Repulsed by Neediness

I like to be competent. I don’t like to be needy.

I enjoy being around people who seem to have it all together. I have a hard time enjoying people whose lives are a mess.

The problem is that Scripture speaks an awful lot about us being needy and God caring for the needy, and it has very little to say–except woes–to those who have it all together. The book of Psalms especially is filled with statements of neediness and of God’s nearness to the needy (Ps. 40:17, 70:5, 72:13, 109:22, etc.). So why am I so easily repulsed by my own neediness and the neediness of others?

We do not fault a 2-month-old baby for crying when she is hungry. But the incessant whining of a hungry 10-year-old is not acceptable. We cheer for Frodo in his state of utter need. But we are repulsed by Gollum’s groveling. Both are needy. So what distinguishes their neediness? On one side they know their need and also know that they cannot meet their own need and thus are desperate for help. On the other side, they don’t realize their true need but they are trying to meet it in their own power. And it is that latter expression of neediness that tends to repulse us the most.

So when David (King David, mind you) says in Psalm 109:22 “For I am poor and needy…”, is his neediness like the crying infant or the whining child? What makes that expression of neediness not only acceptable but something to be modeled in my own life? It is a neediness worthy of mimicking because it is not merely selfish whining but is a true expression of his incapability to save himself and a humble recognition that God alone can bring about the rescue that his soul requires.

Ed Welch, in his excellent book Side by Side, argues that deep, Biblical community requires us to be both “needy and needed.” I’m usually pretty good at being needed, but it’s the being needy part that gets me hung up. Perhaps a part of the reason I resist that call to neediness is this misperception of neediness being only the whining, groveling, life-sucking immaturity that repulses people. Instead, I can embrace the neediness that Scripture portrays: the humble, desperate state of total dependence on God as my Rescuer and Sustainer and Provider.

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