“Ask, and it will be given you, search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Matthew 7:7-9
Growing up in North Dallas a few decades ago, I was blessed with a wonderful public school education: art, music, Advanced Placement classes, and a well-stocked science lab were always available. But practicums on how students could identify and ask directly to have their needs met was conspicuously absent.
The unspoken but powerful norms of Texas’ Bible-Belt culture required “good girls” to ignore their own needs, focusing instead on meeting the expectations and needs of others, no matter how unhealthy. “Good boys” were similarly discouraged for asking for help, particularly any emotional support, as having needs demonstrated an unmasculine weakness.
Today, these definitions of a “good girl” or “good boy” strike me as absurd, particularly when considered in light of the New Testament. Jesus asked us to love God with all we are and love our neighbor as ourselves: he never required his followers read minds or be self-sufficient. He explicitly challenged his disciples to ask God for what they needed, for Jesus knew that sharing vulnerabilities with one another humanizes and deepens our connections with one another. For example, the Gospel of John’s powerful conversation about “living water” arises from Jesus asking a Samaritan woman for a cup of water (John 4:7-15). And there is that heart-wrenching scene at Gethsemane where Jesus openly admits his distress to God and seeks strength (Mark 14: 32-36).
Yet, despite my intellectual understanding of mutual care, and Jesus’ numerous examples of how to be a loving neighbor, I still struggle to ask for help. Seeking a shoulder to cry on after hearing of more suffering caused by hurricanes, requesting a personal day off from my boss after a particularly stressful week, or asking someone else in my family to host Thanksgiving dinner remains challenging. That old, corrupted myth of self-sufficiency as “goodness” rears up in times of stress and I must again turn to the Good News.
Jesus had no illusions about self-sufficiency: to be human is to be a beloved, interdependent part of Creation, needing succor from God and neighbor to thrive. Let us remind each other of our right to ask for help as we walk through this painful time of political, racial, and meteorological turmoil. To be a true disciple of Jesus is to ask for what we need from others without shame while meeting the needs of others in healthy and loving ways.