Trouble talk

September 24, 2012

As women, we love to talk. In fact, I often have to curb my impulse to gossip. I'm never trying to be malicious or hurtful - I just want to know what's going on. Call it the latent reporter in me. 

To me, gossip can sometimes fall into the category of "trouble talk," which is probably why I have a hard time not doing it. "Trouble talk" is a linguistic term I learned in my first graduate English course. In all honesty, I took Linguistics because I didn't have enough credits (translation - ANY credits) to get into a more interesting class, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I've actually retained some useful information from one of the experts we studied, Deborah Kerr. Kerr deals with linguistics issues, but she's more famous for giving insights on interpersonal communication, especially between the sexes. We watched a video in which she showed how little boys sit side-by-side when they talk, never looking each other in the eye, while little girls sit face-to-face when they talk and look each other in the eye. Even though the little boys and girls were both effectively communicating with each other, translating those differences between the sexes is what often leads to misunderstandings between men and women.

Kerr had a lot of insights, but her most useful one - at least for me - was the idea of "trouble talk." It's the idea that as women, we share our troubles as a way to connect with other women. It strengthens our friendships. It makes us feel closer to each other. In fact, according to Kerr, if I were to share something in my life that I'm having difficulty with, and the woman I was telling it to either ignored or was unable to sympathize with my difficulty, it would damage our budding friendship. In fact, that's why a lot of times, if a friend tells us a hardship and we have nothing to contribute in return, we end up sympathizing by telling a similar story about our neighbor's sister's friend's cousin - all in an attempt to trouble talk, giving our friend support and letting her know she's not alone.

But Kerr argues that it's predominately a female trait, something I can attest to. Here's a conversation with my sensitive, usually sympathetic husband from last week:

Tim: So how was your day?
Me: Well, the baby woke up early, so she didn't really nap.
Tim: Yeah.
Me: Elise didn't nap either.
Tim: Yeah.
Me: In fact, she pooped in her Pull Up during what was supposed to be naptime, so she didn't sleep AND I had to clean it up.
Tim: Yeah. Well, I'm glad you girls had a good morning!
Me: (Long pause). Um, did you hear ANYTHING I just said?!
Tim: Nope.

I know my husband's not normally so distracted, so we were able to laugh about the situation, but sometimes in life that's not easy to do. Sometimes I can't brush off the hurt I'm feeling, or the tough day I've had. Sometimes when I go beyond my friends, or my husband, and bring something straight to Jesus, I wonder - does he hear me? How do you trouble talk with Jesus? If he is supposed to be the friend that sticks closer than a brother, how do I communicate with him the way I communicate with my friends? How can a perfect, divine God truly understand an imperfect, mortal woman?

Intellectually, I know that he's God and he can do anything. But in my heart, I feel like he's just another guy who may or may not be hearing me, depending on the day and what other demands he has on his time. I struggle with feeling like he's either an intimidating, judgmental God of the Old Testament with the appearance of Santa Claus - ready to open the earth to swallow me whole - or he's the laid-back, lamb-wielding Jesus with the snowy white garments and purple sash of the New Testament. But who is God, really? If he's the same yesterday, today and forever, shouldn't I be able to figure out his true character?

A few weeks ago, our pastor gave some great advice, something that can help us determine God's character and our own response: Be indifferent to the things God is indifferent to, and care about the things he cares about. Which begs the question - what does he care about?

Once you start looking, the list is long, actually. Widows, orphans, the poor, the oppressed...just to name a few. He got angry at the money-changers outside the temple. He cared for the needs of others - miraculously feeding thousands who had no food. He chastised his disciples to not overlook children. He physically got down on the floor and washed dirty feet.

And then this: "Cast all your on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

It seems almost too simple, doesn't it? He cares for others, yes - but he also cares for you and me, even on our worst days, when we've just fought with our spouse, the kids are unruly and we just can't take it anymore. But unless I think he's a liar - and I don't - it MUST be true. Jesus may not "trouble talk" back to me - he may not respond in the way I'd like - but he does care. And he does listen. And maybe someday, in heaven, he'll respond in a way my humanity gets - even if it's not a story about a neighbor's sister's friend's cousin.

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