Saturday, February 29, 2020


Excellent concern.  After being co-dependent for as long as I can remember--living a life meeting everyone’s needs, basking in their approval and shrinking from conflict--I couldn’t imagine any other way of living.  Period.  You might as well have asked me to emigrant to a foreign country, convert to the national religion and eat foods that still had multiple legs and antennae, having been slapped on a grill and served with some kind of unrecognizable grain.  

In other words, no way.  No how.  Nada.

Think about it this way:

If you love to sing, you sing.

If you love to dance, you dance. 

If you love to read, you read. 

If you love people and hate to see them struggle, and they unload their burden on you when you are too young to understand that the burdens are not for you to carry, you become co-dependent. 

Now, fast forward:

If no one shows you what key a song is in, you risk hitting notes that are either sharp or flat.

If no one shows you how to warm up before dancing, you risk injury.

If no one shows you what books are written for your age, you might be exposed to ideas that will haunt you.

If no one shows you how to love people without their problems being your problems, you will associate love with being needed, and your life will merge into theirs.   

So, let’s return briefly to the desert, where Moses is dealing with ungrateful grumbling ex-slaves who bemoan their freedom and long to return to Egypt.  These people are classic triggers for us co-dependent people: they are endlessly needy; they want help from us but are unwilling to contribute; they make us feel needed and wanted by bewailing their situation; and they make us feel that we must help them, for no one else will.

We will view scene through the lens of how a co-dependent would react.  How we see the world as co-dependents is not healthy, but it is familiar:

That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”

And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:1-4)

I would have stepped in and said, “I will help you!”  I would have spent the whole evening telling them how maybe Egypt was not so bad; how we can cope if we have a better attitude; maybe we should move on and find another place to go.  

In other words, I would have avoided the heart of the problem, because I hate conflict:  These people are rebelling against God.  Period. 

Look at the leaders’ reaction: 

Then Moses and Aaron fell face down in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Number 14:5-9)

Joshua and Caleb are stunned.  Moses and Aaron are utterly devastated by the people’s reaction.  Not because of people’s anger against them but how the people are blaspheming God by their insinuation that all the mighty deeds He performed are going to lead to their demise.  In other words, they will not trust Him nor His leaders, despite all He has done for them.

In other words, they prefer the sinful land of Egypt with its slavery to a pagan people who have a god for everything, over serving the One True God.

Whoa.  This is an insult to God of the highest degree.   The way the leaders are responding shows that they understand how treasonous the people are being. 

The land is good.  God is good.  Obedience to Him will lead to success and blessing.  The people in the Land are no match for the people of God—Egypt was a demonstration of that  truth over and over. Would I have been willing to call the people out as did Joshua and Caleb?  Rebellion is sin, pure and simple.  Am I willing to call out a sin in someone when God calls me to?  Unbelief is a sin, and comes from a rebellious heart.  This heart says, “I don’t need You, God.  I will go my own way, do my own thing and then blame You when it all goes south.”  

Belief in God’s Son Jesus, His death, burial and resurrection is the core of the Gospel.  The Gospel tells us how God is satisfied and how we enter into the truth of His Son.  Look how the writer of Hebrews puts it:

Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.  Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

‘So I declared on oath in my anger,
    ‘They shall never enter my rest.’

And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.  For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”  And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

‘Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts.’

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.  There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works] just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:1-11)

That sinning in the desert provides a rich lesson for us co-dependents, for if a person is actively or even passively refusing to believe in what God has provided, when we step in and try to mitigate the consequences of their choices, we are getting in the way of that person being confronting by the Holy Spirit as to what they are doing. 

That’s a lot to consider, because our motives are good.  But good motives never saved anyone.  The Holy Spirit’s calling the heart of a person, which may take years and years, is the only way someone truly feels conviction and repents.  If Joshua and Company had settled for a quick fix to the people in the desert, and either took them back to Egypt, downplayed how rebellious they were being toward God or settled in the desert itself, bypassing the Promised Land altogether, how different would the world be today.

God had a plan to use His chosen people to bring forth His Son: the Messiah, the ultimate Joshua, the Deliverer, the One who would lead us into the Promised Land, which is dwelling in the presence of His Father and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.  I am grateful for such powerful and non-compromising leaders that stood in the desert against the people and their sin.  We, as believers, benefited from such obedience.  

How do we start re-examining the world and all its neediness without automatically jumping into, “Oh, let me help you /rescue you /make your life better/ignore your choices/not call out the truth!”  Good question.

Let’s start with the verses immediately following the above verses about rebellion, unbelief and sin:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:12-13)

God’s Word has the power to inform us as to how to pursue the right course.  It is animated by God’s own Spirit, and keeps us grounded when we want to read off our own script. We do not face this process alone.  Check out the next verses right after this:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)

Another “Whoa!” 

Jesus is always there to assist us on how to navigate those moments when we try to meet everyone’s needs, with no questions asked, and we start to feel burdened and resentful. What do we do then?

  • Stop
  • Say, “I will get back to you on this.”
  • Go to the Word
  • Go to Jesus
  • Wait
  • Listen
  • Apply the truth you have been shown by His Spirit 

No quick fixes here.  No jumping in.  No sense of “I must do this for this person.”  (Has God told you to do this?  Or are you just reacting?)

