Making Space for the Need


Tammy Perlmutter -Sentences4

By: Tammy Perlmutter | Twitter: @Tammygrrl

I came across a sentence that made me cringe.

I was reading a book called Preferring Christ: A Devotional Workbook on the Rule of St. Benedict by Norvene Vest. The structure is simple. She takes a small portion of the Rule and writes a commentary about it. Then she has a small paragraph or two for reflection. Then there is a space for the reader’s own prayers and observations. Some days I have more of a response than others. This particular day the portion of the Rule didn’t touch me all that much; it was talking about a certain kind of weak-willed monk. But then in the comment section she wrote this:

It is as important to offer one’s needs as it is to offer one’s gifts.

It made me cringe because I knew what she was saying. I’m not even very good at offering my gifts, let alone my needs, and I have definite difficulty offering my pain. I want to be the strong one, the friend people come to for comfort and encouragement. I want to be the “stable” one.

I don’t like feeling weak and vulnerable or admitting I need help. A lot of it is pride, I know, but the biggest part of it is fear. Fear of rejection, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being shamed, fear of being seen as an attention-seeker, fear of being judged as immature.

“How far it is from one being to its closest neighbor!” ~Hans Urs von Balthasar

Fear can create a false sense of safety; it isolates and destroys. It makes us easy prey for temptation and misdirection, for misplaced trust and compulsive self-sufficiency. Fear cripples, leaving us stuck and panic-stricken, but too self-conscious to ask for help. What is fear but the mind turned inward, helpless as the only source of its own rescue?

There are hundreds of seemingly good reasons to not share our needs with another. But when I asked myself, “Why should I offer my needs?” I went to the place I’ve encountered plenty of needy people; the Bible.

We meet a king’s counselor struck with leprosy, a dead girl being grieved, women weeping for their wombs to be filled, a paralytic being let down through a roof, a young mother begging for death in the desert, a Roman soldier who lost an ear, a widow on the edge of abject poverty, a church in constant terror of being discovered.

What these people have in common is that their need was either obvious or they revealed their need. They asked for help. 

So, what happens when people offer their needs to others?

Healing happens. The hungry are fed. The dead are brought back to life. Twisted and useless limbs are restored. Souls are mended. Sins are forgiven. Bridges are built between one heart and another.

I’m no different from any of those people mentioned. I have needs too. I am weak, fearful, ashamed, hiding. I need resurrection and healing and mending. I am so hungry. I know there are parts of me that need to be brought back to life. My soul could always use some mending. And sins . . . need I go on? And the bridges. Who doesn’t need a few bridges rebuilt?

I think we as Christians need to repair more bridges than anyone else. These days the needs are evident, overwhelming even. How can we be a safe place for people to admit their need? The only way is by us doing it first.

One of my pastors, Neil Taylor, preached a sermon once where he quoted John Piper: “Books don’t change people, paragraphs do–sometimes sentences.”

It is as important to offer one’s needs as it is to offer one’s gifts.

Change starts with us. Let that be one of those sentences. Let us be one of those sentences that ignite transformation. With whatever strength we have left, let’s beat back the fear with others, instead of alone.

Let’s be a people who anticipate need and confess it too. Let’s be a church filled with believers who make space for the need.

TammyPerl (2)

I write about unabridged life, fragmented faith, and investing in the mess on my personal blog. I am the founder and curator of The Mudroom, a collaborative blog encouraging us to invest in the mess. I live in an intentional community in Chicago with my husband, Mike and daughter, Phoenix, who I write about in my blog series Life Along the Spectrum: Weird and Wondrous Tales of Everyday Autism. I am part of the newly-published Inter Varsity Press anthology Soul Bare.