“If you are in a hole, rule number one is to stop digging. The last thing you need is more of this kind of hope.”Dr. Henry Cloud
So, I was reading on the plane. The book? Dr. Cloud’s Necessary Endings. Yes, endings are a necessary part of life. If it weren’t for endings, many beginnings would never happen. Sometimes it is time to say goodbye.
Dr. Cloud says that when we realize that the time to say goodbye has come, we become faced with a “pruning moment.” We have become hopeless that anything is going to change; we realize that what we have been doing is not working, and never will. He says, “It does not take courage to stop doing what you know is not going to work” (p. 82). The courage comes when we decide to do something differently.
Would you agree with Dr. Cloud that, “It is vital to get hopeless” (p. 86)? Sometimes hope can be false. It can lead us to continue digging that hole, which actually leads us further into the pit, rather than drawing our focus up – toward the light.
I’ve been there: In relationships, in the workplace, even in my current book project. Like a pit bull, I’ve hung on and on and on. Refusing to let go of the person, the position, and now the chapter that is driving my word count up and possibly distracting my potential reader from the main point of the book.
When I finally released my addicted former spouse, who had already chosen someone else to share his life with, God filled my void with a whole new life. When I achingly let go of a teaching position that I loved, but was driving me over the edge, God gave me another purpose and calling. If I will let go of this chapter, and be willing to chop, chop, chop my manuscript down to an acceptable word count, my book may actually be publishable. Only then will my goal, of reaching broken people with the hope that God truly redeems the things we thought were lost, be satisfied.
Shall we ask ourselves some tough questions?
Do I want my life to continue as-is? Or do I really want things to be different?
Am I holding on to a healthy hope? Or do I need to become hopeless about this situation?
Do I want my relationship, my job, my word count…? Or am I willing to open my clenched fist and release those things to the One who knows what’s ahead?
The Lord God has beautiful plans and purpose for each of our lives. There is a rainbow at the end of our storm. Are we willing to trust Him to give us the hope and future He longs to give us, or are we going to hold on to our own hopes and plans? Just like the trainer would say to the pit bull, our Father says to us, “Release!” Will you trust Him with me today?
For I know the plans I have for you. declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. — Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).
On Wednesday, I sat across the table from Misty Collett as she confessed, “I cannot live without Jesus.” When Jesus transforms a life, it shows. Misty glows. She can’t help it. Because I love sharing stories of how God redeems the things we thought were lost, I’ve asked Misty to share her story with our blog community. I pray that you are blessed. Juliet~
No matter the situation, Jesus will love you through it.
He whispers, “Trust me my dear child, and I will straighten your path. My grace abounds in you, my love comforts you and my blood covers it all.”
When I was ten, my mother shot and killed my father. I was only twelve when she died of cancer. From ten to thirty-one years old, I was a full-blown drug addicted mess. For years, I was in and out of institutions and behind bars. Most of all, I was locked up inside the hell I called myself.
In the winter of 2011, I gave my life fully to the one main love of my life today, JESUS CHRIST, but that is not all… I also gave Him the drugs, the hate, the hurt and the habits that I fought since I was a kid.
Today, I stand here IN LOVE with my savior, ON FIRE to do the work of the Lord ! Not only do I have the Holy Spirit in my ole bones, but I also have HOPE that binds up my wounds. I am living proof that the words of Jesus Christ do not come back void, they are living water my friends, LIVING WATER!
Jesus became my home when so many gave me away. He promised that if I came to Him, He would be my strength and I would not grow weary. When I saw myself as a lost, hopeless drug addicted junkie, a failure full of sin and poison – JESUS CHRIST saw me as a KING’S DAUGHTER, A VESSEL with a BLOOD COVERED TESTIMONY, A RIGHTEOUS CHILD OF THE LIVING GOD.
He is the Father to the fatherless, the one Hope to the hopeless, and when you utter, even utter the name JESUS CHRIST, situations change, chains are snapped, foundations shake!
