I am a registered nurse who works on an inpatient psychiatric unit. My patients are in a battle for their minds and their thoughts betray them. Sometimes they will approach me but not say anything. They will walk up and then just stand there.
Usually I say the same thing, “Whatcha need?” That seems to be a tough question. Sometimes they come up with an answer, sometimes they say “I don’t know”, sometimes just a blank stare. The saddest answer is “Please help me”. In the worst cases, they don’t even know that they need to eat. So I start prompting them. “Do you know what your name is?” Do you know where you are?” “Are you scared?” “Are you hungry?” “Would you like some coffee?” Sometimes we go through ten questions before there’s a reaction. They know they need something, they just aren’t sure what.
It reminds me of the world going on outside of the psychiatric unit. How many people cross my path with that same burden of unexpressed need. How many times have I looked at someone and realized that they were hurting and then looked away? If I were honest enough to make a list, just the people whose name and phone numbers I know who need “something” would be long. Add to it the downcast eyes, the shuffling gaits, the catch of the heart as I walk past a stranger and the list becomes endless. To my shame, I don’t often enough say “Whatcha need?” when I’m off the clock
What if I caught those people in passing, like I do my patients, and asked “Whatcha need?” I bet lots of them would just stare back, a few would have answer and many would say “I don’t know.” I can hear a lot of “Please help me”s that are never spoken. And you know what? There’s my excuse. They never told me or surely I would have reached out. Or would I? I’m glad God doesn’t deal with me that way.
What if God never said “Whatcha need?” What if He never slowed His pace to make eye contact when I tried to look away? What if He didn’t have time to help me sort out the list of my needs? What if He waited until I let down my guard and my pride to beg, “Please help me”? I would be walking in a spiritual no man’s land betrayed by my own heart.
But that is not the way of my God. He notices my distractions. If I can’t figure out what my heart needs, He starts the prompts...”Are you sad? Angry? Lonely? Ashamed? Disappointed? Scared?” And then He starts the treatment. His Word, His touch. Human beings who, at His command, come to me to ask “Whatcha need?” And when I say that I don’t know, they don’t take that as an excuse to walk away. They bring dinners and e mails and cards and hugs. They insist on loving me when I want to be left alone. They insist on encouraging me when I know I’ve messed it all up. They tell me I am a great teacher when I feel like I’ve spent an hour babbling. They read my blog and tell me to keep it up when satan is telling me I’m making a fool of myself. They hand me a card that tells me I bless them. My church family has even surpassed the “Whatcha need?” question. They just do. They stand poised to guide, cheer, point or carry everyone they meet to Jesus. They have figured out what is needed.
I’m learning what is needed. In fact, just this moment I got the answer in one word. It’s the same answer for my patients as it is for my loved ones, my church family and the stranger in the grocery store with the downcast eyes.
I need to do better now that I know the answer. If I only do as much for others as has been done for me, I’ll be very busy. God knows the answer to “Whatcha need?” He has a heaven above and an army below standing at the ready for those of us who sometimes don’t know what to do. Two paragraphs ago, He gave me the answer to “Whatcha need?” Now I’m going to tell you the answer and neither one of us will have an excuse. To the world who stands with down cast eyes, to the question, “Whatcha need?”
“...love one another deeply, from the heart. “ 1 Peter 1:22
You, they, I...need... love. I need to get busy.