I thought Tarcisius was going to be a dejavu child, a replica, an afterthought, a double take. After all, when he was born he looked indistinguishable from my others and his birthday is the same week as 2 of them. I thought that the fact that we didn’t travel during his pregnancy to pick out his name (like we have with all the others) would make him less special. I thought that somehow he was going to get lost in the busyness of 4 children. I thought that he would forever live in the shadow of my first boy who even daddy is jealous of most of the time. I thought I wouldn’t have enough love to go around and that I wouldn’t be a good enough mom once I was stretched this thin… but I was wrong.
Last week I was told to reflect on Psalm 22. I had been crying to my friend about the trials of bedtime with 4 littles and a tired mommy especially when daddy isn’t there to help…. and my prayer was a beautiful experience, not just, I think, for mothers but for anyone trying to live out any vocation or, simply, a truly Christian life.
The Psalm is meant to be a foreshadowing of Christ’s sufferings at Calvary and the biggest shock I had was how much I related to it – how we all can relate – how much it felt like the Psalmist was describing my own life at that moment (minus the melodramatic psalmist vocabulary choices – or maybe with them – I’ll let you decide – haha).
Did you ever try to put on a front hoping to make someone else see you in a different light than how you see yourself? Have you ever thought about it? How do you feel about the way others see you and the way you see yourself? There’s a whole new craze of self esteem promos out lately… how is that working out for you? Does repeating a mantra change the way you see yourself? Does it ever make you feel torn between worlds when the way you see yourself, the way others see you and the reality of who you want to be don’t seem to match up? Have you ever asked why?
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!
Do you get frustrated by failure? Do you feel that all too often your best efforts and best laid plans are thwarted by irritating nothings that somehow have the power to ruin everything? I’m pretty sure most human beings can agree that we aren’t the biggest fans of not measuring up to our own standards, or, even worse, to the standards we feel others place on us. As disappointing as it may be, we are all human, and part of being human necessarily entails weakness and imperfection. How can we ever find peace with our reality if we are trying to become something we are not (namely, perfect)? Is there any way to see our weakness in a more positive light?