For the first couple decades of my life, I chose to see so little of my core neediness, I wasn’t yet human.
Did you ever know a kid who won’t get his hands dirty, who sends his mom to get him out of things, who’s demanding and coddled and thinks his poop doesn’t stink?
It’s safe to say he might not be a very friendly person.
I was protected and favored and snotty and I became prejudiced against those I found “needy.” Not the orphans in Africa, of course. They were tragic and terrifying. I was disturbed by the needy people at our church who took from us without realizing we didn’t have unlimited time and resources. They expected without giving in return because we were the model for Christians in our community of friends. As the pastor’s family, it was our job to fill others’ needs.
And it made me just a little resentful.
Fame had its perks, like some special treatment around town, even free bags of groceries now and then. Or when the cute girl in youth group knows you before you’ve even met. As an introvert, I had “quiet strength,” but I was just painfully shy and didn’t like attention, especially as Dad’s illustrations.
Everyone knew me but no one knew me. I didn’t know myself.
It can be a real struggle for pastor’s kids, and in the protected, privileged space around such a kid an ugly sort of pride can grow that looks down on those who willingly put themselves beneath him. The low-self-esteem, no-self-respect folks so hungry for grace that pour into the wide arms of the church, they frankly scare the sheltered, unscathed church kids who wonder what went wrong with them.
I was smart enough to be civil, even kind. But I soon learned not to let them in or they’d latch on, as they always did at the slightest provocation. It’s a real problem in many churches and it doesn’t get talked about.
Neediness is the world’s worst cologne. And I could detect it from a good distance.
So I lived alone. And it was only once I realized how needy I was that I became human.
It was 1981, a church BBQ. I was 7 and 1/2 and alone in the pool. The adults were nearby talking so I thought I’d try something and just walk a little farther toward the deep end.
Just as I turned back to see if anyone noticed, I felt nothing beneath my toes and said something really impressive like “Splutter-blluuurrglpllfft!” And my super-dad dropped his full plate of chicken and potato salad and dove in right there–polo shirt, flip-flops, aviator sunglasses and all–grabbing me around the waist and hoisting me to the side of the pool.
I was actually very near the side as it was, and I’d had plenty of swimming lessons. But it didn’t matter. For all we knew, I could have died. Neither did it matter that I was more than a little embarrassed with everyone looking at me.
I knew his love. I knew deep down I was chosen. And knowing that was the real help I’d come to need down the line.
Knowing that made me know I was needy too. Knowing that made me human.
But I didn’t learn it at 7 1/2.
For a kid like I was, that would have been pure gold. But it’d be many years before I linked that up–that piece hiding there for me all along, waiting for me to claim it and write it out. But that’s the great news: we can write these things out and choose to receive what we find as the pieces that helped us become who we truly are.
Through writing this, my belief has been reinforced that to possess our Father’s love is to become ourselves. Mine is just one way, one story. We can all find and possess our Father’s love if we’ll claim it and write our story out.
It may just be our greatest possession.
And it’s meant to know and to share.
Seek it. Respect it. Let your story out.
May you know him like you never did before. May you write him and represent him and live him for others to know they’re chosen too.
Yes, you can choose to believe it.
You were chosen. And it’s your choice to be.
For the higher purpose,