Have you ever wondered why we have needs? It seems like such a mystery. Have you noticed that in everything we do, we are doing it fueled by some reason? Beyond putting food on the table, a house to live in, or money in the bank, we are continuously endeavoring towards something. If it was just for shear survival, then we would most likely live in simple housing, hunt and gather and raise a family so they could aid in this objective. But the way we live seems to extend far beyond this.
There’s this evolution happening, and it is dynamic, progressive and relentlessly moving. But towards what? Something within us keeps stirring, groaning, nagging, prodding, nudging, and it does not go away. Why are we not satisfied, but instead keep adding to our creativity, shaping our music, art, changing career paths, moving away, etc.? This restlessness is important. Our tendency is to judge this, bringing up negative connotations such as, entitlement, hedonism, and over-indulging. But this adding more, this continuously evolving humanity, this toiling is communicating something significant. A blatant message of an inherent need, a need that is pointing to something larger and I believe, more transcendent.
In my underdeveloped thinking, I struggled with Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:7-11. He leads us on, convincing us that if we ask or seek or knock we are going to get our desires. How often have we grown frustrated or angry towards God, because we asked him hundreds of times and still, nothing? I thought Jesus promised us reward if we follow the three-step formula? I have had countless conversations with God, emotionally-laden ones, regarding my desires for a wife. And that started in my early twenties, which has picked up steam, now being in my thirties. It is easy to lose hope, resigned to the idea that I will live some abstinent and celibate lifestyle, bald and chalk-full of wisdom, but companionless.
But there’s something within me that flickers with hope and confidence. Last year was a journey of “trying” to meet that woman, but resulted in moments of embarrassment, heartbreak, and resonating pain. However, such moments developed into this wonderful shaping of knowing myself, awareness of who and what I am attracted to, and moving into greater healing, vulnerability, and spiritual depths. I am convinced that this person is in sight, but that does not take away from the pain, sadness, anger and toiling. Both coexist. One does not replace the other; they share the same space.
Back to Jesus’s enigmatic instructions for getting these needs met. The context in which he is talking is about these needs and desires and he is highlighting a very interesting sequence; ask, seek, and knock. At first, I thought these were interchangeable actions. There is Jesus, brilliantly laying out different ways of asking. But when I looked again, my eyes saw something else. What he was conveying was sequential and progressive. It has a starting point and a point of arrival (it is not an ending point, but the beginning of something else). It is a dynamic journey of that “something more”.
Let me first talk about this context of need/desire. Need is this inherent placement of want that exists within a person. It is a gap or hole or emptiness that a person feels, which is expressed through desire, the tangible felt expression of need. Desire is this visceral arousal, indicating an emptiness that longs for fulfillment. That is what need is, the necessary ache for fulfillment and satisfaction. Consider hunger, for instance. The need for food is communicated through the rumbling of your stomach. And if you go without food for longer stretches, the body shakes, your judgment becomes cloudy and primitively you seek out anything that will cure this unfulfilled groan.
But the need that Jesus is talking about, and what I am highlighting, is beyond mere daily survival. It is something greater and transformative. In everything we do, we are seeking out a deeper, richer, more satisfying connection; something that sees us and knows and cares for us. We are looking for this mysterious, transcendent intimacy. We are all relentlessly searching for this and that is a beautiful thing, regardless of the path we find ourselves traveling.
Asking: The Ignition
So, Jesus starts with asking. This is the Beginning or the starting point. The arousal of need is felt, this sense of lack. The stirring is inevitable. The whole person feels it, senses it and encounters it, especially around others. When we are with people, we are drawn to them and long for what they carry. It awakens something within us, but our understanding is fragmented and unclear.
Men, who encounter a beautiful woman, become aroused, viscerally feeling desire for that partner. Or they may see a father love his son and they are filled with painful longing at what they never had or the want for a child. Women, may come upon a man who tenderly loves his wife, stirring this need to experience this in their own lives.
Regardless, the need (for connection) is instinctually triggered, which leads to asking, the response out of desire. Asking indicates not having and the heart is turning towards and directing the lack towards Something. The asking is indicative of not knowing, uncertainty and feeling the mystery imbued in this desire being fulfilled. All we have is this signal that tells us something is missing and we want fulfillment of it.
Seeking: Allowing the Need to Lead Us
Seeking is very different than asking. Asking is directing our lack towards Someone, but seeking is more movement. I see this as a journey or search. It is an odyssey into the need. What is this arousal communicating? Why do I feel this unrelentingly? It is clear that the need is taking us somewhere. It is a constant presence, and although its intensity may ebb and flow, it burns continuously within us.
