I hate needing people.
I've spent a lot of my adult life actively cultivating toughness and independence. It hasn't come naturally. There's nothing wrong with seeking to be stronger and more capable, but I think I've crossed into a kind of unhealthy place. A place where I often feel like a failure if I have to call someone for help or prayer, or if I'm unable to, say, pick up and move a 50-inch TV. A place where my wrath is unleashed if anyone (especially a man) implies that I'm weak or can't handle myself. An island where I try to heal my hurts by telling myself I don't need anyone, people are undependable anyway, the only person I can always count on to have my back is me.
My parents, especially my dad, are the only people with totally free passage over my moat of self-reliance. When I was first navigating life and homeownership by myself, I had to let them help me. I couldn't do it all alone. Years later, that's still true more often than I like. But even though I don't think they should have to help their 33-year-old daughter maintain her lawn mower, or come over to let her cable guy in, I can handle it because I know that my neediness will never drive them away. They're not keeping accounts. They will still love and accept me no matter what. I don't feel that security with anyone outside my immediate family. That's not the fault of my close friends, who are steadfast, amazing, and have never given me reason to doubt them. It's just my own personal damage. I don't want to be a burden to anyone, making their lives difficult or giving them a reason to ditch me. And when it comes to church community, that's compounded by the vulnerability involved in talking about deeper needs. Handing people an opportunity to mock or shrug off or totally misunderstand your neediness is a scary, scary thing.
I generally don't have a problem accepting my dependence on God. I'm constantly aware that I'm dependent on Him for everything, including the air I breathe. But my feelings about needing other people do affect how I feel about my need of God. I constantly fight the (false) impression that He's exasperated with me, wondering when I'll ever get a grip and stop pestering Him all the time. I feel apologetic when I get too petition-y in prayer. I get annoyed that with every year, I feel more dependent on Him, not less, and shouldn't I have made progress by now? Last night I flipped through old sermon notes for encouragement and inspiration. Again and again, over more than a year's worth of sermons, I saw this theme reflected back at me:
God wants us to live in childlike dependence on Him.
We can't appreciate God's strength and power without knowing our own weakness.
Our self-image must be deconstructed before faith can become real.
The goal is not self-sufficiency, but Christ-sufficiency.
Needing God is not remedial Christianity, but mature Christianity.
Self-reliance is the enemy of our souls.
We were not created for autonomy.
The thing is, I like to be needed. I like to be there for others in practical ways. It gives me a chance to show that I care, and be part of God's work in their lives. It also helps me feel like my life means something. I fully understand the value of interdependence on the giving end, but have a hard time comprehending it on the receiving end. However, I recently had the revelation that spiritually healthy people are not afraid to be needed in a healthy way. If someone expects a relationship, even a casual friendship, to be 100% about her and her needs, something is wrong. If someone tears you down or cuts you out of his life for being too needy – in a normal way, not needy to a codependent, vampirish degree – the problem is with him, not you. That doesn't totally take away the pain or humiliation, but it helps.
Neediness is messy and unpleasant and uncomfortable. But it's an unavoidable part of being a human. Some people are just better at hiding or suppressing it than others.