Barefoot and Scrubbing for Love

This one comes to us from our friend, Rebecca Graber.  Recently I watched the movie […]

Mockingbird / 1.26.16

11177433_oriThis one comes to us from our friend, Rebecca Graber. 

Recently I watched the movie Barefoot on Netflix. It’s a classic odd couple movie; the leading male, Jay, is a womanizing, gambling, down-on-his-luck scoundrel who’s on probation, scrubbing floors at a mental hospital. His counterpart, Daisy, is a new resident who does not know why she is there, and as we find out, has not really had contact with the outside world. Her social skills and experiences are equivalent to a five-year-old girl. In need of money from his wealthy family and through a series of events, Jay ends up taking Daisy from the mental hospital and home to New Orleans to attend his brother’s wedding.

A poignant moment of the film is when Daisy is found scrubbing the bathroom sink. Jay asks, “What are you doing?” to which Daisy replies, “I’m cleaning. It’s what I do. I did all the cooking and cleaning for my mother.” Jay: “Listen, you don’t have to do any of that here.” Daisy: “My mother said that this is how you earn love.”

Now, by this part of the film, Jay is a character who doesn’t seem to understand much about life. But here he clearly explains what love actually is: “Well I’m sorry but your mother didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. You just love people ’cause you love them. And that’s it.”

It seems sadly silly, this girl trying to make others love her by scrubbing a sink. But I think I saw some of myself in Daisy. I saw the desire to earn love, to justify myself and my worth. We can see it in our human relationships—fearful that if we don’t perform a certain way, the love that we’ve been granted will be taken away. We can see it in how we like to keep score, believing that if only we are nice enough, kind enough, etc. that then others will love us. And we can see it in our relationship with God and the difficulty we have in accepting grace. If we read our Bible more, pray more, then God will really love us and give us that thing we desire.

As one of my favorite Onion articles, “Area Child Disappointed To Learn Parents’ Love Unconditional” puts it,

“Saying he doesn’t even feel like trying anymore, 8-year-old Max Bledsoe expressed his strong disappointment Monday after learning that his parents’ love is unconditional. ‘I always thought they loved me because I’d actually earned it, but unfortunately it turns out that their affection is apparently limitless,’ said a frustrated Bledsoe, wondering aloud the point of doing well in school, learning how to play the piano, and always going to bed before 9 p.m. if his parents were just going to keep on loving him no matter what. ‘Look at me: I just wasted the last three years of my life trying to win their approval by being a good kid. And for what? To get the love that was coming to me anyway?’”


Like eight year old Max Bledsoe, we try to earn the love of others and of God through our actions. We try to even earn the love for ourselves by being the best we can be. Looking at magazines on the rack in the grocery store, we see the “50 Ways to Make Him/Her Fall in Love.” We are bombarded with more and more reasons that, in order to be loved, we must do or be something. Rather than inspiring this love, the transactional, scorekeeping system instead leaves us exhausted, angry, and bitter. Because, if we are honest, we cannot ever measure up to the expectations and little laws that we believe make us “lovable.”

I, for one, see how I’ve done this in so many relationships. In friendships, I’ve tried too many times to walk the tenuous path of earning–through being “put together” enough, or responsible enough. However, the truth of love, not because of what I could do but simply because of the grace of another, was made especially clear, not during a particularly uplifting season, but during a season of deep depression. I didn’t have the strength to have it all together. It was in the reassurance of a friend that I was reminded that it was not what I did , or how I felt that made her love me, but rather, as Jay reminds Daisy and us, “You just love people ‘cause you love them.”