This article was originally published by The Mennonite

The holes I cannot fill

Ultimately, the hole they are trying to fill—the need for significance and security—is not mine but theirs and God’s to fill.

Something is rumbling around inside of me to be heard or felt and I don’t know exactly what it is. I dreamed last night that we had visitors, a couple, and they were eating breakfast. When I asked if they would like some toast the man gave me a long, very exact request with spreads I had never heard of. I felt overwhelmed and frustrated because I knew I couldn’t give him what he wanted. The wife looked exasperated and said something, to let me know whatever I had was OK.

I have sat in church at different times in the last years and—looking over the crowd—realized and tried to come to terms with this truth: there is no one among all those dear people that can be what I really need. For my needs to be met, I am required to ask, seek and knock—and then trust God to provide people here and there who will stand in the gaps.

While grieving the loss of the husband I once knew, I have grieved that he can no longer fill a hole of need. As a slow but progressive dementia strips away his abilities, I must let go of the benefits I have reaped in the walk that once defined our relationship.

It was he who was the safe connector and buffer to the harsh reality of the fractured world. At the end of the day a short back rub could set it all right. Now, tremors make simply eating a challenge. He was the risk-taker who pulled me along to places I would not go alone. Now, I blaze a trail for both of us in many decisions that must be made. It was him telling his stories from our lives that drew people in and surrounded us with relationships. Now, with so many special needs, it is a challenge to find places where we can connect. He was the one who remembered every face and every person and every street name. Now, I no longer can count on that resource. I can no longer use him to stop up a hole of need for security and significance.

I have grown a little and given up a lot. Now I am seeing another truth. I see that I cannot possibly give all the people I care about and love what they really need. I am going to disappoint them, anger them, hurt them and be less than they want me to be. I see that in a few blessed moments of grace I may be able to gift them with myself, but ultimately the hole they are trying to fill, the need for significance and security they are scrambling to meet, is not mine but theirs and God’s to fill. If I believe I can do it for them, then I have stepped into God’s shoes. I cannot save anyone. Not even my beloved. I can only give and receive many expressions of love.

And so I hear the rumblings. They are the voices of all of fallen, hurting humanity wanting for God’s promise that all things be made new. They are our human groanings as we stretch to engage our trust in God’s kingdom of perfectly met needs and perfect love.

Ginnie Horst Burkholder is a member of First Mennonite Church, Canton, Ohio.

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