I don’t know where it came from. Maybe it started when dad had surgery, or when mom became seriously ill with pneumonia. I’m sure dad’s death, which came less than a month after my tenth birthday, played into it. My mom being taken to the hospital in an ambulance shortly before I turned 15, and my sisters and I walking into her hospital room to see her having a seizure didn’t help. Neither did my older sister being in her second car accident in three years just about the time mom came home from the hospital. I’m sure, the fact that I am both a nurturer and a leader contributed to it. Being a pastor’s wife and needing to be there for people in their darkest hours, definite yes on that one.
No matter what the cause, for years I felt responsible for the world, or at least the people in my world. Because of that heavy burden of false responsibility, I found myself taking on things that weren’t mine to take on. Believing that somehow what was happening was being caused by something I had or hadn’t done. That if I had worked harder or done more I could have somehow prevented the pain being experienced by the person that I so deeply loved. This went beyond just not being able to say no to hosting a dinner. This was me feeling that if someone was unhappy, hurting, or discouraged, it was because somehow I had failed to do what I was supposed to do. My expectation was that I could perfectly meet the needs of others. Basically what it boiled down to was, I thought I could be God. Talk about a false value.
As I continued looking for answers to my depression, I read somewhere that I didn’t need to be God because the job had already been filled. I put that statement up on my wall to remind me that I was not responsible for everyone else’s well being. That was up to them and God. But once again I wasn’t sure what that meant. How did I support people in need without feeling responsible for the outcome?
The answer to that question came in the form of a woman with a childhood that broke my heart. A woman who had more baggage than a 747. She came into my life at a time when my own love tank was running on empty. We both attended the same Bible Study and when that one ended, she joined the Bible Study I had decided to lead. About a year into our relationship she asked me what my first impression of her had been. I told her that I liked her and was glad she was a part of the group. She wasn’t so sure.
As I thought about her question and my response, I realized that we were both right. I did like her, but I had been leery of getting to know her better. Why?
After much prayer and soul searching, I told her that what I felt when I first met her was fear. Fear that I would see her neediness and be sucked into feeling that it was my job to help her erase all of her pain and problems. I explained that God was teaching me that He was the one in control and only He could heal her past pain. What I could offer her was a listening ear and prayer. I could offer her a book that had been helpful to me. I could also offer her my love. A love that had grown beyond anything I had expected.
As I said those words I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. There was the value shift. Do what I can and let God be God. I just needed to be there, pray, and love. That, I could do.
Growth was happening. I was changing. My values were getting more in line with God’s Word.
While saying no and feeling responsible for the world were things that I knew were problems, the next issue was one I thought I had already worked through. But apparently I had more to learn.