The Neediness

People should talk more about prayer. Mention of the spiritual is sometimes treated as silliness or over-sensitivity, and people’s spiritual curiosity is crushed early, made to seem too ethereal or just too vague in the company of other, more pressing concerns. Meanwhile, stories about their weekend jaunts and sexual habits are frankly, seriously heard, without batting an eyelid. These alone, seem like serious concerns, serious human exploits.

It’s true: people have needs. Yep, you hear me. In Jesus or White Bread? I hear about a visceral, physical craving for God, and in my own way, I feel that too.

She gets it. (I believe this is Saint Monica)

Food and sex seem to pacify something in people, some physical, premature yearning for completion, for perfection. It’s true that in the Christian tradition sex IS an implicitly spiritual act, and, I, as those who know me can attest, love food: because food is lovely (check out my thoughts about these issues here.)

Yet, I do sometimes feel that if the spiritual needs beneath the basic human functions were left to marinate a little, if we weren’t so quick to try to pacify them with sandwiches and sleep,  then we might come closer to the source of the ‘need’ itself- and we might find that it runs deeper than we expected. We might come closer to our true selves, even to God himself.

It seems a shame to me that the phrase “I’m a spiritual person” is taken, by some, to mean “I’m pretentious.” The spiritual person, to my mind, is simply one who hopes that there is surely more than himself, and that his perspective, the one which suits him in his moment of selfishness, in insufficient.

As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after you….

It’s true: the word spiritual has sucky connotations, people hear it and think- clouds and the ethereal, they think of empty, self-indulgent claims about one’s own importance. Yet, to have the humility to see through and maybe beyond myself, even if that means looking deeper inside, is surely enough to make the ‘spiritual’ so much more important than some give it credit for.

These guys get it. Sacred Hindu Chants is a superb CD, check it.

You see, my spiritual craving is anything but vague or empty- it sometimes come as a sharp pain in my chest, at other times, as a troubling, uneasy irritation in my soul. It forces me to pray, how else can I manifest the enormous pressure of it? This thing swelling up inside me which threatens to consume me?

Then, I speak to Him, just a few words, inarticulately muttered. And that’s how it takes me higher than myself, takes me higher than the cheapness of my self-centeredness and my own vanity.

It’s his presence: and it comes straightaway, when I come to it in need. It’s soothing and perfect, a disinfectant that sweeps away the trash and littleness of my own pride and self-consciousness, it makes me stand in an open space where I can truly see myself. I’m pretty small in that space sometimes- but I feel real and I know that I’m safe, that I can’t be consumed in his caustic perfection.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before him?

There is a subterranean, non-verbal world of need, which is different than a physical hunger or lust. It is prayer and supplication, it’s not tedious or over-pious, it simply is- and it connects me to Him, it takes me to my creator.

It means so much to me.

4 thoughts on “The Neediness

  1. I love. love. LOVE this! I think this is probably the best thing you’ve written (that I’ve read at least!). And no, not just because you referenced me. (Ok, it is a bit!)

    You are so right that spirituality isn’t a vague, ephemeral thing. It’s a need, a pain, a hunger. Sometimes I think those “prayer warriors” aren’t the ones who are the most naturally “spiritual” but those who aren’t. Because they know how much they NEED. Interestingly, St Monica was a bit of a alcoholic in her youth. Of course, later in life, she wrestled in prayer for years and years for her son.

    Thank you again for this.

    • Thanks Laura, it was cathartic writing it. I hope, and imagine, that others feel that swelling, needy pressure to cry out to Him too. So, can you recommend to me the important titles associated with the Catholic faith that you would suggest to those curious? (I’ve purchased Scott Hahn’s “Hail Holy Queen”)

      • I’m glad it was cathartic. I think all good writing is. 🙂

        And I would be delighted to recommend a few titles! You’ve got a great one there already in Scott Hahn’s book. His conversion story (Rome Sweet Home) and pretty much anything else by him is bound to be great. Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie is a good on the question of authority. On Being Catholic by Thomas Howard is excellent for understanding the mindset of Catholics. I wasn’t particularly persuaded when I first read it but it totally seeped into my mind and made me start considering things from different angles. Plus, it’s really well-written. Catholicism by Fr Robert Barron is also amazing. And I’d get a Compendium of the Catechism. I can give you a copy if you lile. It’s short, sweet, official summary of the Catechism and great to hear the church speaking for Herself.

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