We had company today. Darby my 18 year old made a pasta dish. Maili, my 10 year old set the table and poured the drinks. Erin Claire, 12, made a delicious cake. Delaney made a salad, and I made the garlic bread. Our guests were not only well fed, but were engaged in fruitful, God-honoring and laughter infused conversation. We talked of Denise and her many strengths. Everything went wonderfully.
Denise, as her days were drawing to a close, knew she was going to a better place. She had no worries for herself in dying, even as she had no worries for herself in living. But she was worried for those left behind, parents who would lose a daughter, children who would lose a mother, and a husband without his wife. What could I say to her? “We’ll be just fine” would be not only untrue, but discouraging. “We won’t be able to make it” would not only be untrue, but frightening. My dilemma reflects her dilemma- I want to be needed, but I need to not be necessary. Her dilemma, however, is all our dilemma. We all want to be needed, but all fear being necessary.
The deeper the love relationship, the more we are haunted by this challenge. I can’t tell my wife either that I will make it without her, or that I won’t make it without her. When I moved our family from the church I planted in Virginia I had the same problem. If they can make it, indeed thrive without me there, why was I there? If they wither and die without me, on the other hand, have I really served them well? And now, as I labor at Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Bible College, the problem is the same. I want to be not just an asset, but an invaluable one. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want either institution to whither away without me.
The dilemma exists, however, because of the truth underlying it. On the one hand I am not in the least ultimately necessary. Whatever I bring to the table, whether it be for my family, for my calling, for my writing or teaching, could be brought by others. Wisdom will assuredly not die with me. Jesus, after all, is the source of every good gift. His is the grace that once flowed through my bride that now flows through my children. His is the shepherding of the saints in Virginia, whether I am there or not. His is the truth being disseminated at Ligonier, whether I am there or not.
On the other hand, however, this same Jesus, for now, is pleased to work through me in my family, in my teaching and writing. He is the one who called me, and when He calls, we go. Of course, I must remember that He didn’t call me because of my gifts. Instead He gifts me because of His call. My glory isn’t that I am needed. Rather, His glory is that He not only meets my needs, but uses me, a beggar, to meet the needs of others. I need to give up the need to be needed. I need instead to give thanks for being used.