We are given freedom and great margin to explore this need. This felt need is telling us something, but how does it get met? For what are we truly hungering? Despite all that I have added to my life, why is this restlessness still in existence? Could this need be drawing us to something greater than what we have constructed or attempted to enrich our lives with?
The greatest need is not food, water or shelter (although vital and important). It is about connection. The thread woven into everything we do and in all actions is for connection. Becoming famous, rich, successful, seen by others, married, developing friendships, having children and moving into and pouring out of our passion still leave room for this ache. All of these actions keep pointing us on, to Something Else. We keep adding more. The restlessness and stirring grows.
This is all vital and necessary. The freedoms given to attempt to meet and understand these needs is essential in moving towards. It is dangerous when we cut ourselves off from seeking and hungering, because we atrophy. This dynamic movement is integral. And regardless of what we add to our life, the wrestling and toiling continue, struggling with the unknown and the mystery. Why am I no longer satisfied? What once was exciting, became impotent. Discontentment permeates the soul. We feel a greater emptiness in the connection within our relationships (notice, I did not say the person themselves, but the space between).
We encounter what others carry or hold and the “riches” of their lives; how they are seen, praised, known, confident, etc. This only stirs up the longing even more and the envy, which is desire intensified. What we see in others, gets awakened in us. There is growing awareness and shaping of our understanding of this need.
Saturated in this journey is wandering, an undulating endeavoring of trying to find what that desire is telling us.
Another thought to add is that the danger in seeking out these needs, is not in the seeking, but when we hide and stay in that hiding out fear of wrath and judgment for the ways we have attempted to meet these needs. We are allowed to step into the “forbidden”, but it is coming out of the shame and hiding that is necessary to move towards this Greater Connection and Humanity.
Knocking: The Beginning of Something More
Then Jesus finishes this sequence with “knocking”. He adds that the door will be opened to those that knock. Well, once again, I am filled with inquisition. What are we knocking? Whose door is this? What does the door symbolize?
If asking is starting the engine and seeking is pressing the gas and traveling, then what is knocking? It does not indicate an ending, but a beginning to something. Jesus is still communicating mystery. This door is opened, but where does it lead? It is another part of the journey, it seems.
Knocking appears to indicate some sort of arrival, to some sort of place. But is this a physical location, or symbolic? The individual has made it somewhere. I believe, first off, that the continuous nagging of need and the restlessness is the fuel that leads us and guides us to this “place”. Wrestling and wondering are necessary elements to this “arrival”.
But there is this blatant mystery surrounding the knocking. And knocking indicates another action. We don’t know What or Who is behind that door. It is another vulnerable risk and stint of the journey of that need being met. I believe this trumpeting need woven into us is to be connected to this Divine Love. Knocking hints at a place, a place Jesus would often highlight in his journey of unveiling True Love and True Humanity.
This place is the kingdom, or God’s Presence, the Divine Communion. Stepping and becoming aware of this Presence is the connection we are truly longing for, which is why jobs, success, marriage, kids, etc. don't actually satisfy, but only ignite further restlessness and emptiness. They are pointing to this Love Beyond. He even says in Matthew 6:33 to run after Kingdom’s Realm. This is the seeking, characterized by wrestling, toiling and restlessly endeavoring in the mystery of life.
He says that the door will be opened to those that knock. Those that arrive know they have arrived and that their needs were crying out for this. The One Who Welcomes and Invites does so without hesitation. The caveat is the seeking. The journeying leads to this welcoming, because the heart knows the Presence that has always Been and is always Inviting, making this Love known to all. This is where the satisfaction and fulfillment of our needs happens.
The Mystery Continues
What that door opens to is laden with mystery. All I know is that my unfulfilled desires have led me here, but there it is met with unknowing. I am now in this Presence, seeing life very differently, being shaped and transformed by Love, my scope of life growing, changing and colored by this Love.
I have no clue when that woman will come into my life and how it will unfold, but I know that I needed to go through a time of feeling intense hunger and going through pain of trying to meet those needs through desperate efforts. The defeat of such situations beautifully led me to embrace feeling the restlessness, sadness, and anger of my desire to be married. And when I stopped my desperate attempts to nourish these needs, I began to hear the Voice within them, inviting me, beckoning me and drawing me.
This Voice was and is leading me into something far more satisfying, enriching and pleasurable than I could ever manufacture. In this search I have begun to see a different humanity and a True Love. God has become this Lover, teaching me the rules and ways of Loving, seeing the depths of others pain, enjoying those around me and moving in more vulnerable ways. Who knew that my asking would lead to this?