Beyond Help

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon. I’d returned a few hours earlier from a speaking engagement and then enjoyed the delight of putting my grandson down for his nap in our upstairs room while his mommy worked. Now I was resting. What an “old” word! But in that moment, it fit, and I gave into it.

Until I heard an unrecognizable eruption. A crash? A long, loud, falling and breaking sound. I couldn’t imagine its cause.

Had it come from outside the house? Hugging myself, I began a search and recognizance mission through the main floor of my home. Nothing out of order in the bedroom or bath. The family room and kitchen still stood where they should. The entry way? Fine. The living room? Okay. Ahhh…the dining room.

A realization from deep in my core trickled up to my mind, offering me enough clues that I had to admit the undesirable cause. I didn’t have to enter the room to check my instinct. But I did. Once within, I took in what I’d dreaded to see. A three-shelf unit containing my grandmother’s antique china collection had lost its grip on the wall and tumbled to the floor. The plates, all hand-painted, many of them portraits of 18th century European royalty, and many signed by their artists, lay in shards beneath the unit.

I knelt and carefully lifted a corner of the shelving set. What lay beneath was dismal. Shattered treasures. For decades my grandmother had acquired each plate as a memory of a trip she’d taken with other elderly women in tourist buses across Europe. I remembered her returning, carefully removing their bubble-wrap cocoons and unraveling the stories of their painted scenes as she held them out before me. When she died, they were the one item I wanted to remember her by. A beautifully illustrated display of life lived out on porcelain plates.

As I gingerly lifted fragment after fragment the severity of the situation hit me. There was no remedy here. I located one single saucer with minor damage out of a set of twenty-some relics. The rest…well clearly, my inherited plate collection was beyond help.

The past few years had been tough for me. My daughter a single mom. My son struggling in the throes of adolescence. Heavy leadership responsibilities. So much of my life felt like the broken mess on my dining room floor. Beyond help.

Okay, maybe this is a bit dramatic. But honestly, aren’t there just lots of times in your life when you feel like you’re just – well – beyond help? Twenty-five stubborn post-baby pounds won’t melt off. The draw of tobacco refuses to let you go. A snarly, grouchy, ungrateful attitude sticks in your soul despite your best intentions to put a Pintresty outlook on life.

Beyond help. In attitude. In appearance. In action. There are seasons where we find ourselves won over by the very not-enough-ness of “me-ness” in “my-self-ness.” Know what I mean?

And in such moments I have actually chuckled in a sharp realization. I picture God – my gracious heavenly father – dimpled cheek and amused. “Now you’re talking,” he muses. Beyond help. It’s just where he wants me.

Beyond my best efforts. Beyond my put-on-a-happy-face clichés. Beyond my self-help methodologies. Beyond being better than anyone else. Beyond worrying about what doesn’t matter anyway. Beyond everything being all up to me: to understand, to care, to give and to fix.

That Sunday afternoon I stared at a stack of antique shards representing a heritage now rooted not on my wall, but in my heart. My grandson’s voice came to me from the baby intercom. “Yia Yia! I’m awake!” he hollered. I looked at the mess on my floor. Beyond help. Indeed, I was. Thank God.

“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

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