The Gift of Dependence
“Would you please get me some apple juice?” my husband John asked. He was standing in front of the open refrigerator longing for juice but unable to get it for himself. One broken wrist was in a cast, the other in bandages recovering from surgery to repair a major dislocation. But that is another story.
John is a strong and capable man, used to being leaned upon. This needing thing was both new and uncomfortable for him. And it lasted for months. It was hard—for him. For me, it was an opportunity to love and care for him. I remember the apple juice moment because it was one of the times my heart rose up in irritation that he couldn't just get it himself. What is extraordinary, because I am not by nature a patient woman, is how most of the time, I loved having him need me.
He needed me! Clearly. Unapologetically. Indisputably. Externally and internally. The man needed me.
What John learned in those months is partly detailed in his book Walking with God. What I learned is that I came alive being needed. His dependence was a great gift to me and also, in the end, to him.
I’m remembering it now because I just washed my twenty-year-old son’s hair in the sink. He’s recovering from shoulder surgery and is unable to move or lift his arm for the next six weeks. He can’t drive. He can’t tie his shoes. He can’t yet wash his own hair. Call me crazy, but I was thrilled to do it.
I still remember leaning over the kitchen sink as a child and having my mother wash my hair. Her fingernails gently working the lather into my scalp is a memory that is evoked every time I have the pleasure of going to the hair salon. I felt cared for. Loved. Safe. Did she love doing it for me as much as I just loved washing my child’s hair?
Being needed is a gift. Yes, we value independence. To be mobile. Self-sufficient. Able to take care for ourselves. Yay. But we are a dependent people. Dependent for air, food, water. Needful of others. Needful of God. He is our Divine Helper, our Ezer, without whom we will not be able to live a life of meaning filled with what matters most. Truth. Beauty. Goodness. Love.
How do we get our thirst quenched when we are unable to quench it ourselves? How do we care for ourselves when we are unable to move? How do our needs get addressed when they are too deep for us to tend?
We need God. Realizing that we need him is a profound, humbling, and extraordinary gift. Because when we turn to him, we find him. When we call out to him, he answers. When we cry, he comforts. Not merely or even primarily in the tangible and immediate way we may yearn for, but more often in a deep, steadying encounter that becomes clear only as the moment has passed. We are not alone! We are not orphans left to figure out life on our own! We are dependent! Do you think that maybe God loves it when we realize it? Don’t you love it when someone you love needs you? I believe God enjoys it when we call out to him, recognize that we need him and lean into his unending grace-filled strength.
Being needed is a gift.
These days my son needs me in ways that are tangible, and his need of me is a gift to this mother’s heart. My availability to him is my gift to him. That’s how it works in the Kingdom of God. Win win. Gift gift.