Time for a shift in subject. The modern church blows me away with its failure of not being led by the Word, but I feel I have blogged enough about that for now.
I want to focus on a problem I have lived with for years, and am now just overcoming at age 59: Christian co-dependence.
It's a journey that many of us are walking. We love the Lord, so we want to help everyone we meet.
In fact, churches unintentionally encourage co-dependence. Because we are taught that everyone who does not know Jesus is lost (true) then it is our job to rescue them (false). Notice I did not say, "Share the Gospel."
\Wait a minute, Cramer (I can hear you saying) we are the share the Gospel by our actions as well as our words.
Yes. But here's an uncomfortable question: Have you ever been serving or helping someone, in the name of Jesus (so eventually you can share the Gospel) and the Gospel never comes up? What does come up is that niggling feeling that you are being taken advantage of; the person doesn't want to change; you are taking on more and more of managing of their lives, emotions and consequences. The person has no real concern for you and is very focused on themselves. They have lots of time to talk about their woe, but they must go if you turn the conversation to yourself.
In other words, am I enabling them to continue in their pattern of self-defeating behavior and narcissistic view of the world?
You help someone when the person reaches out and genuinely seeks a solution to their plight. They are looking for answers and it is then you can talk about the emptiness in their lives and how they have filled it with everything but Jesus.
In contrast, you enable someone when the person reaches out and wants you to help them continue in a lifestyle that is either contrary to the Word or is self-destructive. They want you to rubber-stamp all that they do. When it comes a-tumbling down, they have you to blame. They jump into their kettle of woe again. And again. And again.
Years ago, I would have viewed these words as heartless and very un-Christian. Yet, how many people did I help, only to find out later that I was deceived about their desire to change?
I found that they wanted someone to blame for their failures: me. They wanted someone to feel sorry for them and never question how they went about their lives: me. They wanted someone to listen to them for hours and hours about the same issues and allow only a few words here and there: me.
They didn't think they had a problem. Woe to someone who suggested that they might be wrong: me.
They wanted someone to clean up the mess that their bad decisions caused: me. They wanted someone to serve the church but really serve them: me. They wanted to guilt someone into helping them with time, money or resources: me.
All these years later, I look back, and I can honestly say I don't think my efforts ever proved fruitful. Am I being bitter? Am I being cynical? No. Deep fear and insecurity was the operating principle in the people I tried to rescue, whether they were friends, pastors or family members. Their fear and insecurity was a poison coursing through their souls, brought on by a deep brokenness from long ago.
These people were in full on survival mode. I was not helping them to break free; I was enabling them to use their long held ways and means to just survive.
Let me give you an analogy. How often have you seen a terrified dog running around a busy street? People are calling to it to come to them; we see the danger that the dog is in. It senses the danger but is so scared that it keeps running and will not come to you and to safety. You try to grab it, lure it with treats or herd it into some area where it cannot get hurt. But still it runs and may even, despite your best efforts motivated by the best intentions, get hit or possibly killed.
My sister in the Lord sent me a sad picture a while back. She lives in Oregon and was driving on a rural road. A mama deer had just finished crossing and its fawn was following. The mama disappeared and the fawn did what all fawns do when mama goes away: it laid down in the middle of the road. Right in front of my sister's car. It was in its tight little posture, huddle and feeling safe. But it wasn't. Not at all. Cars and predators could have had a field day with this little one. Good luck trying to convince that little fawn that its very survival mode was actually endangering it.
Do you see my point? The people I helped over the years laid down in the road after a fearful encounter with life. They had survived up until now; why change? Some ran about the road, exerting their control over the situation, terrified that someone would see their inadequacy. So, they kept running, convincing themselves they had this thing. Woe to anyone who said that the car of reality could take them out.
Join me as we confront something that has plagued me and my time in church for years: How do you reach out in Christ's name and speak truth in love to those who come to you? Can you really fix someone? Is everyone in church wanting to grow? Are pastors honest with themselves in their motivation as they serve others? Can I love someone and watch them get hit by a car, so to speak, despite my efforts to warn them? Is their failure then my fault? How do I love my brother as I love myself?
Do I even love myself? Is it that failure to love myself that draws me in time and time again to relationships where my fear of rejection and my insecurity motivate me to help someone, despite my doubts as to their sincerity?
Deep stuff, but I am excited to share what the Lord is showing me. Let me conclude with a scripture:
"No temptation [testing] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted [testing] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[tested] he will also provide a way out ["exit" in Greek] so that you can endure it." (1 Cor. 10:13)
In our walk, we will be tested to help, rescue, talk truth, ignore truth, downplay sin, ignore certain verses, etc. It happens to us all. But, and here is the exciting and liberating part: He will give us the what I call the "exit strategy"--how we cope and carry on so we may honor Him.
If you are in the Co-Dependent house and it is on fire, Jesus comes in like a Firefighter, reaches for your hand and leads you to the exit that He can see, but you can't through all that smoke and flames.
You have a choice: either grab His hand or stay in the house, looking for you own exit.
I am now choosing to take His hand and go with Him to the exit I would not have chosen in my unhealthy state, but now realize there is no other way.
Bless you as we walk together!