I have recently realized how much effort I put into convincing people, including myself, that I’m not high maintenance; that I’m not one of those women.
- I spend time fixing my hair or choosing an outfit, desiring to look a certain way, but always with a hidden motive of looking like I didn’t try too hard.
- I carefully plan and prepare a meal, then deflect or even undermine the compliments of those who enjoy it.
- I work hard on a task, but minimize the effort it took, saying things like, “No big deal, it was nothing!”
- I strive for the appearance that life comes easily to me, that the business of a day passes by effortlessly, that I do not get flustered or stressed when things go wrong.
I am a product of a culture that values independence, and a spiritual background that tells me to serve others. I am so afraid of being needy. Needy people, those who take more than they give, exhaust me. But, if I’m honest, my strong sensitivity to and dislike of needy people is rooted in fear — fear that I will be perceived as needy, fear that if I am found to be needy, I will be rejected.
This fear is an incredibly powerful motive to give, to serve, to say yes to other’s requests. Yes, I can squeeze one more thing into my day, yes, I can take care of that for you, yes, I can help you, yes, I can come early and stay late, yes, yes, yes. As long as I can say yes, nobody will know that I have limitations, I will not be seen as needy, and I will earn people’s love and affection.
The tricky part about this “yes” mindset, as a believer in Jesus, is that He commands us to love others. He was the ultimate example of laying down His interests for the sake of the world. He says, “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35) and “whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant” (Matt. 20:26). Truly, God’s calling on the life of a believer is that it would be marked by the Christlike humility that values others above ourselves.
And yet, caring for others is not my only—nor, I daresay, is it my first—priority as a believer.
There is one soul I have been given sole responsibility to care for: my own. The only thing I have that is eternal is my soul. No other person can tend to my soul. No other person has been asked to. I alone have been entrusted with this great responsibility, of housing in my body one unique soul, and carrying it through this life and into the next, when it will be united at last with its Creator and Savoir.
My soul is high maintenance. My soul is needy. It is strong, and powerful, and has great capacity for love. But it also requires daily, even hourly attention in order to thrive.
My soul needs to be regularly carried to Jesus for honest confession and healing. When my soul is thriving, because I have taken the time to allow it to connect with and be filled by Jesus, it overflows with love and grace and healing into the lives of others. But when my soul is thirsty, because I have neglected it in the name of some good cause, I quickly grow “weary of doing good” (Gal. 6:9), and in my exhaustion, I begin to grumble about “needy” people. The truth is that it is not the needy people who drain me; it is my own failure to nurture my soul.
In John 15:4-5, Jesus says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Every flight attendant says the same thing, instructing passengers about what to do in case there is a change in cabin pressure. When the oxygen masks drop down, “secure your own mask before assisting others.” To secure my own oxygen mask is to focus more on abiding in the vine than on bearing fruit; Jesus promises that if we do so, fruit will come. This is the attitude I want to have towards my soul, and towards serving others. When my soul’s needs are met, I am a useful disciple, a powerful ambassador of God’s love to the world.
Kara spends her days at home with her three kids, Dewey, Ruthie, and Charlie. She is married to Matt, who leads Mosaic’s elementary team. They love living in Springdale.