Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Let's Make It Ok To Be Needy

Sometimes you read yet another Christian book and instead of the warm fuzzies it triggers a deep and unmet need. A vision for the whole community of believers where there was formerly blindness and unseeing. A sudden realization of the plank in the proverbial eye. Our collective eye. Who are we seeing and writing about? It's important.

Dear Christians Who Write About Faith,

Please stop this endless parade of heroes and stop telling us we all have to be one. I am tired. Body, soul, and mind. And I don’t want to be a savior anymore. Stop telling me we all have to be the saviors. Don’t give me only the stories that look like do-gooding.

Don’t just tell me the story about that sacrificial single taking care of orphans.

Tell me about the orphans. And how their needs and dependence are part of the ministry, too.

Refrain from telling me again how someone’s organization is Changing The World and show me how the underprivileged are pretty cool, too. (Without condescension; have you noticed that?) If we are so poor in spirit then why are we always talking about the champions in the tale? Why must every tale include Mighty Marvels?

Maybe the appeal corresponds directly with our ability to overcome?

A hero overcomes.

What if we can’t overcome? What if we are the ones
who wait forever beside the healing pools
to be helped; to wade in? What if we have waited all our lives?
What if we are waiting still? But no, we must talk, talk,
talk about the Peter and the Paul, or the faithful martyr.
The naked man with demons? Nobody wants to see that.
Nor do we look fondly upon the Girl Who Was Dead
as one of the Top Ten of good book notables.
She was a mere recipient of a miracle. The Dependent.
Eyes on Jesus here, please. We like pizzazz. Pretty people,
miracles, romantic jobs. Everyone covets romantic jobs
and romantic job stories. I wonder from what our aversion
to mundane life stems? An unacknowledged fear, perhaps.
We did not notice nor could we see, so busy were we
doing The Lord’s Work.

The Lord's Work? Oh dear God what I would give to have a volume of Jesus’ carpenter days. Maybe a journal.

I imagine what it might say:

“Had another full day sanding for the next project. I always get to sand because Joseph says I am so thorough at making smooth the rough places. It gets a little tiresome, but I think of the beauty of all the pieces coming together into one final masterpiece. My Father chose wisely in placing me here. Still, some days I do get a little bit bored. Sometimes it feels like even my callouses hurt. There is not enough magic in my fingers to keep preserve me from this pain. I am looking forward to Sabbath. Someday, I’m going to wander the desert and bask in all that time to myself. Maybe my hands will stop aching.”

Wouldn’t that have been something? A journal of the mundane? Of Jesus doing The Lord's Work?

People, I’m tired of pretty. I’m tired of romantic. I’m tired of jobs and roles and boxes and gates.

I’m tired of all this focus on the great people building the kingdom and what a big beautiful sacrifice it is and how the unseen will one day be seen and acknowledged like all the Important Ones but not until we all reach The Other Side.

Why can’t the Important Ones see the unseen now? Why should the Important Ones only ever keep seeing and speaking about the Other Important Ones? Why the small world?

Why such focus on what we must always be doing? What of those who cannot build but only be and even just the being is a battle? Can you tell me that story? Can I see Jesus in the darkness, please? That’s where the light needs to be.

Can we bear to hear about someone’s daily, unceasing pain without thinking “boy, they sure do complain a lot. If I complained that much I’d get nothing done, either.” And all the while the story being told goes unheard, because we got bored with someone’s "whining" over their battle with illness. If a Christian in a group of Christians isn’t sure they can share one more time the same prayer request they keep bringing to the table, for fear of being a burden, or because it seems pointless to expect a response, we have failed to grasp the gospel message.

It’s not just for the heroes. It’s for the invisible, the feeble, the homeless, the naked, the prisoner, the lonely, and the underprivileged. The children. They deserve to be put in your books, too. Fair representation and equal time. Let's make it okay to be needy. Please?

Who are you writing about today?

Lectio Divina:

“Every valley shall be lifted up,
   and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
   and the rough places a plain.” Isaiah 40:4 (ESV)


  1. I love this. You put so well what has been bothering me for awhile. The very definition of heroes implies condescension. Someone has to be the victim, the disempowered, so the hero can be validated. The needy in all stories are never truly "rescued". The best stories thus far written only have a hero who started out in power, then gave up that power to be a victim among the victim. But what about those victims who never even had that choice????????

  2. Marianne CampbellApril 16, 2014 at 7:58 AM

    We really only need one hero, and he became the 'victim among the victims'. You'd think that example was obvious enough for us to follow. It's the only way to become connected with who we are, and THAT is the only way to communicate a believable truth.

  3. So often our worth seems to be measured by what we can do, the things we can say or write, or even how we look. But really, it's only about who we are, as beings that exist. Not what we are. I can be boring, ugly, tired and needy. I walk along with my fellow humans. We are all loved the same. And we are not less than the hero.

    This was a very thought provoking and encouraging post, Jamie. Thank you for writing and sharing it.

