WAITING TO EXHALE

TWO STARS – Searching Hopelessness

If a woman’s greatest desire is to have a man in her life, then she will become a slave to that desire.  In the quest to satisfy such a longing, a woman will often sacrifice her dignity, freedom and soul.

       Although experienced most often as a longing for romantic love, this longing is in fact spiritual.   When a woman (or man) attempts to satisfy this desire with anything less than God, we become a victim of those whom we put in that prime position in our life and to whom we essentially give our worship.

       This truth that worshiping a man destroys the spirit of a woman is depressingly demonstrated in the Forest Whitaker film “Waiting to Exhale.”

       Set within a circle of friends living in Phoenix, the story involves the lives of four women whose lives revolve around their relationships with men.

       Although the church is present in their lives, it is obvious that their worship is not for God but for men.  Men comprise their thoughts, longings and conversations.  Their anxious seeking of a man to love is the central purpose of their lives.

       Though all four women have unique but equally dissatisfying experiences, the common thread of their longing is the obvious inability of men to satisfy them.

       This truth, that men can never be God and, therefore, can never satisfy the deepest needs of a woman, is not explored overtly by the film, but is nevertheless powerfully demonstrated by the men’s failures.  

       Savannah (Whitney Houston) is such an example.  As a never-married woman, her anxious desire for love leads her into the fantasy that a married man can be hers.

       Like so many women who do not honor marriage and believe the deceit of the adulterous male, she discovers that he is not her savior but her deceiver.

       Savannah lives the truth that deception and illusion are part of an improper quest.   Though she finally stands up to the duplicity, she still does not know where to find the true integrity she seeks.

       Bernadine (Angela Bassett) is a married woman whose husband leaves her for his mistress.  As she lives in opulence from his wealth, she struggles with the awareness that she long ago surrendered her very self to his control.

       This truth that surrender to anyone only causes that person to devalue the adaptive shell we become is perhaps one of the most subtle of the spiritual messages of the film.

       Bernadine surrendered to her husband her plans, goals and dreams to meet his needs, and thought that he would then cherish her and meet her needs.  She only too late realizes that such surrender leaves the relationship with only one whole person and one shell of a person.

       Love requires two fully developed individuals.  Both must be who they are spiritually, emotionally and physically.  Both must choose to place the other’s needs before their own, but never surrendering their identity and worth in a relationally destructive arrangement.

       Robin (Lela Rochon) is a single woman who believes her way to love is through sexual encounters.  Having given herself to men believing they would cherish her gift, she only finds herself a commodity with the guilt of an abortion hanging on her soul.

       Robin lives the truth that love must be based on commitment before sexual intimacy.  When she finally realizes that commitment is necessary, she is left only with a commitment to her own pregnancy and the decision to raise her child alone.

       The final woman, Gloria (Loretta Devine) is the mother of a teenage son. Since Gloria has experienced the failure of a marriage and the rejection of her husband, she fills the void of her loneliness with living for her son.  She describes him as the man in her life.

       When he comes of age and decides to leave home, Gloria must face the fact that she must let go for she realizes that his purpose is not to fulfill her life.

       Though the film ends with the four women together on New Year’s eve with the fireworks blazing behind them, the symbolism of a new beginning is not optimistic. Though the women have painfully discovered what will not work to fulfill their lives, they don’t yet have a clue of what will.  It is our prayer that such seekers will discover their spiritual selves and the God who alone can fulfill their deepest needs.