Luke 11:5-8 (CEV)
5 Then Jesus went on to say:
“Suppose one of you goes to a friend in the middle of the night and says, ‘Let me borrow three loaves of bread. 6 A friend of mine has dropped in, and I don’t have a thing for him to eat.’ 7 And suppose your friend answers, ‘Don’t bother me! The door is bolted, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up to give you something.’
8 He may not get up and give you the bread, just because you are his friend. But he will get up and give you as much as you need, simply because you are not ashamed to keep on asking.
As most of you will know I’ve spent the last seven months sick – including six weeks spent as an inpatient at the hospital. And as far as I’m concerned, one of the hardest things about being sick is that it renders us suddenly very dependent on others. At one point over the past few months, in fact, I spent a week dependent on someone else just to take me to the bathroom.
Now, talking to folks in the hospital has made me realize that there are some people – a few of them – who really don’t mind asking for help. They need help, they know the only way to get it is to ask for it, so they just go right ahead and ask.
But I don’t think I’m alone with the fact that I struggle to ask for help – fundamentally because I don’t want to need help.
And I think there are two reasons why we as people (in general) struggle with the idea of needing help.
I know it isn’t true, but I for one frequently struggle with this idea of needing help because I worry that this need for help makes me less than as a person – it makes me feel ashamed. Brené Brown tells us that shame is our fear of disconnection. So it’s as if I’m saying “If you find out that I need this help, will it be a big enough turn-off that I will become unworthy of continuing to connect with you?”
And the second reason I struggle with the idea that I need help is that it leaves me in an incredibly vulnerable place. You see, by asking for help, I’ve put myself out there. I’ve communicated my need, and now I’m left waiting to see whether that need will be met, or whether the person I’ve asked for help from will be unable or unwilling to give me the thing that I’ve asked for. Sometimes the risk is small – like when I ask my kids to pass the salt and pepper at the dinner table – and sometimes the risk is big – like when I have to ask my husband to take over all of the facets of our life so that I can spend six weeks in the hospital!
And it turns out that Jesus knows all about shame. He knows that shame makes it hard for us to ask for things. He knows that our fear of vulnerability, our fear of disconnection is enough to make us hide our needs and our longings even from (or maybe especially from) our Father in heaven.
But Jesus also knows our Father.
He knows how much our Father loves us.
He knows how desperately our Father wants to connect with us, over the big things and the little things – how, in fact, the whole arc of human history is a story about a God of relationship trying to reengage us as humanity in the relationship with God that we were meant to have from the beginning.
And so right on the heels of teaching the disciples to pray the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus follows up with this story – this reminder that we should not allow our shame or our fear of vulnerability to keep us from asking for the things that we need.
I think the point of the story is pretty important – if it’s true that our neighbour will respond because we’re not ashamed to ask and ask and ask, then how much more so with God? This isn’t a once off, quiet “if it’s not too much of a trouble” – this is a persistent, unwavering demand. And this is how Jesus says we should come to our Father … who is in heaven …
- What makes you ashamed?
- Do you ever feel like you aren’t worthy of asking for the things you need? Maybe from God? Maybe from others? Maybe even from yourself?
- Jesus seems to think that it’s possible for us to come to God without shame. Paul tells us that there’s no room left for shame in our hearts when we’ve experienced God’s love for us. But allowing ourselves to accept that love can be difficult for many of us – myself included.
- What would it take for you to risk the vulnerability of allowing yourself to experience God’s love for you – just as you are right now? What would that mean to your ability to approach God without shame?