Being a dancer “is one of the most difficult jobs. It is like the life of an ephemeral, this specific butterfly. We’re ugly at the beginning, but someone can see through our shell and help us grow… To finally die after few hours enjoying our gorgeous wings and technique to fly. But it is also a beautiful way to spend your life. It is worth the very hard work. When you go on stage, you’re giving your emotions to the world, you can express your inner world, become a goddess, die and then kill, transform yourself over and over again. …Don’t be afraid to throw your soul to your audience, if you want this sort of life.'” – Charlotte Landreau, Martha Graham Dance Company (NYC Dance Project – Artists without Borders) (see image below)
Is there a way to KNOW God loves you? Ever felt like saying “… it’s been such a crappy day/week/month/year/life that it sure doesn’t feel like it”? If we are struggling with the question of lovability, hearing about God’s love for you can almost feel nauseating in its commonality. We can’t even get away from the cheesy emoticon bumper-stickers that say “Smile, God loves you!” and most of the time it feels like people are “just saying that”. Is there a way to get past that?
I am a worrier. I worry about everything. I worry about every single decision I make, from what to make for dinner to whether or not I should spend those $20 extra at the grocery store. I worry about my abilities as a wife and a mother. I worry about my eating habits, my weight, my beauty and my ability to be loved. I worry about my children and their futures. I worry about my husband and his health. I worry about the health of my relationships with friends and family members. I worry about my problems and other people’s problems ’til I can’t sleep at night. But there is one thing I no longer worry about
Love begins with Need
I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me. ~ John 14:6
The first and most basic level in any relationship is that of need (not to be confused with neediness, see below). Need is the most basic element of human existence. We are not self-sustaining beings. We could not create ourselves, we could not raise ourselves, nor could we feed or protect ourselves as children. We needed our parents to survive (particularly our infancy). Even in adulthood we still have needs and limitations, we cannot survive without food, water, warmth or shelter. We have a basic relationship with the bank teller and the supermarket clerk because we need their services. Thus, the fundamental foundation level of our relationship with God is that of our recognition of our need for Him.
Love always begins with a basic need for something/someone. A baby loves its parents, at first, not because they are nice to him but because he needs them (this explains why young children in abusive situations still can love/trust/run to their parents). There is a sweet scene in the movie The Wedding Planner where Salvator explains to his daughter how he was originally bitter about his arranged marriage to her mother, but at one point he got extremely sick with scarlet fever and he needed her. “And she stayed by my side,” he said, “and she took good care of me. For the first time, I appreciated her. Then, the appreciation grew to respect. Respect grew to like. Then, like grew to love. A deeper love than I could ever hope for”. This is how the level of need can work for us too. When I met my husband I began to recognize that I was falling in love when I realized how much I needed his advice, his company, his reassurance in my decisions and basically everything about him. I first began to recognize the love I had for him as love when I realized I couldn’t, or at least didn’t want to, face the idea of living without him.
The difference between need and “neediness”
Now, as Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak are prone to remind us on a regular basis in their talks, radio programs and their books, we have to distinguish between the healthy recognition of need and a love killing “neediness”. The former is a healthy admission of our mutual dependence on each other as God designed it, with both parties committed to working for the good of the other. The latter is a parasitic, leech like, whiny reliance on the “beloved” to do and provide everything for him/her, while refusing to acknowledge their own capacity to lessen the burden or purport anything to the relationship. Spoiled grown children often exhibit this kind of neediness when, for example, they expect their parents to do and provide everything for them (especially when it comes to money or normal household chores like cooking, cleaning and laundry) while they play video games all day, or some equally ungrateful and non-participatory activity.
Recognizing we need God
The importance of this rudimentary yet most fundamental and foundational level of love is clearly understood in main stream love songs, just search “I need you lyrics” in any search engine for over 42,000,000 hits in any genre. In Christian songs speaking of the need for God is also a hugely dominant theme. There are multiple songs that are solely dedicated to this topic, like Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin and Jars of Clay’s I Need You and Plumb’s Need You Now, but it is also commonly found as a subtopic in dozens of other songs. For example, Matthew West’s Strong Enough:
When we finally recognize our need for God we have our first real chance at letting Him into our lives in a more conscious and concrete way. It also offers an explanation of another reason God might allow sufferings and setbacks in our lives, specifically to serve as a constant reminder of our need for Him.
Another great song to contemplate in this regard is Toby Mac’s Beyond Me.
…You gave me the stars put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I’ve never been so aware of my need
You keep on making me see
It’s way beyond me…
In over my head keeps me countin’ on you…
You take me to the place where I know I need you
Straight to the depths that I can’t handle on my own
And, Lord, I know, I know I need you
So take me to your great
Take me to your great unknown
Need results in Gratitude
When we receive assistance in our need, we are filled with gratitude. This gratitude allows us to shift our focus from ourselves, our need, to the one who fills the need. It is what opens our eyes to the fact that we are not alone. It can make it very easy to transition to the next level of love, Belief.
But, what happens when our “needs” aren’t met, we complain and we begin to doubt? This is because need is the weakest level of love and can easily be shaken. This is because often we never seek to move beyond our needs and the due gratitude that results from them. We get caught up in a circle of petition and thanks but never move beyond this level of essentially using God for our own purposes. If this is you, I challenge you today to resolve to move beyond the level of need into the second level of Belief (Subscribe below to follow this thread on the Levels of Love). Your relationship with God is worth it!
Often my kids are trying to get down off a bed or a chair or something and they inch themselves backwards off the edge until they can’t go any further without “falling” the last inch or so to the ground. But what they don’t realize is how close to the ground they really are, so if their little toes don’t touch anything they start screaming for help in sheer panic…. They’ve backed up too far to climb back up and can’t go back any further without losing their precarious hold on the bed sheets or the edge of the chair.
Do you experience longing in your life? Longing for more? for relationships that actually matter? for answers? for truth? for honesty? Longing to be understood? known? appreciated? loved? Longing for freedom? freedom from pain? from weakness? addictions? depression? anxiety? stress? money? regret?