The following is a snippet from my book (see sidebar). The time is after our commitment to each other, while I was in college and Marj was at our home area of Flourtown:
The semester proved to be rough on our relationship. We exchanged letters weekly, and every few weekends, we visited each other either in Flourtown or at Lafayette. Somehow, though, it just wasn’t the same as the summer. Our times together felt awkward and uncomfortable.
The pressures of our studies weighed upon us, of course. Additionally, she suffered a few weeks of sickness, which caused her to fall behind and miss a couple of tests. Our busyness stressed our weekends together.
As time went on, we sensed walls building up between us, which caused us to become sad and discouraged.
Early in November, she came up for a Friday night InterVarsity Square Dance I’d organized for the fellowship, and then stayed for the weekend. Despite the study pressures, we were able to carve out some time Sunday afternoon.
“Let’s do our Bible study time,” I suggested, so we turned to 1 John 4:19-21 and read, “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: that he who loves God should love his brother also.”
Marj noted how many times the passage used the word “love” in reference to both God and fellow Christians. “You have to have both,” she concluded.
“Al Lewis, an elder from the Church in Harmony, taught on this one time at a fellowship meeting,” I recalled, “‘It’s like the capital letter L in the word Love,’ he said. ‘If you just have relationships with other Christians, and draw a line from you to the other, it is like the bottom of the L, flat and meaningless. Many Christians live this way and have a superficial Christian faith, dependent on others. On the other hand, if you have a relationship with God and ignore other Christians, then you and God form the upright side of the L, which is the word I for ego. This Christian puts himself above others, as if he doesn’t need them, because he acts as if he has a perfect relationship with God. However, if you love God and love others you form the L for love. And you have the balance between the two, not superficial and not arrogant.’ I thought that was good stuff!”
“It is,” she commented and then asked, “So how do you think we are doing with the L concept? For example, do you think you need me?”
“Of course, I do.” I quickly responded, “I am miserable when you aren’t around.”
“How about when I am around, how do you need me?” she asked.
I had to ponder that one, so she continued, “When we are together, you have the plan and you carry it through and I just do as you suggest. How do you think that makes me feel?”
“Cared for?” I optimistically suggested.
“No, I am afraid not. More often, I feel like I don’t have anything to contribute.”
“But you do,” I interjected.
“I know, but you don’t communicate that. You don’t show that. I really need to know I have something to offer that you need.”
“So you need to be needed,” I reflected.
“Yes, that’s exactly it! I need to be needed.”
“Wow, I never thought of that.” Light bulbs were going on in my head. “I am sorry I didn’t realize it. I have been so busy trying to be the leader in our relationship; I have neglected you and your feelings. You know it’s hard to depend on your contributions because then I would have to admit I need them and that is humbling. I guess I have been the independent I of the L. Marj, how long have you felt this way?”
“Quite awhile, maybe most of the semester.”
“Why didn’t you say anything to me?”
“I am sorry. I guess I was afraid to. I was guarding myself and not letting you in; I was afraid you would reject me. And as we drifted apart, I felt that even more.”
“And once the independence from each other creeps in,” I continued her line of thought, “we each react to it in each other. Marj, I needed to be needed by you, too. I need you to take the risk, be willing to die to yourself, as I must do, and let me in. We both need to let the other one in. Doubts grow while we are apart, so we need to risk when we are together.”
For the rest of the afternoon, we continued discussing the implications for us of the idea of “needing to be needed.” As Christians, we were taught that we shouldn’t seek to meet our own needs, but the needs of others. However, if we don’t let others in, then nobody’s needs can be met. Really, the vision of scripture is mutuality—everybody meeting each other’s needs. So we have to admit our needs to one another, we concluded.