In one of the final, more emotional and less comical scenes in the comedy The Breakup, Brooke sits sobbing defeatedly on her bed as she pours out her broken heart to her ex boyfriend, Gary.
After listing off actions she habitually carried out to go above and beyond for him and their relationship, she wraps it all up with, “I don’t feel you appreciate me. And all I want is for you to just show me that you care.”
Oh, Brooke. If only I could pounce through the screen and be your shoulder to cry on because, girl, I’ve been there and there are few girlfriends or wives who haven’t.
It is so ridiculously common for females to feel under-appreciated. Admittedly, Gary is worlds away from winning the World’s Best Boyfriend award, but for most of us, feeling unappreciated has less to do with our partners’ lack of gratitude and more to do with our most fundamental fault: grasping for control.
We think we have to do everything in order to keep life continuing on smoothly. It’s all up to me or else the whole kit and caboodle falls into chaos, right? Why can’t he recognize that and relentlessly adore me for it?
But this post isn’t about females grasping for control. This is actually about classic Gary’s response to Brooke:
“Why didn’t you just say that to me?”
Months ago, my husband had an Uber driver named Travis, a guy he encountered for all of ten minutes but whose words and message have become valuably central to our marriage and spirituality in innumerable ways.
Somehow, the two of them got to talking about faith. Travis, a laid-back recovering alcoholic whom my husband described as possessing a contagious confidence, ease, and wisdom, remarked, “If you have a question for God or need something from Him, just ask. It doesn’t have to be complicated.”
The message resonated intensely with me because, let’s be honest, human beings have this maddening habit of complicating things. We over-think, strategize, deceive, place blame, procrastinate, you name it. Whatever the issue is, we dance around it, hoping it will somehow solve itself without us having to be direct or admit inadequacy.
When I’m feeling under-appreciated and overwhelmed by housework and/or motherhood, I’m more likely to yank out the vacuum and viciously shove it around, flames flowing from my throat like some unappeasable, mythical dragon, illogically assuming that my husband will simply get the hint, take some curative action and resolve it all.
Why? Why the unnecessary complication? Why can’t I simply approach him in sincere humility and kindly confess, “I’m struggling and in need of some appreciation and help with stuff around here.”
The answer is pride. It all boils down to pride. That’s what keeps me from honestly laying my needs before my spouse. C.S. Lewis wrote, “For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.”
See, common sense tells me I ought to be able to go to my husband, of all people, be vulnerable and express my needs. But pride eradicates common sense and has me operating under the assumption, “I don’t need you. You need me. Now figure out how to serve me.” Why does he put up with me again?
It requires humility for me to trudge through the tension I’ve planted between us, approach him in my weakness and ask for help, which, let’s be honest, will probably entail me crying. Vulnerability is tough stuff. It forces us to admit our imperfection and dependence and those things clash considerably with our tendency to grasp for control.
You may not think it’s that simple when you’re talking about the almighty author of existence. But God is surprisingly simple and his most heartfelt desire is to have an intimate, honest relationship with each one of us, in which we can openly admit our needs, desires, fears, all of it.
He knows them already, yes, but He’s all about authentic freedom and if we don’t open the door for his answers, he’s not going to pitch them through the window. He waits patiently – ever so patiently – to be sought. And to seek him is really fairly simple. “Ask and you will receive” (John 7:7).
In an abundantly enlightening talk about the richness of the faith, Chris Stefanick describes a theologist he once encountered with a sly but simple way of getting atheists to pray. “You need to go home and ask God if he exists,” she’d tell them.
Why? Because all it takes is a simple yet sincere openness, one that pride persistently prevents. Once we open up to God, whether it’s to tell him we’re angry with him, confused by his methods, or simply in need of proof that he even exists, he generously supplies answers, strength, guidance, everything we could ever need to navigate the often turbulent waters of this world, plus more.
But if we close ourselves up to him, he submissively keeps his distance while somehow continuously pursuing us and providing our every breath. It’s weird, but love can be pretty weird.
At the end of the day, Travis the Uber driver wasn’t some stupendous prophet who revealed a set of mind-boggling truths that opened Pandora’s box for us. He was a simple man who knew something that we forget all too often: our God is simple, and we should be, too.
In relationships, no matter how hard it is to push past our pride (turn off the vacuum) and be vulnerable, it’s a far less distressing route than the alternative, which is full of confusion, miscommunication and often culminates with someone, like Gary, asking, “Why didn’t you just say that?”
Copyright 2018 Elizabeth Pardi