When I started taking classes in Nonviolent Communication over 21 years ago in 1989, I was fascinated by the idea that Marshall Rosenberg presented. Feelings are unmet needs. Therefore, when you have an uncomfortable feeling, do your best to discover the need and then get it met by inspiring others with a wonderful form of communication.
There’s so much more to Marshall’s teachings—like the foundational idea that if we could live with the intention of making life more wonderful for others, and that doing so will bring both giver and receiver great joy. I still remember how I would challenge him, as I did other famous teachers that I managed to learn under, like Jack Canfield and astanga yoga instructor Tim Miller. Believe me, I had a real challenge with my pride. On one hand, I respected these knowledgeable teachers. On the other hand, I thought they thought they knew everything. And so I wanted to challenge them to show them that they did not know everything, and perhaps I might even be able to help them. That is a long, long story of many years ago, and one that might some day be revisited and learned from.
I attended an introductory class that Marshall was presenting in Del Mar. When he invited questions from the audience. Instead of helping the audience learn more about the surface aspects of this wonderful communication tool, I instead chose to challenge Marshall with a philosophical question. (I think these kinds of actions were the reasons that his students did not want me to be a teacher and have to associate with them. To Marshall’s credit, he supported me in being a teacher.) “Are you sure that these things that people are feeling come from unmet needs or unmet wants? And what would be the difference between a need, and a want?”
I don’t remember Marshall’s answer—only that he seemed slightly uncomfortable. But I still remember the question, which is quite amazing since that was twenty years ago. And I find now that this question, “what is a true need?” has become a burning one in my own heart.”
Since my thirteen month solo journey through Europe and Asia in 1974-75, I have been searching for a way to serve in a way that uses my gifts and helps humanity in a very deep way. I had left on this journey as a 19 year old who had the philosophy, “if it feels good, do it.” Up until the age of seventeen, I had been very service oriented, but when I left the Methodist Church disillusioned with how the teachings of the church did not line up with how people lived, I experimented for a few years with this new outlook on life. I thank God it only lasted two years, and that I didn’t get pregnant, get any sexually transmitted diseases, or go crazy. My experiences seeing very poor people, as well as suffering deeply myself, brought me back to a deep desire to help make the world a better place.
The past 35 years since I returned from my journey has been filled with a longing for deep and abiding peace. I explored many spiritual paths, had two marriages, one child from each of them, and the main description of my life could be called “intense”. I realize that all along I have been attempting to fill needs, and helping others to fulfill needs.
I committed my life to Jesus nine years ago, in 2001, because I had met a group of Christians who really seemed to walk their talk. They were also passionate about their path, and seemed so sure of themselves. I decided to say the words, “I commit my life to you, Jesus—even though I don’t exactly know what I am getting into. I will give you a try because nothing else works and I desperately need some peace in my life.”
Many things happened, including being asked not to speak during church, or take on any leadership positions (both of which I had been very free to do previously) when I professed that I just could not subscribe to the idea that the bible was inerrant. I was deeply hurt and disillusioned. I wanted to give up my faith, and read many books authored by people who were ready and willing to give me reasons not to have a relationship with Jesus. But the case for having a relationship with Jesus was stronger than the case for not.
And so the past five years has been a search to find a community of people who could be mutually supportive in following the teachings of Jesus. I have been deeply hurt when I attended churches and small groups. Part of my disappointment was because I was trying to get my needs met by the people and fellowship and activities. Another part was because I was searching for some truth about Jesus and God that these groups just weren’t satisfying.
Recently through a series of what seemed to be a series of coincidences (yet perhaps God was guiding me?) I came across the facebook page of Rod Pruitt. He had been my friend on facebook, but I hadn’t really noticed him. I happened upon his latest profile entry about his main purpose was to help people have an intimate relationship with God. I followed some links to a 30 day experiment that he had written. As I read it, I felt like I had finally found the truth that I had been looking for. The bottom line—I had been trying to fill my main need for God—with everything else but God.
Tears streamed down my face as I read Rod’s words. I know I have read things before that really touched me deeply as truth. But something about the way Rod wrote really hit me hard. These are some of those words:
“ Jesus, if you are really the Son of God who you claimed to be and love me as much as your heavenly father and if the only way I an know this sort of intimacy is through you (just for the time of this spiritual experiment) then I am willing to accept you for who you said your are. The son of God., who came to do away with every thing that has ever separated me from intimacy with God—someone to save me even from myself and from spending the rest of my life running from one failing source of expectations after another, after another.
I am tired of the struggle of this life. Please, if you are really God’s son, help me. I need your help. I surrender to you.”
These words are not meant to be a formula. I know that Rod doesn’t want people to think they can say these words and automatically they will be “saved.” But it is kind of funny to think that these are very similar to the words I said to Jesus almost a decade ago. I didn’t want to recite the sinner’s prayer. I knew that this was about relationship—not some formula. But sadly, I did not have people who could really walk me through this process.
And so two days ago I started the 30 day spiritual experiment http://www.godstorm.org/pdf/Is_God_Real.pdf that Rod has presented so beautifully. The part about being willing making God my first need has been so powerful. Before, I would see this idea of putting God first as being nebulous. I thought if I loved my neighbor (all people) with all my heart, mind and soul—that would be as good as loving God. After all, God seemed so far away. And I had given up on the idea that I could have a relationship with a spiritual being. Give me good old flesh and blood any time! Now that is reality. That is something I can sink my teeth into. That is something I know is real. Rod reminded me that every relationship with any person or project has been disappointing—mainly because I had expectations for perfection that they could not meet. Only God can fulfill my needs perfectly.
But Rod has inspired me through an amazingly simple analogy that I hope you will read—that God can be related to. That God can be tangible and touchable. That my relationship with God can be as real as my relationship with my children, my friends, my family.
Reading the book THE SHACK www.theshackbook.com really did give me a sense that God loves me so much and that he loves everyone equally and especially. I read the book four times because when I would lose that connection to God and Jesus, immersing myself in the book really helped. Its like I’m surrounded constantly by an environment that encourages me to believe that my needs can be met by everything but God.
After I came across Rod’s writings, I also skimmed through this free book.
And I have been deeply inspired by the people who helped write THE SHACK, Wayne Jacobson and Brad Cummings. Their pod casts at www.thegodjourney.com were so helpful to me. Not being on line has prevented me from listening, but now I am on line more so I want to get back to listening to them.
When I was really in the depths of despair during this past winter, I reached out to a Christian coach, Greg Tutweiler, via email. His writings had reflected similar ideas of Rod Pruitt. He responded to my plea for help, and his very practical approach and his helpful coaching was very helpful. You can find him at www.freedomliving.org
I am finding myself sharing these resources because I realize that all of these teachings and others along the way that have pointed towards freedom and joy in Christ have touched me deeply, but I have not had others in close proximity to support me in this journey. I believe with all my heart that we are to be in community with others because it is so easy to forget and to lose our way. I pray that I can find those people and that we can together find our first need in God, in Jesus and help others to do the same.
I pray that today I will look for God to fulfill my needs, and in doing so develop an intimate, loving, touchable, tangible relationship with him. I pray that today as I do my work , spend time with my daughter, organize my house, prepare food, and do everything I want to do—I will feel the presence of God uninterruptedly.
I would love to hear what you have to say about this blog. And if you live in Fayetteville or Kingston area, maybe we can connect and support each other.