Kids have needs. Lots of needs. Constant, mind-numbing, are-you-serious, can-mommy-and-daddy-get-a-break kinds of needs.
When our oldest child, Evan, started kindergarten, it was a bit of adjustment. (This adjustment may have involved a few tears, some blood-curdling screams, and gym-full of kindergarten parents thinking, “Well, at least that’s not my kid.”)
Fortunately, he adjusted quickly and fell into a “goodbye” routine on school days. Each day I walk Evan to school, taking him as far inside the school as I can. I give him a hug, say goodbye and tell him to have a great day, and he says, “Bye, Daddy!” Then he stands and watches me leave.
“Bye, Daddy!” he says as I walk away. I wave back.
“Bye, Daddy!” he says as I reach the door. I wave again.
“Bye, Daddy!” he says as I head out the door and he sees me through the school office window. I wave again.
Then he runs into the hallway where there is one final window through which he can see me. “Bye, Daddy!” he says for the last time.
We repeat the routine every day, to the point where one woman in the school office explained to another who my son is by simply saying, “Bye, Daddy.” “Oh,” the other woman said, nodding knowingly.
Although this idiosyncrasy is admittedly cute, there have been a few times where I wished he could just walk straight into school like all the rest of the kids. Parents, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes these kinds of things drive us crazy.
“Do you really need to go through this ridiculously long routine?”
“Can’t you just do that yourself?”
“Do you really need to shout at me until you get my full attention?”
“Can it wait just for a minute? I’m busy!”
In the moment these types of quirks can be annoying. But isn’t it interesting that when our kids grow up just a bit and move past whatever quirky stage they were in, we miss that thing they used to do?
We miss being needed. And it reveals something important about ourselves: God made us to be needed!
Meeting someone’s need requires us to give something—it might be time or money or talent. It might be giving our kids the grace to be needy. But we can’t meet a need without giving of ourselves.
It’s not by accident that we experience such satisfaction when we give to meet another’s need. God, in his most essential nature, is giving and generous, and he created us in his image!
Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake. If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”
And James echoes that God is the giver of “every good and perfect gift” (Jam. 1:17).
Over and over throughout the scriptures, God shows himself to be a Father who delights in being needed by his children—and who never fails to meet the needs we have. In fact, he created us with a fundamental, instinctive, metaphysical, soul-thirst that can only be satisfied by him. C. S. Lewis famously summed this up: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Yet God created us not just to need him, but to imitate him in meeting the needs of others. Consider that Jesus not only cited our love for each other as the criteria by which people would know that we are Christ-followers (John 13:34-35), he took the radical—and, frankly, terrifying!—step of equating himself with neediest of all: “Whatever you did”—and did not do—“for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:31–46).
We were made to need God. And we were made to imitate him by meeting the needs of others.
And that’s why our fallen nature so often rebels against the idea of meeting another’s need. Our Enemy knows that when we give generously of ourselves to another, we are participating in the very character and nature of God. He will do anything to stop us!
Yet if we resist the pull of our lesser selves and heed the call of the New Creation inside us, we find the soul-fulfilling joy of embodying the purpose for which we were created.
* * *
One fall day Evan and I walked to school just like normal as the soft dawn light lingered, dappling the forest floor yellow-green beneath the trees. We reached the school, as usual, a few minutes before the tardy bell, walking through the school office to the hallway door where I gave him a hug and a kiss, hurriedly fixed his hair, and said, “Have a great day, bud!”
“Bye, Daddy!” he said.
I turned away and began walking toward the door, waiting for the next, “Bye, Daddy!” in our ritual.
But I didn’t hear anything.
I turned and looked back toward the hallway door. He was gone.
Hurrying outside, I reached the window to the hallway just in time to see a blond head and a bobbing Transformers backpack disappear into an adjacent corridor.
And just like that our little ritual was done. He didn’t need it anymore.
And my heart broke just a little.
But I knew why I felt this pang of sadness. You see, I was made to be needed.
And so were you.