One day I needed help in a big way. I was at the gym a few years back and there was only one other guy working out at the same time. I was putting in a little extra work that day and on the agenda was some decline presses. Now, if you know what they are you know they are kind of strange. You are leaning backwards with your head slanted towards the floor. Blood is rushing to your head…that can’t be the best way to workout. And then you take the bar off the rack and fight against gravity wanting to take it and obliterate your blood-rushed head.
I had been building up my strength on the decline and was pretty proud of the progress. I was now adding weights to the bar and so I put the 2 ½ lb. plates on each end and got ready to lift. Now, one rule of lifting is you shouldn’t lift alone. You need a spotter. I figured I could handle this by myself and, if I had a problem, could grunt loud enough for the other guy to come over and lend me a hand.
At the time I did not realize it but I had made the grave mistake of already doing some arm work. I got to the third set of my decline presses and was doing fine until suddenly my right triceps gave out. I had the bar resting up against me and I could not for the life of me get it back up to the rack.
Not to worry. I used my blood-rushed head to look around the room so I could grunt to the other guy and he was nowhere to be seen. I wasn’t sure what to do. I imagined leaning the bar to one side and then the other but knew this would only end in embarrassment.
But then, out of nowhere—actually out of the men’s bathroom—came the only other person in the weight room. Like a “band of brothers” brother, he helped me in my time of trouble. And I was desperately in need of help.
The younger son in the story of the Prodigal Son needed help. A great famine had come on the distant land he had gone to where he had squandered all his father’s fortune. In those days “great famines” meant there would be robbing, murder, bodies left to rot in the streets and even children being sold for money. It was bad enough that he was feeding pigs for a living. This made it even worse.
But it took him some time before he decided to go home. He knew how he would be greeted. The people of the town would meet him outside the city. They would take a clay pot and break it on the ground in front of him and tell him, “You are to us as this clay pot. You are broken. You are cut off.” This ceremony was called Kezazah, a Hebrew word meaning “to cut off.” “You have broken our community, you are now cut off from us, never to return. Let these pieces be a symbol of your brokenness.”
That’s what he expected. It might explain why it took him until he was at rock bottom before he was willing to ask for help. We don’t like to ask for help much, do we? Especially men. I’ll spend an hour in Lowe’s looking for the part I need before I’ll ask someone in a blue vest.
We humans will often stay in our own mess before we find help so we can live differently. Author Robert Quinn notes: “We actually seem to prefer slow death. Slow death is the devil we know, so we prefer it to the devil we do not know.” What he’s saying is we’d rather keep repeating a cycle that leads to slow death because we know it and would rather stay there than to risk what it takes to change. What it takes to change is admitting we need help.
The son did. He came to his senses and he went home. And instead of facing the Kezazah ceremony, his father ran to him. The word Luke uses in the story for “ran” is used for an athlete. He ran like Usain Bolt to get to his son before the Kezazah did. Dignified men did not run. It was humiliating to do so. But this father did. He took the humiliation that should have been his son’s and placed it on himself.
The son found his help in the Father. And you can too. Jesus told this story so that people who needed help in life could come home. Jesus lived among people so that people who needed help could see what the Father was like. In Jesus they found a Father who runs and covers their humiliation with a robe, a ring, and sandals.
Ask for the help you need today. You don’t have to do life on your own. You certainly don’t have to run. Your Father is already running to you.
Question: Is there a place in your life today where you need to ask for help? Who can you ask? Will you do it?