There is only one true God. When we accept His Love, it is in that very moment that He gives us a new name. Once you invite Jesus into your heart, He will never stop pursuing you with His amazing love. He stands at the door and knocks, but I tell you the truth, if you open the door and give him a chance, your life will be made new. No demon in hell can change that. There is nothing that can compare to the LOVE of my Father in Heaven. I can guarantee you that!
My name is Misty Collett. I am 33 yrs old and I am married to a wonderful man, Preston. We have an amazing son, Payton, who is twelve years old. We live simply and do not take one day for granted. It wasn’t always this way. My son had two addicted parents and his whole life was full of chaos.God healed our family and we now help others as God gives us the eyes to see them as He saw us….As His.
I learned a new phrase yesterday while playing Barbies with my niece: “Fully Articulated.” Yeah. I’d never heard that before. I was complaining that my girl’s knees didn’t bend, and her feet were too large for any of the cute stilettos her doll got to wear.
“That’s because she’s not fully articulated,” the eight-year-old said seriously.
“She’s not what?”
“Fully articulated. That means her body parts don’t move at all the joints,” she explained. “Just don’t worry about it. That’s how she’s made.”
Oh, right. I knew that. Not.
I’ve thought about it ever since. Fully Articulated. I even Dictionary.com’ed it. Here’s what I got:
1. made clear or distinct: articulated sounds.
2. having a joint or joints; jointed: an articulated appendage.
I was familiar with the definition in relation to language, but not the one having to do with joints. Hmmmmm. I wonder if I can stretch the meaning a little further to reach not only speech and body parts, but also mind and emotion. Am I able to bend when the situation requires a smidgeon of flexibility, or am I like Beach Barbie with her stiff knees and wide flat feet, frozen in one position?
When I began teaching, my mentor warned me that good teachers must be like rubber bands, flexible. That went against my rigid grain. I wasn’t very good at flexible. I struggled with flexible. I liked order, rules, and routine. “Teachable moments” scared me. They weren’t written in my lesson plans.
What was underneath that need for constant control? Insecurity. Fear-of-failure. Low self-esteem masking as people-pleasing and perfectionism. All classic symptoms of a “Codependent.” Those symptoms go way back. They were the same underlying themes that kept me from taking risks in other areas of life and the ones that kept me stuck in unhealthy relationships, particularly one which eventually did end up in divorce.
Dr. Henry Cloud is one of my heroes. Because of him and his work with John Townsend, I am in a much better place than I was as a twenty-three year old rookie teacher, or twenty-four-year-old rookie bride. Just glimpse a few of my favorite book titles:
God Will Make a Way: What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do
Changes That Heal: How to Understand Your Past to Ensure a Healthier Future
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
I had the privilege of hearing him speak at the Celebrate Recovery East Coast Summit last week and promptly purchased his new book, Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give up in Order to Move Forward. On page 67, I found this nugget about enabling, which is what some of us do rather than ending a detrimental relationship: “People enable others because they care. But this kind of caring is not caring at all and is destructive to the person being helped. It is a toxic dependency. It keeps adult kids dependent on parents long after they should have been independent adults. It keeps addicted spouses and friends addicted long after they should have been allowed to hit bottom and wake up… It keeps employers stuck with dead weight and paralyzes the people’s professional growth. It is horrible.”
Yeah, I know. Been there. Done that. He goes on to say, “There is a difference between helping someone who is disabled, incapable, or otherwise infirm versus helping someone who is resisting growing up and taking care of what every adult (or child, for that matter) has to be responsible for: herself or himself. When you find yourself in any way paying for someone else’s responsibilities, not only are you stuck with a delayed ending, but you are probably harming that person” p. 67.