God, through His Son, has led us into His Sabbath-rest.  There are many who wander in the desert (Christians included) who would rather grumble, mumble, question God and blame others for their lives than confront the truth:  they are sinning.  They love yanking us out of our Sabbath-rest and making us wander with them. 

Whew.  We will keep going next time, and pursue how we will manage: by looking closely at Jesus. 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

It's Lonely at the Top

When we reorient our lives away from co-dependency, it is a tough journey.  When we are not constantly trying to meet others' needs, we feel mean, unchristian, selfish and distant.  For us, those feelings are emotional "flu"--we feel a chronic kind of terrible. 

We are not bad people--our hearts are kind and we enjoy see others succeed.  But just like the frog who sat in the pot of water as it slowly came to a boil, we do not see the toxic relationship we are in until we are in too deep and extricating ourselves out of it will be painful and slow. 

So, when we decide to pursue a life without constantly trying to:
  • win others' approval
  • avoid conflict at all costs
  • figure out and then fix others' problems
  • be available 24/7 to listen to someone's never-ending tale of woe
  • clean up the messes others have made
  • control every situation
  • control how others react to you
  • allow for others' faults but critical of your own...
...we will find it's lonely at the top.  Let me share with you a recent experience I had.  I find that when God allows you to share wise counsel with others, He wants you to incorporate it into your own life as well.  My teaching on co-dependency have really hit home. 

About a year ago, I started attending a church.  It was a relief.  I had just come through a church with a pastor who manipulated me and totally tapped into my need for an approving father-figure.  He could be loving and kind and then he would shut me down with a critical remark.  He later started to blame me for his poor decisions and refused to reconcile with me.  I went to his house, trying to clear the air and he sat there so angry, I could feel it.  I knew I had make a mistake, but I forged ahead, but to no avail.  I left and years later he still lied about me to cover his failures and dishonesty.

This new church was very healing.  I served on the worship team and enjoyed the fellowship immensely.  The pastor has a truly sincere heart for evangelism and invites those who do not know Christ to come and accept Him.  He does this every week, for he does not want anyone to go to hell.

My calling is teaching, so I wanted to help the pastor's wife with her Bible study.  She critiqued the times I taught, which I found disconcerting.  I honor the material but if the Holy Spirit leads me to go off-script for a bit, I will do that.  She was not keen on that.  She told me I would be trained on the job, for this particular Bible study had required training, which she had taken years ago.  I felt as if the tether was growing shorter and shorter on the expression of my gift. 

We had an upcoming women's event, which I was going to teach, and she wanted to see my notes.  In other words, she wanted to hand off the responsibility of leading, while still maintain authority over it.  She saw it as perhaps "quality control;" I saw it as micro-management.  Her oversight was suffocating me; finally I snapped inside. 

I met with her and told her we were leaving the church.  She was shocked; I saw no other solution.  Extreme?  Perhaps, but for my sanity and healing, I had to leave.

The old me would have continued on, building up resentment and anger, then burying it deep inside.  The result?  Adding to my depression, which I battle all the time.  Yes, I am on medication, but medication does not make decisions for you.  I was not being fed; despite the earnestness of the pastor's messages, they were at times at bit shallow.  I was disturbed at the pastor's wife being involved in every ministry in the church, except for the men, and there was nothing going on for the men. 

I do not wish to build a case against this church--I needed to go.

I did exit with a heart-felt letter about why I was leaving.  The pastor accepted it well; he could have responded in anger or ignored it.  He did not, which I really appreciated. 

The pastor's wife triggered many things in me that could have led right back into a co-dependent, people-pleasing, toxic kind of relationship.  It was really hard to leave, but essential for me in this part of my healing.

I am now in church-detox. 

I love to serve and church was always a safe haven for me, after I became a Christian at 14.  My family was a mess; my church family was loving and kind to me as a tender teenager.  I always dive in to serving, long before I know the inner workings of a church.  I just assume everyone will work out their differences because they love Jesus.  Maybe, but everyone is on a different part of the pilgrim path, and not everyone is where we would like them to be.

So, now, I sit in church, worship, listen to the sermon and go home.  It is hard, because I want to jump in, but I still need time to heal.

God is kind and sometimes we are walking and other times, we are resting by the still waters.  I call my new house my "Psalm 23 Home."  I am here because God opened up the door for us to move and I love my new house.  But, after four churches where it ended poorly, I need to detox.  Church for me is like a relationship: I keep looking for needy churches and they draw me in.  I serve and love it for awhile, but then the unhealthiness emerges and it is hard for me to extricate out of it. 

I am by the still waters right now.  My soul needs restoring.  Until that happens, I will be drawn to small, needy churches where I will jump in and serve, much to my detriment.  Rehabilitation is hard, but for this co-dependent woman, it is essential.

Jesus is now more precious than ever. I am no longer lost in church trying to find Him or be distracted from my life by staying busy, busy, busy.  I am seeking to be Mary as I detox from being Martha.

