My heart aches today. I just got an email from a man whose marriage is crumbling and very likely to dissolve. He made some big mistakes; she is choosing not to forgive. They have hurt each other deeply and each are demanding that the other person do “things” because it seems like that is the only way they can ever feel better about themselves. The hidden message of these demands? “I need you to do this and that so I can believe I am worth loving and can feel valuable.”
To a great degree the word “need” is the problem. The moment you need another person – your father, your mother, your spouse, your children, your boss, your pastor – to do or say something so you can feel valuable, significant, loveable, important, you will find yourself hopelessly in pain and despair – because people, even the “best of people,” are unreliable, selfish, fallible, dare I say sinful.
Is it okay to “want” folks to do and say things? Sure. The turmoil arises when those things are no longer wants but are allowed to become needs. At that point you have chosen to enslave yourself to the other person – they get to decide by their choices and behaviors how you feel about yourself and your life.
In his book, Single, Married, Separated, and Life After Divorce, Dr. Myles Munroe opens with an extraordinary discussion about being single. He clarifies that in the Garden the Lord saw it was “not good for man to be alone” – he needed a community of others like himself. However, man did not need to be married to be complete – God did not say that it was not good for man to be single – Adam was a unique, separate and whole person in and of himself who subsequently chose to marry Eve. He did not “need” her; he “wanted” her.
Until you and I stop looking for ourselves in someone else’s body – until we reach the state of “single” – relationships are always going to be a challenge.
So how does one achieve the state of single? By pursuing the goal of becoming the separate, unique and whole person the Lord wants you to become: by “being conformed to the image of Christ” (Romans 8:29). Jesus thoroughly understood that no human being could meet his ego needs, his soul needs, his spiritual needs – He did not need anybody except His Father. Until we can settle that with God ourselves, life will continue to be at least confusing, probably painful.
Let me ask you to ponder the words of Paul: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
Apparently Paul didn’t “need” anything from any human being – everything he needed he found in Christ. Wow, that secret would probably save a marriage or two…