I once dated someone who wasn’t a real “feelings” sort of guy. He praised confidence and, in his words, confidence looked like a woman who didn’t need anyone else to complete her. This woman was self-sufficient in every way. Picture Scandal’s Olivia Pope and you’re getting close.
So, for a while I tried playing that game. It turns out I wasn’t very good at it. I was more like Olivia Nope. Because I DID need people. I needed him. I needed my friends. I needed my family.
Around that same time I was part of a church group that professed, “God is all you need.” I was regularly reminded that people were imperfect and would disappoint me, but God is perfect and could meet my every need.
So if I was feeling down, empty, lost, or sad, I could only conclude that I must not be relying on God alone for all things. And, it turns out, I wasn’t very good at that either.
Because, I’m needy.
I have spiritual, intellectual, relational, and physical needs. I was created with them and if those needs go unmet, I’m in trouble.
For instance, I have a physical need for oxygen. I require air to keep my body functioning. I also have a physical need for water.
The human body can only survive for three minutes without oxygen and three days without water. We need them. In God’s perfect plan, he created us to need these elements to survive.
But, those aren’t our only needs. We were created with spiritual, intellectual and relational needs as well.
Yet, somehow we don’t honor these needs, especially the relational ones. These needs get dismissed. These needs are too uncomfortable or demanding to those around us. So we hide them. We downplay them. We wish they didn’t exist.
After all, we wouldn’t want to be labeled: “needy.”
The funny thing is, we would never judgingly look at a person breathing in and out repeatedly or taking a drink of water and think, “She’s SO needy! She takes a breath and less than five seconds she takes another. Enough is never enough!”
Ridiculous, right? You don’t look at someone who’s eating breakfast and think, “Gosh, I thought she was more self-sufficient than that. Seriously, eating AGAIN?”
But, so often that’s exactly how we treat the rest of our needs. Spiritual and intellectual needs have become more mainstream and accepted, but relational needs are still viewed as weakness – blemishes on our records as perfectly, self-sufficient people, to be hidden or excused away.
I think it’s because these needs make us uncomfortable. We don’t have good training in understanding or caring for relational needs in ourselves or others and so it’s easier to disregard them or label them “too much” than move into meeting them.
Add in some false beliefs about God and a heaping helping of good, ol’ American independence and we’re all walking around filled with shame for our own relational needs and judging others for theirs.
I lived in this space for years until my dear sister-in-law, who just happens to be a counselor, helped me see the light. She helped me understand that I was created with relational needs which needed to be met as desperately as my need for air, water and food.
But, how do we go about getting those needs met? What is the breathing, drinking, and eating equivalent in the relational world?
We belong to each other. Our needs belong to each other. Your needs belong to me. They are mine to understand and to care for. My needs are yours to honor and embrace.
This is the good news: we have the privilege of being the instrument of love, acceptance, honor and comfort to other people – other hearts. We GET to do that. We don’t HAVE to. This is not a burden. It’s a joy. It’s a precious gift to hold tenderly and appreciate deeply.
If you need respect, comfort or attention, I get to offer that. When I need acceptance, appreciation or security, that comes through you. Together, we belong to each other and our needs get met.
Maybe if you're like me a few years back, you wonder where God fits into this mix? Some of you believe all of your relational needs would simply disappear if you were truly, completely, whole-heartedly in sync with God. You’re convinced that the fact you still find yourself with a need for comfort or acceptance or respect from others means you must not be quite as tight with God as you’d hoped. That there must be something keeping you from a fully-surrendered life with God. I get it. That was me, too.
Let me remind you of Adam. Way before that whole “eating of the fruit thing,” Adam experienced perfect communion with God. He was one with Him, every one of Adam’s needs met absolutely in God’s love.
God looked at Adam and said, “This is not good. I’ll create a helper.” Why would Adam need a helper if he and God lived in a perfect relationship with each other? Why would Adam need a helper if God was all he needed?
Because nothing pleases God more than when his children live as one together. He’s delighted when we love each other and support each other and care for one another. When we see one of God’s people hurting and we reach out in comfort, we’re reflecting God’s heart to them.
Oh, God intends to meet every one of our needs Himself perfectly and completely. But, most of the time he chooses to do that THROUGH one of his children. He meets our relational needs through others. So we need Him AND we need others.
Let's stop shaming ourselves and others for having needs and let's start vulnerably sharing them instead. When there's an exciting event in your life, don't be afraid to let others know that you're excited and you'd love if they'd rejoice with you. Or when life is painful and we could use some encouragement, reach out.
Better yet, keep your eyes peeled for those folks in your life whose relational needs God wants to meet through you. Those who belong to you. Your people.
Be the first to reach out, to hug, to encourage. Be the one to see and care. Because just as important as air, water and food is the need for belonging.
Turns out, I AM needy. And you’re needy, too. We’re all needy.
Exactly as we were created to be.