” Lord help us all! Deliver us from our selves, Lord! Mea culpa!

    Spot on, Deidra. Thanks for sharing what so many of us live each day.

  30. 53

    Thanks for sharing…I am also one who hardly knows how to say yes. God has been challenging me as well about this lately. God bless you in your journey!

  31. 54
    Gillian Mackenzie says:

    I needed to read this today – I was just checking out this website as a friend has shared it on Facebook. I don’t have the same issues with physical interaction – but I have a real problem letting others help me. I can’t believe that I’ve never actually asked God to give me the courage to let people help me! I have a chronic illness and have suffered some symptoms of it when I was a child. My folks didn’t really deal with it and I was left to cope with some pretty tough health problems from a young age. I now suffer with extreme anxiety because of my health and I will let nobody help me but my husband, as he is the only person I trust. God has blessed me with 2 wonderful daughters, who are great helpers when I feel unable for things. I totally understand the idea of not wanting to reveal a chink in your armour!

    This article has encouraged me to pray differently. Thank you.x

  32. 55

    Garden State Parkway!! I have ridden that road many a time! I loved this devotion, it spoke volumes to me!

  33. 56

    Yep, I get this about you but now that you’ve explained it, it’s helpful. I’ve never created a bubble around myself and always say yes to offers of help but it also isn’t easy for me to be vulnerable. So every time I say yes, it’s painful too but its more like saying, “Okay God, I trust you more than my ability to be self-sufficient.”

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