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The Language of Need

It happens every 15 to 20 years or so, and it’s a major inconvenience, not to mention a pricey

one. The furnace goes out. For good! 


Yes, this is a picture of the behemoth heat-generator in the basement of Fall Creek Abbey. It’s served us well through the frigid winter months over the past nine years. Thankfully, we have another furnace for the second and third floors, but if you walked into the Abbey today, you’d probably not want to take your coat off. It’s freezing!

So how am I to think about inconveniences like this? How can I gain perspective on the ordinary

needs and problems of life, costly as they may be? I accept that it’s a normal and natural human response to be thrown into momentary panic. But after the emotional dust settles, are there any novel points of view that can help me be more resilient when an event like a furnace needs replacing?


I’m currently reading Frank Laubach’s spiritual diary entitled, Learning the Vocabulary of God. This paragraph struck a chord with me today, especially in lieu of the furnace: 


Need is Your language, is a word from You. How to approach this problem is baffling. Unsolved problems are Your language, for in them You are our schoolmaster training us to be Your children. I thank You for the call to share a real need with You.”


“Need is Your language, is a word from You.” As I consider my need for a new furnace, I’ve found my attention shifting, widening. I’ve noticed the goodness of needing and how my needs relate to others. For instance, I thought of our friend, Bob, who has taken care of our furnaces for many years. Bob has a family and challenges and concerns I know nothing about. My need to enlist his services and compensate him will also meet his needs. 


Like many, I too wonder how God speaks to me in my actual, real lived experience? And how can I better recognize the Voice? I’m drawn to this idea that our frequent experience of human need can be recognized as God speaking to us. When I listen to the words of need in this way I find:


  • I am more curious and less anxious about the challenge in front of me

  • I am not at the center but surrounded by others who, like me, have needs too

  • I am more relaxed in grasping what I have and open to releasing it for the sake of others


Rather than resenting or being pointlessly frustrated by my needs, I can see them as a means through which God takes care of Bob’s needs. Certainly I’d prefer to not go through the inconvenience and expense of replacing a furnace. But I do find my heart’s vision expanding as I consider how my needs ripple out and become a provision for others. 


What need do you have that could be an opportunity for God to care for someone else?


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