Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sometimes It IS About Me

One of the most influential books of modern times, Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life, begins with four very compelling words -- "It's not about you."  But in my experience I have learned that even though life is not supposed to be about us, sometimes we have to make it about us in order to survive.

Until I finally embraced the reality that Jesus is more than capable of carrying my burdens and taking care of the things that concern me, I made some really stupid mistakes. Some days I still do.  For instance, beginning in college I spent a lot of time socializing with friends who were engaged in behaviors or had emotional issues I thought I could somehow "save" them from, especially since I was a Christian.  Instead I was drawn into a life of sin, compromising nearly every value I held to as a believer.  Being Jesus to them didn't give me license to play God and do what only He can do -- heal, restore, and deliver.  As a result of my own foolishness, I began a downward spiral that lasted well into my twenties and resulted in the deterioration of my relationship with God and my self-esteem.

By the mercies of the God I professed to believe and worshipped every Sunday, I was spared the full consequences of my sin.  It took a shameful wake up call for me to realize how self-destructive my life had become and to call out to Him for forgiveness and deliverance.  But He was faithful, not only to forgive me but also to teach me that there is no disgrace in setting boundaries in my relationships and that sometimes it is okay to be more concerned about myself than someone else whose baggage isn't mine to carry in the first place.  True, as believers we are called to think more highly of others than ourselves and to carry one another's burdens.  But I have learned that it's okay -- necessary, even -- to let God be God and remember that I am not.  I cannot fix everything that is wrong with the people I care about.  Heck!  I can't even fix myself most days!  Only God can.

This is a lesson I have tried desperately to teach my teenagers who must now deal with the drama of their own generation.  I am concerned about the amount of emotional baggage so many of these young people bring into their friendships.  While I want my kids to "be Jesus" to those around them, I feel compelled to remind them of the dangers of treading too closely with kids who are dabbling in drugs or acting out because of emotional insecurity caused by problems at home.  My kids have enough burdens to carry; they certainly don't need to take on anyone else's problems.

Some of us are living with turmoil that could be dealt with more effectively if we would actually set boundaries within our family relationships and carry out the discipline we threaten to impose on our children rather than allow them to manipulate us with guilt and lies.  We don't want our kids, especially our older teens, to suffer the consequences of rebellion and disrespect so we often back peddle in order to maintain peace in these challenging relationships.  After all, they are fighting social demons we never fought at their age.  Yet, sparing them the consequences by swooping in to save the day isn't always the best way to teach them responsibility for their choices in life.  I must confess there have been times when I have given in to emotion and failed as a parent to stand my ground on a given issue.  Yet, such a lack of solid parental leadership sends confusing signals to our children and ultimately backfires on us parents, leaving our households in chaos and our hearts hardened against our own children. 
Our kids need to know that their wrong choices carry consequences not just for themselves but for others as well.  As parents, we also need to be mindful of that as we choose to discipline our kids for their disobedience.  Any inconsistency on our part can undermine the very foundation of godly principles we have tried to teach them.  To let chaos rule in our homes or in our relationships with others is not beneficial to those we love or to our emotional and spiritual well-being.  To be victimized by anger, often at ourselves because we failed to handle a particular situation without first praying it through, is never good. 
Our interactions with others should never be driven by impulse, manifested by harsh reactions to difficult situations and exasperating personalities.  Rather our relationships should be prayer-driven and Spirit-directed with responses that are seasoned with love, patience, and in some cases, humility and apology.  After all, even the best of us make mistakes from time to time.

The bottom line is this:  if our horizontal relationships with others -- spouses, parents, children, friends -- are going to be healthy, then our vertical relationship with the Lord must become our highest priority.  Only as we spend time with Him daily in prayer and seek to know more about His character by reading His Word, will we begin to develop a heart like His and learn to love as He loves.

Copyright © 2013 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved. www.deedeewike.com


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