what about what I need?

Mom, I need a piece of paper!

Mom, where’s my math book!

I need helllllp!

Without exaggeration, these are the phrases I hear all day long echoing in my kitchen from my little virtual learners. However, you know how young kids have those few words that they mispronounce and it’s just adorable? Olivia still pronounces “need” as “meed.” As in, “Mom, I meed help!” I will never correct her. She will have to learn the correct pronunciation from someone else because I love it too much.

Can I be honest with you, though? This is an ugly kind of honest. In my stretched and weary moments, as questions and requests are flying my way, I can hear my inner voice clearing its throat and asking quietly,

What about what I need?

This season of life has very strangely reminded me of life with newborns. Obviously, there are massive differences. There are no diapers, and all of us are sleeping through the night. But I am back to not finding time to take a shower. I can’t find the right time to leave the room because someone might need something. They need me right now in a way they never have before. Sure, we’re getting the hang of virtual learning. Yes, I’m trying to help them learn to be independent. But no one signed up for this. Truth be told, it isn’t fair to anyone: their teachers, me, and definitely not the kids.

The first grade teacher reminded us on Monday that we are in week EIGHT of virtual learning. How did that happen? We have now been living in a global pandemic for eight months, and learning virtually for eight weeks. And somehow, it feels as if nothing has gotten easier.

So let’s be really honest with ourselves. What have we used to cope? It makes no difference if you don’t have kiddos at home or if your job has been affected by this health crisis. In one way or another, everyone’s lives have been altered throughout this past year. And over the past few days, I have felt God gently finding the words to ask me: What are you running to?

I don’t even have to think about my answer. I make a Starbucks and Target run as often as I can. Heck yes, I do. I have eaten just about whatever I wanted because I deserve it for all of the stress I’ve been under. I’ve glued my eyes to Instagram and TikTok because it feels like an escape from my reality.

Let me be clear: we need to escape at times and we need healthy coping mechanisms. But for those of us who feel the tiny pieces of us asking, “What about what I need?” – I’m going to pose the same question to you that I was challenged to answer this week.

Am I coping or am I self-medicating?

What I have found to be true in my own life lately is this: I’ve used the excuse of coping to self medicate and numb my awareness of my need. And here’s what happens when we do this. When we mindlessly fill our own needs, we replace God’s righteous place in our life.

Ruth Chou Simons said it so beautifully:

God makes us needy that we might find Him generous; He allows us to feel too weak to handle all the details that we might delight in His sovereignty. His attributes and provisions are most clearly seen through the lens of necessity.”

I will never assume anything about your life or how you make space for Jesus. But throughout the years I have learned that if I’m doing it, I’m usually not alone. If Ruth is right, then God has created an insatiable need in our life – not for us to remain empty, but to stay connected to the Source of life. The Word says this exact same truth in these words:

Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” [ John 15:5 ]

What have we allowed to numb our awareness of our need for God? What is it personally for you?

Have you filled your need with Netflix and ice cream? Or maybe you’re the opposite: all of your free time is spent working out and counting calories.

Are you numbing your need with whatever feels easy in the moment? Mindless iPhone games, videos of people you don’t even know?

Are you allowing fear to convince you that it holds God’s place? When you are reminded of your need for God, are the “what-ifs” spreading out in your mind and cutting off your connection to the Vine?

Have you worked hard to be anything but needy; clinging to your independence only to be knocked down by the waves over and over?

Be gentle with yourself as you ask these questions, as God is merciful with you. He is patient and He knows you individually. Becoming sensitive again to our need for God is not always a momentary fix. It is a slow burning away, a tearing down and rebuilding brick by brick kind of work. A refining.

All I know is that I don’t want to feel full anymore from all the wrong things. I don’t want to stay empty from remaining connected to the wrong kind of vine. And my guess is, you are tired of the emptiness, too. It feels complicated but is simple at its core. Run to Jesus. Let Him show you the spaces in you that you have allowed to become numb from the medication the world has prescribed. He promises to hear our cries. He promises what we’re all looking for deep down: kindness and compassion.

He will care for the needy and neglected when they cry to Him for help. The humble and helpless will know His kindness, for with a Father’s compassion he will save their souls.”

[Psalm 72:12-13]

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