Sometimes we need to be fully articulated – flexible, bendable, movable. We need to become unstuck from our unhealthy ruts. Unfortunately, it often takes a crisis before we launch ourselves from our familiar but toxic routines and embrace the teachable moments of life. I remember one Texas Spring day when I ditched the lesson plans and walked my class to the park next door. They brought their nature journals and we spent hours catching tadpoles, watching bluebirds swoop and swallow insects in mid-air and trying to draw squirrels who wouldn’t be still long enough for portraiture. It was wonderful! Many conversations and future journal entries came from that one bit of teacher-flexibility. It was a rubber band day, one of the best in seventeen years of teaching.
I also recall another Texas Spring day, one that began with indecision and ended with clarity. The realization finally dawned that my marriage was hopeless. We were not going to eternally be “Barbie and Ken.”Nothing I could do would change the circumstances. After trying everything, I gave up. I let go. Allowing myself to be “fully articulated,” I loosened my controlling grasp on my addicted spouse and released him to God. I bent my knees and prayed for divine guidance. I turned on my heel and headed for healing. For me, that realization of hopelessness was the beginning of abundant life. Dr. Cloud calls it a “good hopelessness.” Here’s the quote: “Necessary endings happen when you get to a “good hopelessness.” It is that moment when you see reality clearly and know you have to bring “what is” to an end. Unfortunately, sometimes that decision involves people, and deciding when to keep going with someone and when not to is one of the most difficult decisions that we have to make, and we must make it in many contexts, throughout life.”Necessary Endings p. 147
Do you feel stuck, rigid, stiff and inflexible? Is there an area of your life in which you need to become fully articulated? May I pray with you about that?
Jesus, You came that we may have life and life abundantly. You long to set us free from the bondage of shame, fear, control, people-pleasing, guilt, and unhealthy enabling. You showed us how to live our lives, loving and serving, but also dusting your feet and moving on when things became toxic.
You accomplished the mission you came to complete. You are THE SAVIOR. I do not need to try to be someone’s savior. My job is to point them to You. Please give me the ability to let go of the people and things that are hurting me and my relationship with You. Show me where, and when, and how to create the necessary endings in my life. Amen
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 NIV
Have you ever loved someone who recoiled with your every attempt to care? Have you worked hard at building a relationship of trust with a wounded person, only to have them disappear emotionally or physically? Sometimes fear prevents wounded people from being able to experience intimacy. Sometimes they are so broken, they can neither receive nor reciprocate. Loving is not enabling. It cannot be forced upon someone or used to manipulate them into doing what we want. Loving is allowing God to flow through us to reach another human heart.
I‘d like to thank Mike Johnson, Special Projects Director at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, for the following guest post. He gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to invest in people, only have them disappear.
We had a great time at the movie, and not because the movie itself was so great. The fun came from having a big group at a big opener. We came early, and so we played games and talked to pass the time before the midnight opening show.
The next day, our program lost one of those very people. “Julie” had been making noise about leaving, but couldn’t explain why she felt that need, especially at seven months pregnant. By the way, this residential recovery program client was 17 years old.
Julie had a loving and supportive place to live, a gracious and well-designed program to help her process the difficulties of her life, and deeply caring staff. It was all just too much for her. She could not allow herself to love and be loved. The pot of that poker hand was simply “too rich” for her, so Julie folded.
Addiction recovery is a young field of work. Among the learning fronts is how attachment functions intersect with recovery work. We know from the National Recovery Initiative that one of the top 3 predictors of positive outcomes is the quality of a client’s relational connection to staff. So why, then, did a high quality relationship drive this pregnant teen away?
Julie had learned to avoid attachment. Deep in her brain, the abandonment and abuse of her childhood wired up her attachment functions to have a big, big alarm on them. “Look out! This hurts!” her brain said to her– every time she felt love.
A 1997 study by the National Institutes for Mental Health (NIMH) found that people who grew up under abuse and neglect combined were 36 times more likely to have an adult experience of homelessness! Julie literally couldn’t let herself participate in a loving community. She felt an overwhelming psychological need to separate from connection for her own safety.