Bless you, dear readers.  Hopefully, as I journey on, the Holy Spirit will use these blogs to give you clarity.  I need clarity as well; I am blessed to share my journey with you. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

CoDeWo Nightmare #2: Pleasing Family

It is hard enough to keep those people around us content:  We are on high alert all the time to meet their needs and make sure we are making them happy.  We ignore their poor decisions, distorted and chaotic thinking and believe deep inside, that if they are not happy, it is our fault and our failure.

We saw one of the early incidences in Jesus' life where He heard the call to ministry, was baptized, tempted by Satan and then, with His Father's confirmation still ringing in His ears, He went forth. 

As we saw in Luke 4, in an earlier blog, things did not go well when He united Isaiah's words as now being fulfilled in His ministry.  The reaction of the synagogue attendees was explosive when He reminded them that the good news was for everyone:  Jews as well as Gentiles.  The people angrily  lead Jesus to the edge of a cliff, to be thrown off and stoned.  He left and stay on the course prescribed for Him by His Father.

(Quick thought here:  In their distorted thinking--that the Messiah would not be like this but like their imaginings--they thought they were acting on the truth.  Our thinking can be so destructive, if if we think our motivation and heart is good...)

No doubt, Jesus' family was there that day.  They probably huddled together on the sidelines, fervently praying that Jesus would be safe.  A scary day for His mother to watch, and His brothers and sisters to wonder if He was going to have His ministry end as quickly as it had begun.  Maybe they were upset by His words as well; to think that God would extend His grace and mercy to the Gentiles was an abhorrent thought, even if it was being expressed by someone you love.

Let's go to another scene, where Jesus and His family have an encounter over what He is doing.  This time, His family is not huddling on the sidelines; they are bold, because they are afraid.  Did that day in the synagogue forever haunt them?

Let's set the scene in Mark 3.  Jesus has been busy.  He is in the synagogue again and a man with a withered hand is present.  Jesus heals him, much to the murderous rage of the Pharisees, who insisted that such an action violated the Sabbath.  He then withdraws to the lake, and is followed by huge crowds, who desperately seek Him for healing.  He retreats to a mountainside, and appoints those men who will be His closest followers, walking in His steps and being trained to one day carry on without His physical presence. 

So far, so good.  Nothing here rings my CoDeMo bells.

Now, it gets ugly: "Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'” (Mark 3:20-21) 

Punch No. 1:  Jesus, stop acting crazy!  You are scaring us!  This business could get You killed!

Then comes Punch No.2:  The Pharisees show up and start accusing Jesus.  They posit that He is possessed by Satan and that's where His power comes from.  Whoa.  

His family is saying He is out of His mind and the Pharisees are saying He is possessed.  Now all my bells are ringing for the displeasure, anger and chaos is huge here, and I would be scrambling to get everyone calmed down and tell them what is really going on.  But I would have to downplay or downright denigrate my calling, my ministry's legitimacy, my Father's confirmation, and how I am doing this in obedience...but I am really sorry all of you are so ticked at me!  Sorry, sorry, sorry... 

But Jesus is always about the TRUTH, not making others happy, comfortable or content with what He does.  What He does is in obedience to the Father.  

But you might be thinking:  Hold on there, Rhonda... I am not Jesus!

No, true, but the same Power that resurrected Him is in you if you have accepted Him as Savior and Lord: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you." (Rom. 8:11) 

Did you catch the enormity of that?  Jesus was raised to life after a hideous death by the power of God and that same Power--His very own Holy Spirit--lives in you.  So, no while you are not Jesus, you may tap into that same Power for guidance and wisdom as you walk in Him.

So, Jesus is faced with a family who thinks He is crazy and the religious leaders who think He is under the power of evil.

But His response is the truth.  No shading, diluting or trying to recreate the moment so that no one is unhappy:  He says that His family are those people who do the will of His Father, and that if you attribute the works of God to Satan, you are in danger of committing a sin of eternal proportions.  

I am learning, as I share and read along with you, that the "cure" for co-dependency is truth and The Truth.  Jesus spoke the truth in the synagogue that day: Isaiah's words were written about Him. The good news and purpose of His ministry were contained in those words.  He was saying that day, "Don't take My word for it...take the Word for what I am doing."

He reclaimed that Sabbath from an avoidance of work back to doing compassionate acts, thereby showing how His Father saw the Sabbath.  Finally, He reminded His family that family is not a biological bungee cord that allows for little movement.  Family are those people who, like Jesus, want to follow the Father with purpose and truth. 

So, truth and Jesus Himself being the Truth, the Way and the Life, is liberating for a CoDeWo like me.  If I am listening to Him in prayer and allowing Him to guide me through His Word (so I can see the real truth, not my skewed co-dependent view of it, flushed with fear and chaos) then I am being slowly set free.

Truth has its costs, as we see in the life of Jesus. How about this:  Next time you are tempted to lie, diminish or downright excuse what you believe is God's way and will for you, think of yourself in a courtroom, and ask yourself, am I telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me, God? 

Then pray for strength from the very One who called Himself, "The Truth."  It won't be easy, but real change never is. But you are not doing this stepping away from co-dependency on your own.  He goes with you.   

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