Recently I learned something I really should have known by now. Or maybe I’ve known it for quite some time, but I’m just now able to admit that it’s true.
I was sitting in my pajamas on our back deck one hot morning, eating a nectarine that a wasp was zealously dive-bombing, when it just came out of the blue, so clearly:
You can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.
You see, I have several people in my life who seem to be telling me with their actions that I’m in the way. Maybe they feel judged, maybe they feel smothered, maybe they feel I’m not being sincere. Or maybe they feel they can’t be honest around someone who seems to, at least for now (and little do they know), have everything together.
That morning, as my husband and I drove around doing our Saturday errands, I told him about this. And then I asked him, my voice cracking a little, “What am I supposed to do with everything I have to give if no one seems to want it?”
And he said, “Jesus said a prophet is not without honor in his own country. As many people as reject what you offer, think of all who rejected what he offered.”
No one much liked Jesus; no one understood this guy who challenged the Pharisees, disregarded the Sabbath, broke bread with immoral women, and spoke in parables about lost coins and mustard seeds.
And yet, Jesus changed the world. Before he died on a cross, before he gave up the mortal world, he chose just 12 followers (two of whom denied him in his last hours, and one of whom started his church) and what they did and said to those who did and didn’t believe thousands of years ago changed the world.
It’s hard to not be received. It’s hard to stand by and not do anything as someone you love suffers. It’s hard to hang on your cross, whatever that may be, and not be bitter about it. So Jesus gave us an out. Depart, he said, when you know there’s nothing more you can do, and shake the dust off your feet.
Which is to say, at a certain point you have to just let it go. Because maybe our purpose, as hard as it is to swallow and understand, isn’t to be needed, isn’t to be wanted, isn’t to be helpful, isn’t to be wise and available, isn’t to change other people’s lives. Maybe our purpose is simply to learn to love to another’s capacity, instead of our own.