Near the end of the movie, The Help, the noble maid, Aibileen, finally confronts the housewife who has caused so much sorrow with this question: “Ain’t you tired?” No matter how many times I have seen the movie, that part is where I start to cry.
Have you ever looked in the mirror and asked yourself, “Ain’t you tired?” Life has been too hard and it is largely your choices that got you there. Your lies have piled up. The hurt and anger settles deep in your soul. You try so hard to put on a brave and likable face for those around you, but in truth you’re running scared and you don’t love yourself much at all. You hurt others out of your own hurt and though you may not like yourself afterward, you cannot seem to stop. So you lie and hurt and lash out at the undeserving of your wrath so that others will hate them and love you. But it’s never enough to heal the deep ache in your soul. It’s never enough. So you lay exhausted at night and walk around exhausted by day because keeping up a ruse requires an enormous amount of energy. It’s exhausting.
I would know. I just described the first twenty-three years of my life. I was tired. So bone-deep tired.
Imprisoned in my own cage of feeling worthless and hated and drowning in self-pity. Hating others because I hated myself. My love was false, as was everything else about me.
I do not forget those years as they make the eight years following that much more meaningful and incredible and surreal. But sometimes I forget how hard I was then. Until I meet someone else like my younger self…
And that’s what happened recently. Perhaps it was God who made our paths cross. It is hard to say now. I’m still reeling from the blow. After a relative calm of friendship, I spent an evening watching the self-hate and hurt in her eyes while lies fell out on the floor. Lies about me, lies about how I treat others, lies about how I live my life. As much as I wanted to be angry, I was simply hurt. I have not felt so judged and despised and lied about in a very very long time. In a few minutes, a friendship was ruined. And yet…the love for her grew and grew beyond my own capacity to do so.
That’s the thing about living something for so long…you recognize immediately when someone else is living it, too. This is how souls collide and communicate – we know ourselves and we see ourselves in others. Perhaps the responsible thing to do is to walk away. But you know better. You know better because there were people in your own low season who should have walked away from you and they did not, but chose to stand with you and walk with you into freedom from your own broken heart. Their recognition of your tiredness, even if you did not see it yourself, called you gently into freedom.
So you choose that path, that walking with another. You choose it because you are now so free you cannot imagine doing anything else. Loving others is hard, hard work. Human hearts ache and bleed and the cuts are deep and sometimes the wounds don’t heal for a very long time. But you choose love anyway. To do less is simply not an option. You want to shake the other person, to smack some sense into them. You want to speak truth to them. You love them, but they take your love as hatefulness. That’s the hardest part. When someone is in so deep, they cannot see truth for what it is. It just sits piled up with the lies. They fear and hate what they do not know nor understand, as do we all.
As the lover, you wait. You pray. You hope. You long for their freedom. You wonder if maybe, just maybe, they will believe truth one day and live free and whole and healed. Because you know. You know what it is to be a prisoner in your own cage and you also know what it is to be free from lying about others, free from lying about yourself to make yourself look better, free from self-hatred, and free from hurt that causes cruelty to those you claim to love. Redemption is a process, a beautiful and hard and holy process. Those of us who are keenly aware of our own redemptive stories honor the Lord by choosing to love others in the course of their stories.
Loving others means loving them when they hate you, when they despise you, when they cannot see your truth for what it is. It means you wait, sometimes patiently and sometimes impatiently, because you have been made grateful for a free heart and as a result, you long for freedom in the hearts of others. Sometimes you get to see the end result and sometimes you don’t. Regardless, love hopefully. Love honestly. Love freely.