  4. TheReluctantWidowApril 16, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    I really need this today. I struggle with parenting one of my adopted children, who in addition to medical needs, has a bunch of emotional needs with names that are just listed as acronyms. I am tired of everyone reminding me that "God called you to do this…" or saying "You can do this, you have to do this" but not offering any substantial help in doing it. I am not Jesus. I don't know how to leave the other three to their own devices while I "go after" this one. I sometimes wonder if it's OK to say, "I am not up to this task." and not be the super mom that everyone wants me to be.

  5. As someone who is feeling particularly whiny this week, I needed to hear this. My mind wants to argue, but my soul is telling it, "Shhh...shut up, mind. She's right." Thank you!

  6. It is so totally right to say that you are not up to the task. We can't be supermoms contrary to what the media might say. We do our best with the strength God gives us. And more of us need to notice those who need help and then give it rather than spout platitudes.

  7. Girl, yes!!!! Each story is one of overcoming. Here's to telling better stories with truth, heart, and soul!

  8. This:"Why can’t the Important Ones see the unseen now? Why should the Important Ones only ever keep seeing and speaking about the Other Important Ones? Why the small world?" and this: "If a Christian in a group of Christians isn’t sure they can share one more time the same prayer request they keep bringing to the table, for fear of being a burden, or because it seems pointless to expect a response, we have failed to grasp the gospel message." If we could all learn to notice more the "underdog" even we ourselves are one of the underdogs, maybe we would learn how to truly love like Jesus did. He noticed everyone. And with all this, Jesus really should get the glory, because He gave the ultimate sacrifice. I think our eyes need to be turned to Jesus even when noticing those in need.

  9. Advocate for justice. Lament the injustice. Walk gently and humbly on the path of Creator. (me- paraphrasing.)

  10. Will you be my sage on the mountain? You say wise and beautiful things. The truth made simple. I need that.

  11. Thank you. It was one of those stomach-lurching confirmations, when I hovered my finger over the publish button. :)

  12. Ha! You could never be ugly, in my eyes. But yes to all you are saying. I'm glad you found it encouraging. Sometimes I feel like I'm too foolish to be the one to say things, and I am certainly not perfect in my message delivery. But my heart would not let me stay silent.

  13. I am never up to the task of parenting. Unless it's in five minute increments where I'm like, "yeah, Jamie, you are rockin' this!" And then a showdown happens and my humanity shows up. In a not-so-pretty way. I am probably more often needy than not, and I want the church to tell me that is okay. That I am loved right straight through my weakness and I don't have to do even one more thing to be desirable to God. No one should be expected to be a super mom. You are loved as you are right this very moment. And I pray that shows up for you in tangible ways because it is so hard and so isolating sometimes.

  14. Lol! I'm not opposed to argument. ;) I implicate myself in this whole thing, too. I have talked too much about and tried too much to be the savior. And it's dawned on me that this is not the whole picture. I'm ready to be taken to task for my words, if necessary, because I needed that badly to share my heart. But you are not a whiner. Whining is a socially constructed word to silence needs. You have permission to be gracious to yourself. <3

  15. Thank you, Marvia. I'm so grateful for your understanding. For seeing my heart. I want us to tell the whole truth! <3

  16. I think that is the point Jesus made when He said "Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done it unto me." What if the idea is that He is to be glorified not through the mere act of the miracle but through the person who was made new through that miracle? So in seeing that person we ARE keeping our eyes on Jesus. Thinking out loud.

  17. What I was saying was, that Jesus wasn't really a hero either. Even the story of resurrection has him being the passive recipient of God's act. To walk as he walked means to deliberately deny the existence of all forms of heroism, to become the victim of heroes and expose the fallacy of hero stories. The danger is that we are so attuned to hero stories of the powerful saving the weak, who have been denied agency and thus their humanity through being cast as victims in need of salvation, that we translate anti-hero stories into that framework and miss the whole point. And yes, I do realize that a good bit of the New Testament falls into this trap, but there is a good bit that runs counter to it, too, and provides a world view to judge the more power-over elements. Disclaimer: I do not believe in biblical infallibility and haven't for a long time. I don't wish to offend anyone who does, but obviously there will be difficulty having conversations that are critical of certain ideas or texts with someone who does not think we are allowed to be critical of them.

  18. Your worth and value are not about what you do, but who you are. Finding that center of your being, and putting God there, you will be of infinite worth. The doing takes care of itself. You can't do to create meaning in your life. You have to be the meaning, the person who has the infinite worth of God in them. And you don't judge yourself by looking at what you have done. Just believe that the doing will take care of itself.

  19. Sorry if that was too cryptic. I was mirroring your words to some extent because you put it so well. Sometimes I process my understanding that way. :)

  20. Sorry if that was not too clear. I was mirroring your words to some extent because you put it so well. Sometimes I process my understanding that way. :)

  21. You're in good company, here. I miss our talks. We're overdue for some quality time together.


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