It Wasn’t #GivingTuesday; Is That Why He Didn’t Help Me?

{Each day leading up to Christmas, I am going to share thoughts on living out everyday ministry as Jesus People. Most will be written on my Facebook page, but I wanted to start with Day 1 on my website. The recurring word you will see is “instead,” because my goal is to highlight the ways my own attitude towards ministry is often shallow and self-focused, instead of sacrificial and worshipful. I pray that you will feel both challenged and encouraged as I search my own heart and share what I am learning along the way. This brings us to Day 1 and the story of how I barfed on a boat two months ago. It ties to today’s #EverydayMinistry with this: Instead of only looking for opportunities to give generously on a random Tuesday in November, look for opportunities to give generously every day. #TwentyFiveDaysOfEverydayMinistry #LoveYourNeighborAllYearLong #HereGoesNothingBook}

{Each day leading up to Christmas, I am going to share thoughts on living out everyday ministry as Jesus People. Most will be written on my Facebook page, but I wanted to start with Day 1 on my website. The recurring word you will see is “instead,” because my goal is to highlight the ways my own attitude towards ministry is often shallow and self-focused, instead of sacrificial and worshipful. I pray that you will feel both challenged and encouraged as I search my own heart and share what I am learning along the way.

This brings us to Day 1 and the story of how I barfed on a boat two months ago. It ties to today’s #EverydayMinistry with this: Instead of only looking for opportunities to give generously on a random Tuesday in November, look for opportunities to give generously every day. #TwentyFiveDaysOfEverydayMinistry #LoveYourNeighborAllYearLong #HereGoesNothingBook}

I took a ferry across Lake Michigan in October. That was my second mistake.

My first mistake was eating Wendy’s for lunch before I took a ferry across Lake Michigan in October.

The moment we made it out of the channel and into open water, I knew it was going to be a terribly long couple of hours before we reached the shores of Milwaukee. The waves were rocking the boat side-to-side and front-to-back, and so few sailors come out winning in a situation like that.

Whenever I am suffering from motion sickness, I try any of the following: drugs, staring at a fixed object in front of me, or taking a “Just Wake Me Up When It’s Over” nap. But I had already eaten all the ginger candies the crew passed out to everyone on board, and there would be no staring straight ahead or sleeping on this trip, because Thing One and Thing Two needed a mother.

We managed fine for about an hour, but then Threenager put down her coloring and curled up beside me. Her face had a light green hue, and I instantly developed a strong case of Mom Guilt. She started singing all of her favorite songs like, “Jesus Loves Me,” and I joined in. I thought, How precious. We are practically Paul and Silas, singing praises to Jesus in a prison of tumultuous waters.

Threenager sang on and on, and the waves seemed to only get stronger. When she got to, “I Will Make You Fishers of Men,” I begged the Lord, Please don’t take that literally!

Baby had been fussing, but quickly upgraded to feverishly sobbing. I wanted to walk him around, but the boat was swaying too intensely. I placed him in his car seat and tried rocking it back and forth to calm him. He cried harder.

I began to feel very anxious as my surroundings leapt out of my control. I couldn’t get rid of Threenager’s motion sickness, I couldn’t get Baby to stop crying, I couldn’t teleport our ferry to dry land, and I needed to harf so badly.

I looked around for help, but there weren’t that many people on board. I couldn’t see any Lake Ferry Express crew at the moment, and the random passengers scattered throughout the cabin didn’t seem to notice our chaotic mixture of singing and crying. I kept wiping my face with my hands, all the while breathing heavily and wondering what I was supposed to do to take care of my kids and keep from horking all over the table we were sitting around.

My anxiety turned into a full-blown panic attack. I looked down and realized my fingers and hands were completely cramped. I couldn’t open them, or pick up my screaming baby, or stroke my daughter’s hair, or wipe my sweaty face. I was terrified.

It was at that point I realized self-sufficiency would get us nowhere. I needed someone’s physical presence and extra arms to assist us in our crisis. I looked around the cabin again; this time not just hoping someone would notice us and take charge of our pitiful bunch, but with the intention to actually ask for help. I finally made eye contact with a passenger across the cabin, and mouthed, “Help.”

He looked away.

I was surprised at his quick dismissal, but moved onto someone sitting across the aisle, distracted by his computer and headphones. I yelled, “Sir!” until he turned around, and then went off in a series of breathy and bumbling sentences, “Please, Sir, I need help. Will you please find someone who can help us? My baby has a fever and my daughter feels sick and I feel sick, and I can’t move my hands. I need help. Please get help!”

His wide eyes told me he was very afraid of me, but he said he would try and find someone from the crew. He almost fell over as he scrambled across the swaying cabin, but my new scared friend delivered.

