How "Steel Magnolias" taught me to love like Jesus.
I have directed and starred in the play Steel Magnolias twice. Both times at the community theater I used to own. The first time I was Truvy. The second time, I played M'Lynn. Do you not just LOVE Steel Magnolias? Heartbreaking, funny, beautiful, and "real" wrapped up into a phenomenal production.
Most people have only seen the movie. (The play is very simiilar) Most people love Ouiser (Weezer). The loveable and hysterical curmudgeon. She is loud, outspoken, tells-it-like-it-is, and brash. In the movie, she is hysterical.
But what about dealing with a real-life "Ouiser"?
The first time I directed the production, the woman who was playing the character of "Ouiser" just couldn't get one particular scene right. It was her first time on stage, and she was trying, but it just wasn't clicking.
One night, during rehearsal, I tried a million ways to show her how to act the scene. I pulled out every trick out of my director's bag. I tried this, that, and the other thing, but it wasn't working, and she was getting more frustrated by the minute. I was about to take a break when she snapped.
She looked at me with daggers in her eyes and just started screaming.
I won't repeat everything she said because it isn't appropriate for this site, but it went along the lines of "You think you know everything. You call yourself a Christian? You are nothing but an idiot! Some Christian you are."
And with that, she stormed off the stage. I didn't respond to her character assassination. I took a fifteen-minute break and finished the rehearsal. There is more to this story below.
How do you love the unlovable?
Jesus called twelve men to follow him. He hand-picked these ordinary guys to be His followers and disciples. He picked Peter. Oh, how I just love Peter. I wish I knew more of his backstory; the story before He answered the call.
Were he and his brother Andrew friends? Or was their sibling rivalry between them? He was married. Did he have a big wedding? Did he drive his wife crazy like he did the other disciples?
Fisherman during the first century were gruff men; men's men. They were outspoken, rough, and perhaps even used vulgar language. Peter was impulsive. He was strong-willed and harsh. I imagine Peter was very much unlovable.
And yet . . .
Jesus loved him. Not only did Jesus love him, but He also prayed for Peter. (Luke 22:31-32)
How did Jesus love the unlovable?
How was Jesus able to love someone so rough, harsh, and unlovable? "He was God. That's how", you say. And you'd be right. He was God. But Hebrews 4:15 tells us that He was tempted just as we are, but without sin. I wonder if Jesus was tempted to throw Peter right out of the fishing boat a time or two!
Jesus loved Peter and taught us, through His example how to love the unlovable.
1. Pray for the them.
Not only did Jesus pray for Peter in Luke 22:31-32. He prays for us. Let's be honest with ourselves, there are moments when we are utterly unlovable, and yet Jesus prays for us! (John 17:20-23)
If there is someone in your life that is harsh, rude, rubs you like sandpaper, and doesn't have a kind word in their bodies, you must pray for them.
2. Give Grace and Forgive.
When "Ouiser" cursed me out on my stage, my flesh rose up, and I was so tempted to reem her out with my own special selection of carefully chosen vocabulary.
I didn't, but boy did I want to.
Instead, I offered her grace, and I forgave her.
Colossians 3:12-14 says, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony."
It isn't easy to put on grace, but it is necessary as God's disciples to give others the same grace and forgiveness Jesus gave us.
NOW, I am not saying be a doormat to everyone's vile attitudes and words. ABSOLUTELY NOT! If there is someone in your life that is toxic to you, you must let them go into the hands of God.
But for those in your life, that are just a bit rough around the edges, give them grace. Christ gave it to you, give it to them.
3. Put on Humility.
I was utterly humiliated when this woman attacked my character. I was standing there in front of my cast and crew. I was the director of the play and owner of the theater, and here was this woman verbally abusing, lying, and tearing me up one side and down the other.
I learned a long time ago that "pride comes before the fall," (Proverbs 16:18) and I learned (through many failures) how to be humble. I humbled myself to this woman because deep down inside, behind her hurtful words, was a whole heap of pain.
Take a look at Luke 6:27-36, " “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also . . . ".
It is so difficult to submit to Luke 6:27-26, isn't it? But when we humble ourselves in the presence of our enemies, we will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)
Don't allow your pride to rise up in the face of the unlovable. Humble yourself, and I promise, the Lord will exalt you.
4. Look past the faults and find the need.
After rehearsal, that night, "Ouiser" asked to talk to me. She apologized for her ridiculous behavior. I asked her what brought it on; after all, I didn't do anything abnormal to invoke that kind of reaction. She agreed. I told her that I heard a lot of pain in her voice, and asked if she wouldn't mind telling me the root of her outburst.
She told me that her daughter, who was a born-again Christian like myself, had died a few years back. The day of the rehearsal was her daughters birthday. She went on to say that her daughter not only looked similar to me but had the same personality. "Ouiser," told me that her daughter would always push her to be better; to strive for excellence the same way I was doing at that rehearsal.
She apologized for taking out the pain of losing her daughter on me.
Often, when someone is utterly unlovable, it is because there is a more profound need. Most people aren't born hateful, mean-spirited, and gruff. There is usually an event, a circumstance, or a situation that forms the personality.
If there is someone in your life that is difficult to love, I will encourage you to look past how they are treating you, what they are saying to you, and how they react to you; look past their faults and see their need.
"Ouiser" needed a hug. She needed a good cry. She needed someone to tell her that her daughter was singing with the angels because she knew Jesus. She needed someone to be Jesus to her at that moment.
Did I want to? My flesh didn't! Absolutely not! My flesh wanted to kick her out of the theater and recast her part!
BUT GOD . . .
When you surrender your life to Jesus something funny happens; you begin to think like Him. You begin to talk like Him. You begin to react like Him more and more each day.
My flesh came under subjection that day.
In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." When we see past their faults to their needs; when we love the unloveable we are bringing our flesh under subjection to the will of God.
5. Pray for Yourself.
Pray that the Lord would give you the wisdom to reach those who are difficult to love. Pray that He guides your words and actions. Pray that He shows you their needs. Pray that He keeps you humble and full of grace.
I know it isn't easy. My "Ouiser" story is one in a million of learning to love difficult, mean-spirited people. But I promise you this; you will come out better for the love you show them.
The world is full of difficult people. We are difficult people. We are hard to love sometimes. But God gives us such grace and mercy. He loves us, and we must love others in return.
Like I said earlier, toxic/ungodly/abusive relationships ARE NOT what I am talking about in this post. Please be clear on that. I am talking about the "Ousier's" in your life; the ones that are rough around the edges. I am talking about the "Peter's" in your life.; the ones that are harsh, gruff, outspoken, and impulsive.
Pray for them.
Show them grace.
See past their faults and find their need.
And through all of it, pray that the Lord will give you His strength and wisdom to love them . . . faults and all.
All My Love . . . Erika💛
YOUR TURN: How do you love difficult people? Let us know in the comments below.