Where we wrestle with the sublime, mysterious, powerful and often frustrating paradox of God's necessary grace.

Friday, July 31, 2009

"You don't have to save him."

This afternoon was difficult for me. Yet it laid the groundwork for a major life lesson.

The morning was rolling along reasonably well. The Sturdy Wench was puttering in the litchen, getting food ready to take up to her FIL's house for a family reunion this weekend. I was ambling about, doing whatever it was that I do.

Then my oldest sister called. J. said she hadn't talked to me in a while and wanted to know how I was doing. We chatted for several minutes, exchanged news about health and family and work, then in closing she said, "I don't know if you know this, but R. (my middle brother) has read some of your writings and--"

"Stop. I know what you're going to say." I explained R. had misinterpreted what I'd written and rather than hash out the miscommunication, he assumed I was trashing the family and being the Ungrateful Chylde, so he declared I was no longer his brother and no longer a part of the family.

I added I had made it clear to R. I was ready to talk whenever he was, but I would not fight with him nor squabble over details. He would have to initiate the conversation. I said, "Let R. be R."

That conversation with J. brought up a lot of anger in me toward R. for the venomous things he's said about me, so I've got my forgiveness work to do.

Then my best friend Chris called. We chatted for a bit and talked about family issues. He said the last time he'd visited me I had said something that struck him and stuck with him on the drive home. As a result, he decided to forgive his father for his failures and sins and now he's in contact with the man, altho his father doesn't remember the visits because of his Alzheimer's.

Then came my appointment with Dr. Julie.


I walked in quite angry. I told her what happened and how I was feeling, and also talked about some issues I had with my 16 yr old step-son, D. She helped me see it was all right for me to be angry at R. I just had to be careful not to live in it.

Now, here's the big, big moment:

We were talking about D., and how frustrated I was at the way his raising was being handled by his mom and dad, and she said the magic words: "You don't have to save him!"

I don't have to save him.

I can come down from my big ol' cross and just be me, so what if it irritates me his folks are doing or not certain things? I don't have to save him. His mom is perfectly competent, even if she and I disagree on some ways he's bing raised. He's being raised right on all the important issues: Character, Personality, Spirituality. He's a good kid and so what if he has wretched table manners? He has wretched table manners and if he chooses not to correct them, then he'll pay the price for it. As the SW said, sometimes you have to touch the stove before you know what "hot" means. I also have boundary work to do. I get to keep my boundaries (which are good things.) I can use this experience to let R's choices be his own and I don't have to get sucked into a pity party for him nor must I take responsibility for his emotional state. Now I can let him go, stop carrying him around like a heavy suitcase.

Dr. Julie elaborated I could apply that to R. as well. In the past, I had tried over and over to reach him to get him to lose weight and take care of his health. He always ignored me. Now, I can let him go as well. If he chooses to eat himself into his grave or a stroke, then that's his choice--he's an adult and he can do as he pleases.

So now I feel a huge weight has rolled off of me. I don't have to save D. or R. or anyone else. The only person I can work on saving is me, and even then, God's got that under His control so I can take a number and siddown.

So God's grace shows up sometimes in the damndest ways and in the most unexpected situations. This is God refusing to abandon me to my flesh or to let me drown in myself. Because now that I have this tool from Dr. Juile, it's like a big part of my emotional swamp has been drained and now I have the dry land on which to build a little more of the kingdom of God within me.

This doesn't mean I abandon D., or R., or stop caring about them and what happens to them, it means I let them be them. I'm finished trying to be their personal Jesus.

Now I think it's time I listen to Johnny Cash's version of that song.


Jackie said...

Beautifully written as usual Ken. Realising you're not responsible for the minutiae of other people's lives is so liberating.

KenWritez said...

Jackie, thank you for your kind words. "Beautifully written as usual" eh? Young lady, I'll give you just 10, maybe 20 years--30, tops--to stop inflating the ego of a hapless old fart like me.