The director and the actor, part 3

This will make zero sense unless you start with Part 1

I need to add an important caution to this next part of the allegory. It is not advocating that one spouse’s love can “heal” their abusive or overly critical partner. This allegory is not necessarily about marriage — and certainly not intended to be about an abusive one — but about relationships within the Body of Christ. (In fact, this part makes me think most of all about church leaders trying to deal with broken and wounded sinners — especially the “messy” type of trauma victims many Christians have the least patience with.) We need to remember that it is God’s love that has the power to transform; our love cannot save anyone. At the same time, recognizing that we are neither Christ nor the Holy Spirit does not give us excuse not to love. 

When the director spoke again, there was still compassion in his voice, but the tears had been replaced with a gentle firmness. “The actress has been a rebel at times. She has deeply grieved me. Before you met her, she was in another one of my shows, and sometimes she wouldn’t show up and I had to go looking for her. A few times I even dragged her out of bars. She has had a rough life, and she’s been through things, and done things, that you’ll never understand. As I said before, she finds it really difficult to believe that I’m her friend, and not just her director. She has an even harder time believing that I love her like my own daughter. She feels completely inadequate to play the role I wrote just for her. But despite all of that, despite her fears, despite her injured leg, despite her messy past, despite the times I’ve had to come down on her pretty heavy, she will sometimes throw herself so completely and totally into her role that it makes my heart sing. Unfortunately, she never realizes how well she has done — in fact, she always thinks she messed up. That’s because she forgets to look at me, so she can’t see the delight in my eyes, and…well, I told you that your voice drowns out mine. Each of those time, you thought she had messed up too.”

Both of them sat in silence for a moment, lost in their own thoughts, until the director said, “You two have so much to teach each other. She knows that. I wish you did. Well, actually she thinks she has nothing worthwhile to offer anyone, especially you, and you think you have a lot to teach her. But you are teaching her mostly wrong things, the opposite of what I’m trying to teach her. I’m gentle and soft-spoken — both of you seem not to hear me at times — and when your voice is harsh and critical, it becomes so loud that mine cannot be heard at all.”

“Yeah, but what about when she yells at me?”

“Haven’t I been dealing with her yelling? It’s your voice that’s the problem now, and the way you are using it to damage the spirit of someone I am trying to heal. Can’t you work with me on this? And speaking of things that need to be dealt with…you are so critical of her, so condemning. You have gossiped about her to others in the cast, violating my ‘no gossip’ rule.”

“Wait! That was not gossip! I needed to talk to someone…I was just pouring out my problems…”

“You never asked me. I would have told you that you were picking all the wrong people, people with bad advice, who spread your gossip further, and who encouraged your resentful attitude. I notice that you didn’t go to people who you knew would agree with me, and you resented me so much by then that you didn’t want to hear a word I had to say about the situation. I already told you what to do — in fact, I even wrote it out for you — but that’s not the answer you wanted. What you wanted was to be the director and to control the whole show: script, casting, and everything. You didn’t like my script; you refused to play the role I wrote for you; then you tried to argue with me that you knew better and didn’t need my direction when it came to this role.”

The truth of the director’s words stung even more as he went on, “And you know something else? When you rejected her, when you ignored her, when you despised her, when you judged her harshly and unfairly, when you accused her wrongly, when you turned others against her, when you were cold and indifferent to her tears and pleading — I knew. I saw it all. I heard her sobs alone in the dark. And you were doing all those things to me, because I love her, and she is like a daughter to me. You despised and rejected me. And, all that time, you were telling her — and anyone you thought would agree with you — that she was the one messing up and you were the one following the script.”

The director let his words hang in the air a while before he continued, “Oh, yes, she messes up. She is one of the most wayward and difficult actresses I’ve ever had to work with. Maybe that’s why I love her so much — she needs it so desperately. But the thing is that a lot of the time you got it wrong. You thought she was messing up when she wasn’t, just because she wasn’t doing what you wanted. You were so focused on yourself and how it was unfair of me not to give you ‘artistic control’ of your part of the show, and how you deserved so much better, and how wrong I was — you were so bitter and angry that you never noticed or cared that she actually loves you. You rejected that as coldly as you rejected her.”

A few times, the actor had wanted to speak up, to defend himself, to point out more of the actresses’ flaws and failures, but his defenses had crumbled, and he was still fighting back tears.

