Thomas stands peering up at his blue plastic spray bottle on the countertop. Which I have taken away. Why you ask? Because he has sprayed the couch, the floor, the coffee table, the dog, my leg, his sister’s face. “I NEED it, mama. I NEED it.”
I look down at him. “Thomas, I don’t think that you understand the difference between need and want.” (I say this half instructionally but mostly to make myself laugh because my two-year-old definitely does not understand my proposal of need versus want.)
Need for Thomas entails urgency, sincerity, persistence, passion, desire, anticipated joy.
Perhaps like me and my first cup of coffee in the morning.
There is another need that Thomas has, though, that is different.
A couple of times a week, sometimes a day, Thomas attaches himself to my body in some fashion or yells at me from across the room: “I NEED you, mama, I NEED YOU.”
Now, while Thomas’ need for the blue plastic spray bottle and myself is similar, there is also something different about his need for me. There is a relationship of intimacy at the other end of this need for me.
When Thomas says, “I NEED you, mama,” I reply, “I need you too. And I love you.”
Unless this interaction has already happened ten times that day. Then my response is more like hoisting him up onto my hip and saying, “I need you too. Want a fruit snack?”
And so goes the gift of how we as parents are God’s privileged partners. How we are bearers of and windows into the experience of God who is love. Thomas needs me in ways that provides for his basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. He also needs me in ways that tell him that he is safe, precious, and indescribably loved.
Thomas needs me because of who I am to him, but also (and probably more so) because of who God is. Because of the glimpse of God’s touch, gaze and life that I give him when I am open to God and grounded in God.
Jesus, I know that I need you. Help me to depend on you and remain grounded in your love.