Beggars and Choosers

Close enough to see it in my rear-view mirror was a season in which I had to reconstruct my definition of being strong and capable. I was a single mom with a chronically ill child watching helplessly as all the parts of my life fell apart. There was no way that, on my own, I could find the time or money or even emotional resources to manage everything. But asking for help doesn’t come easy for this little peacock; nor do we live in a culture that invites us to ask for the help we need. To spiritualize the crisis I was experiencing feels trivial, even with the clarity and gratitude of hindsight, but that season confronted me with the murky ego of my own self-sufficiency. Easy to confess; hard to work out. In that rough spot, I needed something greater than the wordy prayers I’d been taught. I just closed the cover to Never Pray Again by Aric Clark, Doug Hagler, and Nick Larson (aka Two Friars and a Fool) and found resonance and recognition inside those pages. “Beg” reminded me of that season and I went skulking through the pages of my journals to produce something that gave breath to what I was learning, to what I’d read.

 

that practical need felt like exposed skin

with goosebumps rising and shame creeping

shouldn’t she have it all together by now

so many whispers in pitched tempo

that I began to wonder if it was in my own head

this round of sharp notes

and maybe it was

or at least I could recognize my own voice

in the chorus

 

how quickly the patine of advocacy is muddied by fingerprints

when the one holding the begging tin

is the one in need

of those tossed coins

for their own broken-down

broken-out

broken-apart

self

 

god helps those who help themselves

those whispers again

but my bootstraps snapped off long ago

from the pulling

and the straining

accompanied by the exhausted grunts of lifting

such a burden

by those insignificant loops

 

I dutifully took my number

and sat in plastic chairs

lining square rooms awash in beige resignation

I stood in line at the counters of empire

and heard the scripts

no, sorry, and better luck next time

humiliation is not complete

until all the systems cease to recognize you

as human

until they call you by a number instead of a name

until they stop inviting you to Thanksgiving dinner

 

and I began to believe them

those whisperers

and in the boxes provided

I gave my new information

Flaky

Irresponsible

Hopeless

Moocher

Crazy

Bitch

 

but the dare to acknowledge the imposter

of my self-sufficiency

stood challenged

and I doubted my ability

to let my goosebumped skin warm

at someone else’s fire

while I formed my stubborn mouth

– the one I proudly inherited –

around that impossible word

help

help me

please

 

good men in starched collars taught lessons

on the bounty and beauty of

do unto others and the one who stopped to help the beaten man

blind men seeing and sullied women renewed

and I, with my patent leather shoes and earnest intentions,

held them close to my childish heart

oh, to be like Jesus

 

but there was another invitation into incarnation

one that had stuck forgotten

between the pages

of my pink Precious Moments bible

an invitation to a humilation

that could only be experienced by one proven insufficient

labeled unacceptable

and at the mercy of whomever might stop to listen

and in that big, empty space

where no one wanted to go

I found them glistening on the linoleum

those sparkling pieces of my humanity

that had been dropped along the way

the vulnerability

and raw hunger

the need for others

the need to be needful

 

last sunday that good man in the starched collar said

your inevitable loneliness is holy ground

 

yes, it is

 

and so I’ll sit here

in my plastic chair

in this beige room

and embrace the spiritual practice

of saying

help me

3 thoughts on “Beggars and Choosers

  1. Deep words, and true heart. Your account is haunting, touching, and puts our prose to shame. I’m grateful you found resonance and recognition within our words.

  2. Pingback: How Can You Be Christian And Not Pray? | Two Friars and a Fool

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