Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Little Something I've Learned About Spiritual Authority (Part III)

For years the message I was getting from leadership that warned me about a possible co-dependency issue was always there in the back of my brain no matter how I tried to dismiss it. I don't want to give the impression that they were hounding me or constantly "holding me accountable" or anything like that. Quite the contrary; they said it and I rejected it. I rejected their belief that I was in bondage to a co-dependent relationship, and basically that was it. They just kept on loving me, edifying me, encouraging me and helping me when I needed help. They are spiritually minded enough to understand that I simply wasn't ready to receive their instruction and were willing to wait until I was.

Over the years I had been growing more discontent with the state of my life and a lot of it had to deal with my idea of what "dying to self" meant. This is where my co-dependency issue and spiritual immaturity collided and led to my sin of rebellion and failure to submit to authority.

Followers of the Sisters' Weblog know that since 2001 I have been sharing a home with Katie and her two children. It takes a lot of sacrifice and work to be successful in any family and/or framily (the term we coined to describe the bringing together of friends + family), and for that matter any relationship, and I got this idea in my head that I was dying to self in all of it. I sacrificed a lot of time, energy and finances. I began to be torn about it because I believe Christians are called to die to self and we are always to put others' before ourselves but to what end? I really began to struggle because I started to wonder if I had overstepped my boundaries? Had a given until it hurts? And beyond? I started to beat myself up over all of these questions and more. This was very detrimental to my spiritual life and it was all so very confusing.

Here is where the problem was with me; I basically took over and controlled everything in the framily when it came to day to day stuff, finances and "fixing things" to the point where it became such a bondage. I got tired of "having to do everything", but that's just it, I didn't have to do everything! I wanted to do everything and wouldn't let others do anything. Like a control freak! I began to carry burdens that were not mine. I carried them until they weighed me down to the point I was crushed and became useless.

I didn't conscientiously make the decision to do this, but it is what gradually started to happen to the point where I was getting so frustrated and worn out, even became resentful. Please understand that I am not placing any blame on any other party, this is totally on me and my issue with needing to help other people to the point it becomes destructive to me, and to them.

Another aspect is that I want to make others' happy. I will constantly do things so other people benefit, even if it is to my detriment. People don't even have to ask me for help, I just offer it and do it. This can become a problem because I will allow myself to be put in situations that I always feel a “need" to yield to another person's wants or needs. After awhile this starts to get to me because I start thinking "Hey! What about me?" and then I struggle because I should not have thoughts like that when I should be dying to self. This is so difficult for me to explain, but the main point is, I have an unhealthy need to make others happy and justify it by saying "I'm dying to self". The problem is then amplified because I am "dying to self" outside of the will of God. Anything I do outside of God's will is my will, and there is no dying to self in that at all. This would include not being obedient to spiritual authority.

My spiritual leaders saw this destructive behavior, as well as some other things that were destructive to me spiritually, and lovingly over the years tried to help me see it. They had insight into that which I could not see.

When things got to the point where I just couldn't handle it anymore, I had a friend who said to me one day "If you had obeyed years ago ... it may not have gotten this bad." Those words really struck a chord in me. It's not that I didn't know it, but she forced me to admit it to myself. She encouraged me to trust my pastor and other leaders and trust that God can give them insight into my life spiritually. I took a step of faith and as a result I have learned to trust them in order for them to speak truth to me, help me to see areas of weakness and help me to overcome any bondages associated with them.

My pastor lovingly pointed out to me when I finally was willing to submit to spiritual authority, wouldn't have yielding to leadership have been dying to self? It was easier to do what you wanted to do than to do what we were trying to help you see needed done. BAM! That was a true moment of enlightenment to me about dying to self. He was right. All along I was doing what I wanted to do and the end result was very destructive.

I also repented to him and told him I realize that I had not submitted to his spiritual authority over my life. I didn't get an "I told you so", what I got instead was a life affirming "I love this!"

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