In Part I, I discussed honoring people’s free wills, our own principles and trusting God instead of trying to make/force people to change. With this being said, I am not sitting on some lofty perch in the third heavenlies, looking down on mere mortals with the disdain of a pearl clutcher because, like God, my ways are higher than their ways. All of us sin. Granted, certain sins have greater natural consequences and impact than others.
In this final part, I explore more about how we help, while honoring freewill.
I want to make a particular note about people who are Christians, who often use scriptures to endorse codependent behavior or a lack of boundaries. Regardless of one’s faith/beliefs, I think it has implications for almost anyone. Sometimes even Christians get so woo woo and “Jesus love me this I know” that we struggle with facing problems and issues. We can lose our sense of sound judgment because we are scared of judging people. We can become some of the biggest enablers of destructive behavior in our skewed sense of love. Good Lawd.
God has not called us to be judge, jury, and executioner of someone’s spiritual fate. Yet, he has equipped and empowered us to use discernment and live with wisdom of a sound mind. Bearing one another’s burdens and patience do not throw out these qualities.
Love is not fear of facing a troubling situation.
Love sometimes involves delivering our precious brothers and sisters in da Lawd to da debbul. And not in a literal sense of handing over our love ones to the devil. Let us briefly view an example from the early Christian church. Just when you thought a contemporary Western church had drama about changing the worship music, Apostle Paul wrote about an instance of incest happening in the church at Corinth:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)
Suffice it to say, I do not believe Paul is instructing Christians to make a 9:00 am appointment with Lucifer to escort a wayward believer directly into his fiery lair. Also, I do not get the sense that he calls for Christians to begin wishing Satan would whoop the unholy crap out of a naughty saint either. What he is saying is to let the person go. With a heart overflowing in love and mercy, establish/maintain the necessary boundaries. As this person makes choices, and hopefully, after experiencing the natural consequences that come from hellish living, s/he might just see the proverbial light and change. When any of us are tired of a circumstance and ready for change, then we not only receive help, but also ask for it. As for this particular example, keeping the person in the church fellowship, only emboldens and enables this person to stay the same. Our refusal to have a clearer boundaries can endorse the very behavior we want to see transformed. Consequently, our poor choices in handling these issues can thereby create a culture encouraging this behavior. On an individual level, we can love someone without enabling. For example, we can refrain from repeatedly enabling destructive behavior and show love in other ways. This person might accuse us of being unloving. It is far from the truth.
As mentioned in Part I, a skewed sense of love, a weak sense of one’s principles, and codependency, and other reasons, often drives our tendency to over-help. I have witnessed my share of codependent martyrs for Christ, who are unnecessarily sacrificing their lives and the lives of others because of their feelings and unresolved issues. Feelings are not principles. I have been martyrs in different roles, and let me tell you, Honey, there are no crowns in heaven for them. Paul admonished the early church to understand: Love has elements of give and take without compromising your principles or your soul. Jesus did not bow down and worship the devil to preserve the feelings of certain people out of a skewed perception of love.
Be a Messenger and a Light
When people are shaking their metaphorical fists at God, life, you, and any random thing, you in all of your masterful influence might not be their wake-up call. At the most your role is a messenger and to be a light. Maybe the message is the gentle nudge needed or the light they choose to embrace. The actual wake-up is how the person processes and responds. Let’s unpack these two simple roles:
A messenger simply delivers a message. She does not hang around to help you interpret it. She does not stay to help with how to carry out the message. She does not attempt to make you listen to her interpretation and indepth teaching to carry it out. She does not return, on her own volition, to repeat the message every other day. She has one job. One job, I say. And that is to deliver a message and, wait for it, wait for it… leave. By the way, this messenger would be fired and probably have a slew of restraining orders.
The same applies to us. How often have we in our desire to help others, become this stalker messenger?
We do it to our significant others, children, colleagues, neighbors, family members at the barbeque. For some of us, we persist in our advice, ignoring the visual cues and the body language of our listeners, silently begging, “Stop!” Our helpful reminders can translate to preaching and nagging, strategies which typically do not work.
Instead, we can deliver the message and walk away from our desire to repeat it in any way.
One plant, another waters, and God gives the increase. This scripture seems so simple, and yet, I have complicated it like the Bible was an organic chemistry course. Only God can do the transformative work of changing the heart of a person. It is a supernatural phenomenon when anyone has an “aha” moment, where things click, and we see the light. No one can come in and force that kind of change. I think it is amazing about humanity-we are more than body- we are these spiritual beings, too. All work and function together.
Your message could be the seed that needs planting. Trust that someone else will be sent like you to water it or vice-versa. Again, only God gives the increase. We can find ourselves, so busy planting and watering over and over again, that it stifles the journey from seed time to harvest.
Light simply shines. One of our roles in this world is to light it up with our own journeys. To paraphrase one of Jesus’s teachings, imagine living in excruciating pain, due to a 2 X4 lodged in our eye. Instead of tending to our own struggles, in our desire to help someone who we perceive in need of guidance (ahem, typically our guidance), we focus on the toothpick in theirs. All of us have levels of healing and transformation, from emotional to spiritual to physical to financial, that we can tend to in our own lives before getting caught in an psychological and spiritual tailspin in our desire to help people remove their toothpicks. We can walk as the light by walking out the transformation of removing the 2 X4 from our eyes.
Worrying and a tug of war with someone who is still fighting with their own inner turmoil does not get anyone anywhere. We are not shining as lights, but acting as instruments of war. After years of these exercises in futility, I realized I needed to make a big shift. It was insanity to keep doing things that were not working. With each bump in the road, I used it as an opportunity to become even clearer about who I choose to be in this world and to assess how well I am living according to my principles and values. I choose to be a light in how I live, and not over-give. Instead of telling a person over and over and over again about what they need to do, I choose to live in my principles of freedom. I do not desire to control people and their journey, even in the name of helping. Depending on the situation, firmer boundaries might be put in place. Over the years, I have become increasingly clearer about what matters most. Trying to fight for people to change when they fight to stay the same does not rank on my life’s priorities. After all, I have symbolic light pole in my eye that I am working on removing.
Presently, if I find myself engaging with people who are not being receptive to my help, I have learned to pause to evaluate the situation. I have learned to accept that I have either planted or watered and respect their choices and journeys.
I surrender my need to try to change or help them. I embrace my growth journey. I embrace more peace and joy.
We can surrender our assumptions that we can make all of the change happen. Most of all, we surrender to the truth that only God moves in ways beyond our human capacity. We get the exciting opportunity to be involved with Him and as an expression of Him.
We shift the time we spend thinking of how to help and what to do, and at worse, the what if’s, to thanking God. We spend time in gratitude and receiving God’s love and growing as lights. We can better give to ourselves and others out of an overflow of love and gratitude.
We surrender, knowing that although life is enmeshed with triumphs and tribulations, and that wells of joy can spring up no matter what through our relationship with God and our deep and meaningful connections with His creation. These needful things will help sustain us, free will and all.