Needy Neighbor

{Image via Crosswalk.}

{Image via Crosswalk.}

I didn’t know what to do as I watched a grown man sobbing across the kitchen table in our sunny, cinderblock apartment in Guatemala. I felt uncomfortable, to say the least, knowing that words would not comfort and that I am not exactly what you’d call “a hugger.”

Victor was in need. Again. And he hated himself for it. He was ever so tired of being needy.

Sitting at our kitchen table, he saw the scales as completely tipped in my favor. I was the white, foreign, stay-at-home mom, and he was the dirty, needy orange juice salesman. He wasn’t only out of money; he was out of dignity.

But at that moment I wished Victor could have understood the truth. Heck, I wish I could have understood it too: I was just as needy.

***

Victor didn’t know how much we relied on other people just to live in Guatemala. He didn’t know that almost every time we traveled to and from the United States, someone else bought our plane ticket.

He didn’t know I had outstanding, interest-free college debt that I had no imminent pressure to pay back. He didn’t know that when we moved back to the United States, someone would give us a really nice vehicle just because they claimed, “the tires were worth more than the rest of it anyway.”

Victor didn’t know my cousin would give us an entire kitchen worth of dishes, utensils, and small appliances. He didn’t know that people would give us a free dining room table and chairs, a new TV four times the size of our old one, and modern bunny ears so that we could watch Duke basketball during the winter.

Victor didn’t know – and we didn’t either – that when life would knock us down and then kick us while we were down, an entire church of people would step in with meals and gifts and "I'm so sorry's."

Victor didn’t know that he was a reflection of our own neediness, just that we had the privilege of not being forced to beg.

***

We didn’t know what to do when we heard a fight break out in another apartment down the hallway of our building here in Milwaukee.

We didn’t really even know what was going on, except that there was some sort of altercation. Were there two people inside the apartment? Three? We only heard female voices, but was there a man in there too? Did she seriously just scream that her collarbone was broken?

The clamor of breaking glass, slamming doors, and shrilling screams were terrifying to listen to. And yet, we felt paralyzed to do anything. Domestic disturbances were new territory to us.

There is little privacy in an apartment building. And when the walls are thin and the disturbances are loud, it can be unsettling to hear your own sinful nature rattling around behind someone else’s door.

Maybe our neighbors were the ones taken down to the station and eventually kicked out of our building, but Humanity and Depravity manifest themselves behind every locked door whether we are willing to admit it or not.

***

www.kendrabroekhuis.com/book

Usually my desire is to come at generosity from an angle of abundance. I want to walk down the street with a gold dollar sign chained around my neck and a huge stack of cash in my hands, and then just make it rain on my neighbors. I want to the one with all the energy and all the time and all the perk.

But it has felt like two straight years in a season of constant neediness for our family through transition and change and exhaustion. And I don’t want to be the Needy Neighbor. I don’t want to be the one who looks in the mirror and sees Haggard and Depression with a wicked case of winter dandruff staring back on these cold January days. I don’t want to be the one who wakes up to only 27% battery power every morning.

It’s difficult to think about generosity and hospitality when we feel like we have so little left to give. It’s hard to remember that in our weakness God makes His power known, that in our poverty is when we can finally recognize the Lord's provision.

I might cry out, “Lord, I have so little to offer!” And maybe He’ll reply, “Looks like five loaves and two fish to Me. I can work with that.”

Or maybe: “It’s okay if it’s not that much, as long as it’s all of you.”

***

Maybe everyone who sits around our kitchen table eating Kentucky Fried Chicken is feeling needy in their own way. Maybe that's what makes the bread and the wine feel more like a meal of communion with each other and with Christ, instead of just a side snack for when we get the afternoon munchies.

Maybe it’s our own humanity and depravity that puts us back on our knees before our very abundant Father. They're the reminder that the gospel isn’t just something we should just really, really want for our neighbors, but something that we all desperately need.

Christians need the gospel as much as non-Christians do…Belief in the gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom of God; it is the way to address every obstacle and grow in every aspect. {Tim Keller}

Maybe my neighbors don’t need to see a vision of a Ken and Barbie family living next door that has zero problems, just the embodied hope of unconditional love.

Maybe neediness isn’t what we’re supposed to run from, but what we’re all supposed to wake up to and embrace. Like a deer panting for water, like a soul longing for the Lord.

Like two hands stretched out, and in need.

 

Grace and Peace from a fellow Needy Neighbor,
Kendra