I wasn’t asking for much, but I was sweating just the same.
All I’d asked was that she take my place in science class next week, as I was going to be out of town.
She said yes right away.
Then I fought with her.
Why did I fight with her?
“Go for the ‘no’”, they tell you in business negotiation class. Well I sure did my professor proud.
“You don’t have to tell me right away…I…uh…I know that when you get these phone calls, there’s this weird pressure to say yes, and…”
“I can do it”, she said.
“Wow. Um. Ok. That’s awesome! Uh….but…why don’t you juuuussstt….check your calendar and let me know….Uhhh…when you can, of course. Yyyyou don’t have to get back to me right away, you know…huhuh…”
“Um…okaaayyy. But…there’s no problem. I can do it.”
“Oookay. I mean, if you’re sure. But really, just think it over and let me know either way. No pressure at all.”
WHAT WAS I DOING?
I’ve never even met this woman, but I’m sure now that she does not want to meet me! I wouldn’t want to meet me after that weirdness!
It did help me to realize something, though. I hate being in need. I don’t want to need anything from anyone. Asking something of someone else makes me feel as though I am in their debt. And what if I forget to repay them? What if I can’t repay them? What does that say about me?
Well, the following day, my friend volunteered with a mobile food pantry. She had the privilege of welcoming families as they came to select their food. She told me that a few were timid…that they felt bad for taking as much as they did. They did not know to whom they were speaking. You see, this friend is the best of encouragers. If she gets wind that you’re feeling insecure, she will not rest until you are utterly convinced of your infinite worth.
So she’d grab them another cart, help them fill it, and tell them to take more bread and freeze it…all, I guarantee, with a beaming smile, a couple of jokes, and some genuine compliments.
My friend helped these families take joy in having their physical needs met by people they cannot pay back. What kind of courage does it take to admit that you don’t have the means to secure your family’s most basic need, and show up at a food pantry? And when you come, you’ve resolved that you’ll take the bare minimum. Just enough to keep everyone alive for a bit. But then there’s this girl that beckons you to take home as much fresh fruit and salad fixings and sour cream and cake for your son’s birthday as you can carry.
And maybe you get home and weep a bit. And sigh relief. And pray thanks.
It all just made me think: the very definition of a gift is that which is given without expectation of payment. It is given for the purpose of being received. Nothing more.
If we are focused on always being even Stephen; of never owing anything to anyone; of never needing anything ever…
We never receive. And we run empty.
God could have made us to exist without food. Or sleep. Or companionship. We were created to need.
It is in seeing our need…our absolute poverty…that we find the greatest Gift there is.
You see, our greatest need is the one that we can’t even come close to addressing ourselves. Food, clothes, shelter…we can pretend that we actually secure these things by our brains and hard work. And though we do work hard, we did not determine our own I.Q.s, fill ourselves with energy, make the sun shine, or the plants to grow so that any of this life of ours would be possible. If God did not give, we would not exist. One thing we have managed to do ourselves, though, is run from Him.
Our greatest need is to be connected to the Source of good, because we can’t have, find, or make it ourselves. We know we are not it. We know we cannot obtain it. No one can deny the darkness he sees in his own heart; and each of us is powerless to change it. The Source doesn’t need us…but created us to love us. This love just happens to be the thing without which we will spiritually starve.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me, you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5
As a mere branch, I have nothing unless I am connected to the vine…the source of everything I need. If, however, I am connected to the vine, I abide in the life-giving power it has. Its life runs through my veins to the point that I grow and bear fruit.
And notice that the branch has nothing to give in order to repay the vine. The branch must simply receive the life that flows to it from the vine. And if it does? The vine is shown to be the beautiful plant that it is by the fruit that is displayed upon the branch.
On the other hand, if I choose to go it alone as a branch that needs nothing, I die.
Do you see it?
We are in need either way. In need with no hope is the worst place to be. But there is infinite hope, isn’t there? Yes; because God made a way for you to be connected back to Him and His profound love for you. And that debt you owe? Cancelled. It follows, then, that the absolute best place to be is in need and ready to receive.
Would you come to God and confess your need to Him? Please…just show up. And like my friend, He will be overjoyed to fill your basket. The issue will be that He will fill your basket…your heart…so full that you won’t be able to keep from spilling the contents out onto everyone around you.
And you’ll probably weep a bit. You’ll definitely sigh relief. And the thanks you pray? You’ll pray it all your life.
And there will be no shame in having admitted you were needy. It will be the confession that leads to your greatest joy…to true life.
“I, the Lord, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” – Psalm 81:10