Flattened, deflated, defeated. There they are again. I haven’t seen them for almost a year. But my morning neighborhood run revealed lawn after lawn strewn with these sad collapsed creatures. Most have been reduced to barely recognizable shells of their pretentious puffed-up selves.
I first took notice of them last year around holiday time. Something new for consumers and chronic yard decorators to spend their dollars on. Personally, I’m not a fan. But, I can identify with the poor things because they look like I sometimes feel. Maybe you know what I’m talking about; completely spent, exhausted and empty. That’s when I know that I am falling back into old patterns of codependency, and my brain’s caution light begins blinking yellow!
Back in the thick middle of my former marriage to a chemically dependent person, more days than I can count, I felt like that deflated reindeer on my neighbor’s lawn! My entire life, at times, revolved around trying desperately to control our cash so he wouldn’t go on a binge and kill himself or someone else, or trying to catch him in a lie so I wouldn’t feel so crazy when he tried to convince me that I hadn’t seen, heard, or smelled the evidence of something that I was positive I DID see, hear, or smell. It was exhausting! Add that to hysterically clinging to routines and facades so that no one would know how bad things really were. All the while choosing to love, give and serve someone who was too broken to reciprocate. No wonder I often felt like that wilted Saint Nick I passed on my run this morning. I knew what it was like to control, fix, and give, give, give until there was nothing left but a thin shell of my once buoyant, joyful self.
In 1986, Melody Beattie wrote Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself. It has sold more than 5 million copies and Amazon is still stocking it. If you find yourself, like I did, flat on your face from caring for and trying to control everyone but you, please do yourself a favor and buy this book! Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Codependent-No-More-Controlling-Yourself/dp/0894864025
Currently, (just to keep on top of my game, so I don’t relapse into crazy control-freak-save-the-world-itis), I’m reading Darlene Lancer’s Codependency for Dummies. In it, she describes those of us with these tendencies this way: “A codependent is a person who can’t function from his or her innate self, and instead, organizes thinking and behavior around a substance, process, or other person(s)”. She says that codependency is, “A lost Self, which includes addicts as well as many of those who love them.” Codependency for Dummies, p. 30. For the longest time, I thought that the drug addict in our household was the only one with problems. It wasn’t until my life became consumed with trying to save him, that I realized the significance of my own problems. In my struggle to rescue my lost spouse, I had lost myself. My needs were not being met. The following definition of addiction and codependency fit me as perfectly as an Asics running shoe: “Codependency is an unhealthy reliance on the control of exterior things in order to fill interior needs.”
I can sure identify with this quote from Melody Beattie, can you? “Codependency can be absolutely and totally exhausting. It drains and depletes people, puts a blindfold on them, spins them around in circles until they’re dizzy. Then people try to go on with their lives and wonder why they can’t.” Codependent No More Workbook p. 14. She goes on to say that, “Most of us have been so busy responding to other people’s problems that we haven’t had time to identify, much less take care of, our own problems.”
That was once my entire life. Now I have a new life. But, as you know, we usually bring our old selves into our new relationships. Where I once was run ragged trying to be the savior of one, now I am tempted to rescue the many, at the expense of the relationships I most value. For, you see, God redeemed the things that I thought were lost. And now I am married to a precious, God-loving, people serving husband who ministers to a whole congregation and an entire county. As his wife, I embrace his heart for the lost and suffering and work right alongside him. Together we are BUSY! Sometimes so busy in doing “good things” that we look and feel like those deflated lawn ornaments in our neighborhood. We both must be cautious of never trying to be God in anyone’s life. We continually strive for a healthy balance, as we live lives of service to God and people. It’s only through much prayer and the daily invitation of God’s Holy Spirit to live inside of us that any of us can do the work He’s called us to do. He doesn’t ask us to be God to anyone. He asks us to show God to everyone. There is a difference.
So, as we enter this season of frantic busyness, Philippians 1:11 is my prayer for us all: may we never be depleted and deflated from carrying burdens that do not belong to us, but “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation–the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ–for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” Doing “good” and helping others is never about praise and glory for me. It’s about living a balanced, healthy life of service that will bring glory to our one and only Savior, Jesus Christ.