Friday, February 24, 2012

"Ain't You Tired, Ms. Hilly?"

If you haven't seen the widely-acclaimed film "The Help," you should. For us Southern women, it's a reminder of how things were and how far we have come (or so we hope). For those who weren't blessed to grow up in the South, it provides a good dose of perspective on the history of a culture so foreign to them. I have to remind myself often that only one or two generations above me still grapple with the racial tensions captured so well in this endearing movie.
The intent of this post isn't a movie review, but there are certain scenes in "The Help" that gripped me, one of which is towards the end. As "Aibileen" is leaving the family's home from which she has just been let go, she comes face-to-face with the woman who has been intent on making life miserable for the working class women in town. Flustered from the sudden events that led to her being dismissed, "Aibileen" boldly walks right up to this woman and says, "Ain't you tired, Ms. Hilly?" She then exits through the front door, full of emotion somewhere between hurt and relief, and the movie begins to wrap up from there. goes the rabbit trail from that brief scene I've been reflecting on in recent weeks...

I lead a rather uneventful life. (Random flash to one of my all-time favorite movies: "I lead a small life. Valuable, but small.") I have a solid place of employment with a pretty typical Monday-Friday schedule. I'm in my car at 7:30 each morning, coffee in hand, listening to the AM talk radio station, holding my breath as I approach each traffic signal in the hope that I can make it through before it turns red. I have a daily to-do list, a computer screen I'm in front of so often I've considered giving it a name, and all of this in the context of a fantastic company for whom I am so fortunate to work. I come home around 5:00 each evening to an incredibly grateful and gracious husband, as well as two lovable dogs who think I hung the moon. We're usually eating dinner around 7:00, and by 10:30 I'm nodding off on the couch. All in all uneventful, but no less valuable and I should be no less thankful for every good gift.

So then why do I still have those occasional days along the way? Those evenings after washing the long day off my face when I look in the mirror and ask, "Aren't you tired?" I've had countless restless-night conversations with my husband on why certain things creep in and try to rob me of contentment and rest. He sees this in me more often than I'd like to admit, and is so good to bring it up when he sees the weariness starting to take over. So...why? Why when there is so much to be thankful for, when there are so many opportunities for me to embrace life and the good gifts therein, am I still just...tired?
I'm tired because I'm wrestling.
I'm tired because there are days when the Joy is threatened by the temptation to depart from who I was made to be.
I'm tired because I have formed for myself an image of the "ideal" working woman who keeps an immaculate house, cooks up exquisite meals each night for her husband, and gives her husband no reason for frustration or argument...
This image slowly developed over time, beginning in my early years of seminary, and taking on a more clear form once I was married. Rather than cultivating the gifts I know I've been given, those traits that make me me, my gaze and attention began drifting to who I wasn't. My tendency towards people-pleasing is all wrapped up in striving for this false and imagined identity. The constant striving to look and be a certain way eventually zaps my motivation, and there I am - tired and grasping for some purpose in all the work I'm doing. I want the striving (and the image that striving is bent towards) to determine my value rather than embracing the truth that God has made me in a very particular, purposeful way with the desires and gifts He's imparted.

By God's grace, I'm learning to recognize the triggers. The hardest part was finally identifying the real issue and acknowledging the fact that I had built up this image over time. Once I came to a place of acknowledging the truth, only then was I able to fully see the implications and toll it was taking. I was finally able to answer the question of why I'm so often tired from what is a relatively uneventful life.

If you're a woman whose identity is in Christ, do not be deceived. Crafting an image isn't limited to those who strive for satisfaction apart from Him; it just looks different. I would argue that it's actually easier to mask such images behind the facade of spiritual language and effort. To my fellow sisters in the body of Christ -
Cease striving and thank your Maker!

“Jesus Christ is Lord over my heart, and He is Lord over my hands, and He is Lord over what I do with these hands, and He is Lord over what I say in my heart while I’m doing it. In submitting to the lordship of Christ, then, I do not treat washing dishes as wasting time I could be spending doing something ‘meaningful,’ but rather as a service to those who eat in my home, as a service to those who would have to wash dishes if I did not, and as an offering of thanksgiving to God that I have food to eat, dishes to eat it on, and running water inside my home to clean with.” (J.Wilson)


Mrs. Robinson said...

Amazing post. I experience many of the same emotions and frustrations. How am I supposed to work & clean & cook & work out & be there to support my husband & take care of the pup....I enjoyed this post and the perspective it helped give me. Thanks :)

Mrs White said...

Wonderful post.
Thank you.

Mrs White

emma said...

in my random blog searching tonight i came across this and was blessed, thank you.