This is a guest post from Jackie Knapp. We were privileged to have Jackie work at our church as the Associate Campus Ministry Director for three years. Before that she was a Resident Director at The Master’s College. Be sure to check out her new blog.
Somehow in the midst of younger and more idealistic days, I came to believe that anyone doing full-time ministry, counselors, and especially anyone living overseas, was above the problems of everyone else, that these people didn’t struggle with normal human pain or sin. I’m not exactly sure what is to blame for this, but I do know that I sauntered into full-time ministry wearing some very rose-colored glasses.
Needless to say, I was in for a painful wake up call. I already suffer from a large dose of “the helper syndrome,” the tendency to help everyone else without accepting any myself. I would rather listen than tell someone my problems, give money instead of ask for support, and hear someone else unload than bare my own soul. I was quick to surround myself with needy people, but never wanted to be the needy one or receive more than I was giving. The problem is that in many helping professions, this is basically the job description, so it rarely gets addressed. As Christians, we are supposed to be living and loving sacrificially, and so often our motivations are never questioned.
As I moved through ministry, I only let very specific people into my life in ways I controlled. I was leading and counseling many women, yet I was not asking for or even admitting that I needed support to do my job well. I was living in a way that acted as if I was above the need for grace, and the counsel and ministry that I was so willingly offering to others. I also didn’t really think I needed help from God. I would passionately tell you I did, and give you lots of verses about how I couldn’t do anything without Him, but I wasn’t living like I actually needed help unless things got really, really bad.
God began to press in on this area of my life and pursued me in some very difficult ways. He started to reveal that I needed help, that I couldn’t hold it together any more, and He gave me enough grace to reach out and ask Him and others for help. This was not an easy process, and I am extremely grateful for the care of people around me as I struggled. As I began to be counseled instead of being the counselor, God worked mightily to open my eyes.
One of the biggest turning points was seeing that my refusal to ask for help is pride, not selflessness, as I convinced myself it was. It’s clearer now that my insisting on giving and never receiving is a great amount of arrogance on my part, and so easily cloaked in a false sense of servanthood and martyrdom. I felt safer and much more comfortable being the the rescuer than asking for someone to listen and admitting that I need a Savior myself.
In Dangerous Calling, Paul Tripp bluntly addresses this issue. “Pride causes you to accept more responsibility than you can bear. Arrival allows you to assign more ministry work to yourself than you can realistically accomplish. Self-glory causes you to think that you are more essential than you actually are and more necessary than you will ever be. It’s pride, not humility, that makes it hard to say no.”
The ironic thing is that once I have people helping me, praying for me regularly, and once I truly believe that I need God to intervene and work, I actually love people better. It is then that I am giving people something I am actually experiencing and living rather than something I am robotically reciting. It is out of my weakness, not strength, that God actually gets glory and recognition, because it is then that my ministry is not about me. And it is through an honest community that I am safeguarded from arrogance and asked why I am doing what I’m doing.
I’m thankful for the severe mercy of these lessons, for a God who continuously saves me from myself. I’m thankful for new eyes to see that people in ministry aren’t super-humans. I know I have a long way to go, but I want to keep learning to ask for help, from others, but most of all from God Himself.