What kind of images come to mind when you hear the word needy?
Is there a certain name that pops up on your phone that makes you hesitant to answer? Is it the person in your life who takes more from you than they give? More money, more time, more energy. The word draining is often closely associated with needy in my brain.
Why then, would I want to tell you A Story about Being Needy?
Well, actually, I think that maybe there is something kind of wonderful about being needy.
This week I listened to Taido compare James and John’s request of Jesus to that of the blind man Bartimaeus in Mark 10. He talked about how we are all so much more like James and John, angling for positions of prestige and power. We are working hard to be noticed, to have our talents recognized and our accomplishments acknowledged.
In the familiar story, James and John request special seats next to Jesus in glory. “Seat us at your right and your left,” they ask. Jesus replies by asking them if they will be able to walk the same road he will walk, and though they do not yet know what the road looks like, they answer with a confident, resounding, “We can.”
Jesus gathers all his disciples to himself and reminds them that his kingdom is upside down from our natural thinking. Left to ourselves, we are looking for an entrance in all the wrong places. In my notebook, I scribbled these words of Taido’s:
“Jesus reminds them that the Kingdom of God is lovingly given in faith, not grasped in power.”
Cut the scene to Bartimaeus, a blind man on the side of the road, calling out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”
He, like James and John, has a request. He is calling out loudly, making a needy and embarrassing scene. People tell him to be quiet, but Jesus calls to him and asks him what he wants.
I love that Jesus does this. It seems obvious to me that the blind man wants to be healed, but Jesus always gives people the opportunity to ask. I believe there is something in the asking that reveals our hearts. We bare our souls when we make a request. Out loud. With words.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
“Rabbi, I want to see.”
“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
Taido pointed out several interesting details about this exchange and you can listen to him yourself if you want to hear all of them, but what remains with me is that when he compared Bartimaeus to James and John, he said that Bartimaeus approached Jesus out of his neediness.
When I describe someone as “being needy,” I am not usually paying them a compliment.
But in the last year, I have been as needy as I can ever remember.
We needed others to send us to Scotland. We needed strangers to welcome us when we arrived.
I needed help knowing where to buy a school uniform.
I had to call someone and ask how to get medical care when Ben broke his arm.
Someone else told me where to look for peanut butter.
We needed someone to tell us that a house for rent was coming available that would be a better fit for our family that where we currently live.
I have needed strangers and brand new friends to give me a place to sleep while traveling. To show me how to use the Underground. To tell me where to get a bicycle. To feed me. To walk me through this new life abroad.
There have been so many moments in the last six months that I have felt like a small child again.
Or like a blind man.
And my journey of “neediness” is far from over.
Just this week I asked three different ladies for help in understanding an educational system for which I have no frame of reference.
Last Tuesday I needed a ride to an event I wanted to attend.
On Thursday I needed lunch and a pair of grace-filled, listening ears.
There is something inside me that rails against this feeling of being needy. In tears, I shook my fist at this feeling on the Aberdeen Beach just after we had arrived and were sleeping in someone’s spare bedroom.
But slowly, as I have been daily humbled by my blindness, I have started to see the slivers of light shine through the grace-cracked walls of my independence.
When Taido told the story about Bartimaeus and he compared us all to James and John, I thought,
“There’s something really beautiful about hearing this story and identifying most with Bartimaeus.”
Not that I cannot also identify with the striving and grasping of James and John. I most certainly can.
But in this moment, I am stripped bare. I am the loud and needy one.
And to be honest, most days, I find it embarrassing and unseemly.
But late at night, when I am awake and thinking of Bartimaeus and his newly restored sight, I wonder if I were to ask him if he could trade away his lifetime of being blind for a lifetime of seeing, would he not answer that by trading it away he would have to give up his encounter with the Great Healer?
Surely he would say that he is thankful for all those years of sitting on the side of the road in need, that those years were what marked him and made him ready to meet Jesus.
And will my answer not be the same? Will I not be thankful for my moments of most desperate need? For all of the not knowing?
Will I not be amazed by what I got to see as a result of embracing my blindness?
Most days it is maddening to be the person in the story who is crying out for help.
But actually, in the upside-down-from-the-world way of looking at life, being needy is a gift.
A painful, humbling and beautiful gift.
Being in a place of need has revealed me for who I truly am, and I join Bartimaeus in his cry,
“Son of David, have mercy on me.”