Wednesday, December 31, 2008
A Needed Neediness
We're almost to 2009!
As we turn the page on the calendar, I'm sure that life in the coming year will be at least somewhat like life in the previous; you and I will need God. In fact, not only are we wired to need Him, our days are set up for us to know and feel Him, even to be dazzled by Him. Truly, it's the highest hope I have for 2009. Fortunately, He planned long ago for you and me to know Him and feel Him and grow confident in Him as one of the great ways in which He will be glorified by us, too.
#2 in our count down of the Top 10 LifeNotes of 2008 is "A Needed Neediness." This one found a deep place in our LifeNote subscribers, probably because it explains and makes relevant the strange and sometimes bothersome way by which neediness comes to us all.
He's in it.
I hope He turns neediness into stunning joy and delight for you in 2009.
On this, our nation’s Independence Day, I am feeling anything but. And I’m not exactly sure if I like it or not.
I mean, so much of the American dream is to be self-sufficient and self-reliant—to stand independently upon one’s own feet. To have a life that has everything except need. We educate for it, we work for it, we strive for it, and we estimate others and ourselves against the standard of responsible independence.
I wonder how surprised we would be if, after asking someone the question, “How are you?” the smiling-faced answer was a very incorrect, “I’m really needy.” Isn’t it a little bit weird to put “smiling-faced” and “I’m really needy” together? I wonder how many of us would quickly respond in a manner that sought to help correct neediness. “Oh, I’m sorry. How can I help you get over that?”
Neediness is not a desired character trait. It’s not found on anyone’s resume.
But what if, after hearing that someone is needy we asked the question, “Is that good or bad?” or “What are you discovering in your neediness?” That’s the kind of question that might really help someone—help them find what their neediness is leading them to discover.
I have nearly always found that God works and is most obvious when our neediness overflows. When we can’t contain it. When we’re too tired to cover it up. It’s then that we’re relieved of the effort to project independence, an effort that has kept us from the incredible power of God Himself, now in us. We miss Him because the flesh induces us to work hard to be independent.
The apostle Paul knew all about it.
Because he hadn’t yet realized just how different the Christian life is from the non-Christian, Paul pleaded with God for a little deliverance. You know, a little bit of, “God, please make the circumstances better so I can do better for you.” Was that too much to ask? There he was, on assignment for God, and God wasn’t making the right moves. Paul believed that God was missing out on how to do things best, so he asked three times for a better way forward.
But God said simply, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9) Whenever it seems that God is saying that to me, there are two things I know: God’s doing something beyond what I realize, and my situation won’t be changing as soon as I would like.
The apostle Paul, my hero, went on to embrace a life of navigated weakness, which I equate with dependence upon God. He wrote, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:9b,10)
Paul got it, but I’m still getting it.
Through the sudden passing of my mother a week and a half ago, I have been ushered into a new way of believing in and experiencing God. I’m needy in an unfamiliar way. I assume that, in the rich soil of sorrow, He thinks I’m growing. However, I often think I’m just going through the motions, just getting stuff done, and sort of banging around in the darkness. Far from home, I’m in California and separated from my family because I’m working to help my health-challenged and trial-plagued dad prepare for the rest of his life. There’s not much about living that he likes. Can you blame him if he believes living ought to go better than it does?
He’s needy, too. How strange that we’re together, just the two of us.
We’re better off than we think.