I found myself surrounded, right at the point that I reached my rock bottom of helplessness. One of the crew members, who I later found out is a grandmother, took Baby into her strong arms and ample bosom to calm him down. Another came up and offered barf bags, ginger ale, and candies for Threenager. The first mate came down to make sure I was drinking water, because “dehydration can cause your muscles to cramp.”

With everyone surrounding us and taking care of my kids, I felt like I finally had permission to throw up. As I retched over and over into my little bag, I arrived at both relief and embarrassment.

Two more people came and offered to help me outside to fresh air, slowly navigating my weak gangly body across the rolling cabin and outside to a bench. One man brought me an obnoxiously large rubber rain jacket to shelter me from the freezing wind and rain.

The entire scene was humiliating.

I felt pathetic, looking down at my feet as puddles of water sloshed over my shoes and drips of water fell from the hood of my gorilla-sized poncho onto my cold hands. I felt small, looking out at the big gray sky and the huge waves crashing into each other. As the pandemonium of seasickness and panic attack exited my body with each breath of fresh air, I was left completely mortified by everything that just happened on a ferry crossing Lake Michigan.

What was the point of that, Lord? I have often asked myself in the two months since this happened. I mean, besides to not take the ferry across Lake Michigan in October or eat Wendy’s beforehand? What's the moral of this story?

Honestly, my mind first goes back to that man who saw my green face and wide eyes and screaming baby, and then chose to look away.

I want to freak out at him a little, “Didn’t you see the turmoil I was in? Don’t you think it would have been nice to ask if I needed assistance? What’s your beef, dude? There was nothing in it for you, so you figured you had other better things to do with your time? It wasn’t ‘Giving Tuesday,’ so you didn’t think you had to help me out?”

I could stand here all day long yelling at the world, “Don’t be that guy!”

But you know what? My anger towards other people is often the clearest mirror towards my own shortcomings: I am that guy, way too often.

I am that person who is in too much of a rush to notice the people put directly in my line of sight, mouthing the word help. I am the person who thinks, “Well, I’ll try being a little more generous when it gets closer to December 25.” I am the comfortable middle class Christian who needs an end date to the command “Love Your Neighbor” so that I won’t feel like I have to sacrifice too much or get stretched too far. Besides, didn’t I serve a meal at the local soup kitchen that one time when I was in high school?

As Craig Greenfield wrote, “If you need a hashtag to remind you to give, you’re doing it wrong. Be generous, systematic, faithful and joyful in giving – throughout the year.”

Yes, I think Giving Tuesday is a great thing, except that maybe it should be called, “Give Whatever Cash You Have Left After Black Friday and Cyber Monday” Tuesday. But days like Giving Tuesday, and the mindset that outreach is a single, isolated event that we do around Christmas, should sound off a few alarms at how seriously we take Christ’s commands to love our neighbors all life long.

Everyday Ministry looks a lot more like the five crew members who demonstrated sacrificial, joyful giving during their eight hour work shift that happened to overlap with my forty-five minute shift of helplessness. Everyday Ministry is the man who risked breaking his legs to run around a rocking boat to get help. It’s the woman who took my screaming baby and nuzzled him into her chest as tenderly as she would her own grandbaby, and the young man who sat next to my daughter to make distracting conversation. It is the two crew members who carefully guided me to fresh air and said nice things like, “Don’t be embarrassed. You’d be amazed at how often this happens.”

Everyday Ministry is engaging what we’d rather avoid; it’s doing the hard work of not looking away.

We’re all in full-time Christian service. We have different disguises, but the same vocation; to be out and out lovers and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ…no dichotomy exists between ministry and lifestyle. {Dwight Edward}

So this season, and every single season we are on this earth as living, breathing, neighbor-loving Jesus People, let’s remember these three things that took me barfing on a boat to really think through:

Generosity is ongoing, not a single check that we write on a random Tuesday in November. Outreach is something that can happen at home, in our neighborhoods, and on a ferry in the middle of Lake Michigan, not just within the walls of a church building. Ministry is a lifestyle, not an activity we cross off our to-do lists.

We pray for you, asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding…in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way, bearing fruit in ever good work, and growing in the knowledge of God. {Colossians 1:9-10.}

It’s not #GivingTuesday anymore, but let’s live a life of sacrificial ministry and generosity anyway. Every day.

Grace and Peace,
Kendra

 

{Like what you’re reading? Then jump over to your favorite online retailer to preorder my book Here Goes Nothing: An Introvert’s Reckless Attempt to Love Her Neighbor, set to release February 28, 2017.}