So what is a good program to do when loving people will drive some away? Stop loving? Months later, we were able to ask Julie about her experience. She said it felt good to be pursued, and that she couldn’t think of a single thing we could have done differently. Her path is simply going to be a lot more winding. But, said Julie, the love did impact her, even if she couldn’t remain in it.
We may be hurt when all our best attempts at love seem unvalued. Jen actually received those attempts, and liked them. She stayed as long as she could. Maybe next time she’ll stay longer.
Mike Johnson is the Special Projects Director at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. He is a former Army Ranger with 7 children and 23 years of marriage to Dena.
*This article was first published in the May/June issue of Rescue Magazine. Used with permission.
She had a plan. It was a vision of perfection. Warm water. Loving husband. Calm, quiet midwife. Natural birth. It was a good plan, one that has worked thousands of times. For others.
Have you noticed that life on planet Earth does not always go as planned? Sometimes we must go to Plan B. It’s hard to relinquish Plan A. It hurts. But there comes a point when we realize that what we’ve been doing just is not working. We come to a place of decision.
From behind my camera lens, I observe her as she approaches that point. Frustration bursts from her lips as tears threaten in her voice.
“I want to go to the hospital,” she concedes. “I just can’t do this anymore. It’s not working. I’m worn out.”
It wasn’t working. There were reasons for the difficult labor, good reasons for going to the hospital. Kind Husband agreed. Wise, Gentle Midwife agreed. Exhausted, Brave Mommy gave up her perfect dream and went with Plan B.
Life is just like that. We have plans. Hopes. Dreams of perfection. When they don’t work out, sometimes we try to force them, pushing, breathing hard, bearing down on those around us – trying to control people and situations. Trying to create facades of “perfect” that aren’t true of our realities. It’s laborious.
Only when we meet denial in the mirror and look him in the eye can we say, “This is not working. I’m exhausted. I can’t do this anymore.” And that’s when our Kind, Gentle Jesus takes us in His arms and says, “It’s okay. You don’t have to. You have worked really, really hard. But it’s time for you to relax and allow Me to take over. I can get you where you need to go. Will you trust Me?
Melodie Beattie writes, “For those of us who have survived by controlling and surrendering, letting go may not come easily.” She says sometimes we even have to get to the point of saying, “’I don’t want it. I realize it’s important to me, but I cannot control obtaining that in my life. Now, I don’t care anymore if I have it or not. In fact, I’m going to be absolutely happy without it and without any hope of getting it, because hoping to get it is making me nuts – the more I hope and try to get it, the more frustrated I feel because I’m not getting it.’
“I don’t know why the process works this way,” she concludes, “I know only that this is how the process works for me. I have found no way around the concept of letting go.
We often can have what we really want and need, or something better. Letting go is part of what we do to get it.” The Language of Letting Go p. 215-216
God invites us to trust Him with all of our hearts, rather than trusting our own logical plans. He promises that He will direct the paths of our lives, if we will do that. It’s difficult to let go of Plan A. Even when Plan A hurts, when it is draining, when it’s not working out. I know. I hung on to my Plan A marriage for a long, long time – hoping, praying, pleading, begging, working on it from every angle imaginable, until I was limp with exhaustion. I had to let it go. Only when I opened my clenched fists and released it to God, was He able to begin working miracle after miracle to redeem the things I thought were lost.
Witnessing this sweet, young mother struggling to give birth, I connected with her when she gave up her Plan A. I saw the transition. She let go. She stopped fighting, stopped pushing, stopped forcing something that was beyond forcing.
Then she took another kind of action, refusing to mourn long the death of her beautiful birthing center dream, she quickly prepared herself for the hospital. Looking forward, not backward, she bravely embraced the wheelchair, the bright lights, lab-coated physicians, IV’s, and epidural, (especially the epidural). Soon she birthed a handsome, healthy boy. With him at her breast, the candlelit birthing pool was far, far from her mind. Plan B was good.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 KJV)