“Give ear to my words, O Lord . . . Listen to my cry for help . . .” – Psalm 5:1-2
Do you have any idea how painful it is to my masculine ego to say these words, “I need help!”? I remember inviting a friend to lunch one time because I really did need help, but not with such things like changing a tire or lifting a heavy piece of furniture. Those are easy to ask for, for me at least. In this case I needed a different kind of help, the kind of help that took most of our lunchtime before I could even muster the courage to ask. What I needed was someone to simply listen about an issue I was wrestling with, to offer a shoulder to cry on so to speak, to try to understand, without offering suggestions or solutions. Just listen!
Several years ago a number of books hit the market attempting to explain the differences between men and women. A couple of the more popular titles were, You Just Don’t Understand by Deborah Tannen, and Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray. One of the authors – I forget which one – had a theory that suggested that when men have problems, they just want answers. Women on the other hand are not so much looking for answers as for someone to listen and understand. Now with all due respect to the writers of these books, which I found quite insightful by the way, they may have over-stereotyped the two genders just a bit, for based on my own experience such as the one I just described, it seems to me that the emotional needs of men and women may not be that far apart. Except, macho guys like me don’t like to admit that.
Much to my astonishment, instead of offering advice that day, my friend responded to my plea for help something like this: “Gee, I never realized you needed help. You always seem to be so self-sufficient, capable of working things out on your own. I just assumed you would work this one out on your own as well.” (Was I doing a great job of masking my vulnerability or what?) After that remark my friend became quiet and simply listened – unconditionally, without judgment or criticism – and with a genuine sense of understanding. At the end of our lunch he thanked me – thanked me? – yes, for bearing my soul to him. I was touched! “Give ear to my words, O Lord,” King David pleaded in his Psalm, “Listen to my cry for help.” What a gift to have a friend nearby, like I did that day, willing to listen the way we would expect God to listen, unconditionally and with a heart for understanding, where we are free to surrender to our vulnerability.