“Do you remember once, when you had come to me yet again with a barrage of complaints, that I told you how this was a perfect opportunity to learn how to love? You muttered something sarcastic about how she was so unloveable that if you could learn how to love her, you could learn how to love anyone.”

The actor wanted to defend himself, to insist that he’d just been joking, but then thought that now was not the time to accuse the director of being as humorless and overly sensitive as the actress.

The director went on, “Oh, my friend, once again you missed the point entirely! I meant that you were supposed to learn how to love by watching how she loves. The ironic thing is that, even though she thinks she is unworthy and doubts my love, she is learning to love the way I do.  I’m not sure why — maybe because I encouraged her to see you through my eyes — but she grew to love you. All the things you said and did to her, the way you treated her, the way you refused to see and appreciate the best things about her — that would have killed the love of most people. In fact, she came in to see me more than once, crying, and asked me, ‘Why are you so into this love stuff? The more I love, the more it hurts!’ I was tempted to say, ‘Oh, you and me both!’ But I told her that the harder someone’s heart is, the more they need love. I reminded her how love is the only force in the universe capable of healing people. Don’t take this the wrong way, but someday she will pity you when she realizes your heart is far more crippled than her leg. Right now she worries that she loves poorly, but I keep telling her that hard-hearted people don’t cry about how hard-hearted they are.”

The director grew silent, waiting until the actor looked up. Then he said, “You need to trust me, really trust me. You need to stop despising and rejecting her love, just because it doesn’t look and act the way you think it should. Don’t you realize that the type of actress you think you want would end up being just as cold and rejecting as you are? No other woman would be so willing to love and love and love the way the actress keeps loving you. Unfortunately, some of that comes more from a place of brokenness and sense of unworthiness than it does from strength. But she is only human, and eventually you will wound her too deeply. If not…well, every woman longs to be loved and respected in return. She is no different. She will give up on you…and you will continue on with your misguided notions about love. You have no idea the treasure you have been trampling under foot, and you have no idea how deeply you have offended me. The irony, though, is that you also have no idea that it is you who has been most damaged by your pride and ingratitude — and by your unwillingness to trust that I know far more about love, and far more about directing, than you do.” His voice changed from stern to loving, and tears filled his eyes as he clasped the actor’s hand in his. “Oh, my son,” he said, so grieved that his tears flowed again, “I pity you. How I pity you…”

The actor left, feeling hurt and bewildered. How could the director accuse him of not trusting him enough? Wasn’t he the one who would tell all the other actors that, in order to be good at their craft, they needed to trust the director and do what he said? Could it really be true that he hadn’t been trusting him after all? And why couldn’t he find a woman who would love him the way he wanted to be loved? Why did the director think the actress was so special — it wasn’t as if he was blind to her faults. He thought he knew the director very well; in fact, he thought their close friendship gave him unique insight, and he would often tell the other actors what the director really meant. But almost everything he had said about the actress baffled the actor.

To his surprise, the indignation he had been nursing along began to fade as he drove away from the studio. Perhaps it was time to let it go. Perhaps it was time to turn over a new leaf, to humble himself, and to go back so he could ask the director for forgiveness.

I really do want to trust the director, he thought. And I want him to teach me what it is to be a real friend. Because I’m a terrible excuse for a friend, the way I’ve been treating him lately. Some of his friend’s words began to pierce his heart, and he grew astonished at how deep the director’s love was for the actress, so much so that he considered an affront against her to be an affront against himself. How could the director love such a flawed person? Why would he even want to? Then he remembered what the director had said: “Maybe that’s why I love her so much — she needs it so desperately.”

That’s when a terrible thought hit him: Is that why the director loves me? Because I need it so desperately? Is my heart really as crippled as he says it is?

It wasn’t until later that he had one of those “aha!” moments that would change his life forever, a realization that — in the weeks and months to come — led to such a profound change in him that it turned his life upside down, eventually bringing him the most heart-rending pain he had ever experienced as well as exquisite joy he had never dreamed possible. Many consider the director to be the best there is, the actor realized, yet he stoops to working with unknown actors in a soap opera. He’s right that I don’t trust him, or I’d have torn up my own script long ago, and I’d not hold back when it came to following him, even when I don’t understand. If I really trusted him, I’d believe what he said…oh, how wrong I’ve been about everything…about the script, about the actress, and especially about the director!

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“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
C. S. Lewis

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And now, finally, I’ve posted the last installment.

One thought on “The director and the actor, part 3

  1. Pingback: The director and the actor, part 2 | Prone to wander…

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