Do you ever wear a garment of worry over loved ones and their decisions?
Have you ever found yourself carrying burdens of someone else’s life that aren’t yours to carry? Do you tend to live anxious about someone else’s opinion of you?
A truth that comes around now and again since I became a follower of Jesus is this: You are not someone else’s Holy Spirit.
Meaning: you are not meant to be God in someone’s life. You are human, and you have limits. But like Matthew 19:26 says, God has none (hallelujah, thank you, all praise to You, God).
“My over-caring shows up when I try to fix everything for everyone. I want to take away everyone’s pain. It is as if I want to be their savior. Recently I realized that when I try too hard to make it all just right, I’m really attempting to play God. It wears me out and sends me into overload. At the same time, it robs those I love from learning the lessons God wants to teach them. I might even stand in the way of them coming to know Him personally. That thought makes me sad. I understand what perfectionistic-overload means for me: It’s when I try to go beyond my human limitations and do what only God and the other person can do together. It is then that I experience exhaustion and self-doubt. Changing the way I relate to the people around me puts me squarely into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory.” Joan Webb
There was something going on at work, a serious Holy Spirit heart tug, and I was on the fence about being obedient. A few days later I decided to trust, and walking out a conversation feeling nauseas I felt God impress, Trust Me with other people’s opinion of you.
Then, with some family stuff going on, my husband insightfully said, “You never know what God is teaching them.” I’m thankful he said that, because I’m the type to run around in circles, wanting to cry at the stress or brokenness of a situation, word vomit until people are confused, and then regret multiple things and go to sleep asking God to forgive me. Just being honest. There’s no way for me to know God’s agenda for someone else’s spiritual growth or how God plans to show His power in their life.
I was catching up with a good friend who was sharing something similar she is learning with her 4 year old. She said something like, “I can instruct, love, guide, discipline, but I can’t change her heart. It might someday create waves in our family, but God is going to have to meet her, and she with Him, to change and be made new.”
It’s like Joan says above, “I understand what perfectionistic overload means for me: it’s when I try to go beyond my human limitations and do what only God and the other person can do together.”
And I realize, isn’t that better?
God is infinitely better and enough for each of us. He knows exactly what we need precisely when we need it.
Man, have I been seriously getting this wrong. Over-caring, over-reaching into a place that only God can go.
My responsibility, from what I understand now, is to care for, love well, listen to, and intercede for, and then trust God to be God.
And He has given me help, hasn’t He? The best kind, His Spirit. The reality that I live in this less-than-perfect reality with the Trinity as my companion, teacher, counselor, savior and friend is a game changer.
The glorious truth is this: we can progressively release our need to do it just right, to say all the best things, to be there at the perfect moment when others’ need us, by taking intentional (willful, in my case) steps to trust our good God for what is not ours to control or direct. Then we enjoy the enduring freedom and grace He longs to give us.
In Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend write, “Just as homeowners set physical property lines around their land, we need to set mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries for our lives to help us distinguish what is our responsibility and what isn’t.”
I am slowly, and a bit heartbreakingly (because it’s how I have always been) recognizing that I am not asked by God to bear the responsibility for anyone other than myself. I am not responsible for another human’s decisions, nor is it my job to fix them or the situations they encounter as a result of their choices.
“Playing God happens when I sense that someone I care about is unhappy and I automatically deduce I must have done something wrong. Like I have that much power! It can also happen when we transfer our own (often unrealistic) expectations onto others— expectations for their behavior and attitudes.” Marsha Crockett
And even more groundbreaking for me, and maybe for you?
Everything doesn’t hinge on what I do or don’t do.
I can tell my story, share the Gospel news about Jesus and how He rescues me daily. But, I don’t have to know it all, give it all, tell it all, teach it all or fix it all.
Mercy. If I lived more from that truth, I would live so. much. lighter.
God is so patient, y’all. So unbelievably gracious, because this has been a longgggg road for me. But, in His mercy, and Love, He is renewing, purifying, and clarifying all the distorted ways of thinking in me.
All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy. They are forever true, to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity. He has paid a full ransom for his people. He has guaranteed his covenant with them forever. What a holy, awe-inspiring name he has! Psalm 111:7-9
This time, I think it’s sticking.