Declaration of Independence

This year was a year of being slow for me. It was a year of stepping back from what I considered, at the time, overwhelming responsibilities. I set aside a few months to rest in order that I could be healthy for the long haul.

So, that was the goal at least. What did I do with that breathing space that I created you might ask?

IndependenceWell, I travelled through more airports than I can even count. I packed my bags and my childrens bags and travelled from one end of America to the other and back again (and again and again). I home-schooled my children in the process. We bought a house here in South Africa and thought, “With all our free energy we need to renovate this thing before we move in!” I spent the days before Christmas packing and moving house.

In the process of almost single-handedly painting the entire house (that includes ceilings, rafters, the whole shabang) I had a moment of clarity. “I think I’m more independent than I first realised… I think I like to do things on my own without any help.”

The fact that this seemed like a small “revelation” is astounding (especially to my husband!). Astounding at my stupidity. Astounding at my blindness. Independent? The Declaration of Independence should be my life’s mission statement because that’s how I seem determined to live.

I start out with such ideals.

Vow: Need people more deeply.
Small Print: But not too much and always on my terms.

Vow: Rely on others.
Small Print: But only so far and use precaution.

Vow: Ask for help more.
Small Print: A good time to do this is when I have attempted it on my own for an extended length of time.

Vow: Trust people.
Small Print: Dangerous territory, use extreme caution. Only if absolutely necessary and all other options have been exhausted.

When all the other options have been exhausted I’m simply left exhausted.

This is my tendency and I’m starting to realise that it will always be my battle to fight. I’ve grown and come so far. But, for this sojourn on earth, my temptation will always be to go it alone. There will be seasons of healthy and wonderful interdependence but I need to have safeguards against veering off-road and heading into the wilderness.

I know this isn’t everyones temptation. Some of us cling too strongly to others in unhealthy and (at times) destructive ways. We make individuals our gods, the ones we think will bring us wholeness and healing.

If only ______ helped me, I would be ok.
If only ________ loved me then my life would be full.
If ________ leaves me my life will be over.
Only _______ truly “gets” me and understands me.

These are all signs of unhealthy dependence. Their mantra about people is captured so well by Jerry Maguire, “You. Complete. Me.”

All of the above statements make me throw up in my mouth a little. Sorry.

I’m just so independent.

There’s a support group out there for y’all who truly believe this dysfunctional dependency is love.

I’ve got my own support group… just me, myself and I attend it. Perfect. Heaven. Dysfunctional.

This is the catch of how God designed life.

We cannot be whole and healthy through people.
We cannot be whole and healthy without people.

Our saviour cannot be people (or a person). Our Saviour does not work apart from people.

My dear, lovely Jesus. You’ve got my number and I know it.

I’m trusting God to rid me of this “Declaration of Independence”. I’m thinking that I need a “Declaration of Asking for Help Next Time I Decide to Paint My House From Top to Bottom”. It’s a step in the right direction, right?

What about you? Are you looking to others to define your worth and value? Or are you reaching for a barf bag just reading that sentence?

Photo Credit: Rob Walker

SHE is marrying HIM?!?

I love seeing people get married. This is nothing short of a miracle considering that marriage was at the very bottom of my goals in life. Well, that is before I met my husband Chris. Funny thing how that works.

Marriage does not solve life’s problems (it creates a few more actually). Marriage is not a utopia of romantic bliss. Marriage is not for everyone. I know this. With all of this, many people still want to get married and I think this is a good thing.

Those who know me also know about my “prayer list”. This is a list of people that I regularly pray for… that they would meet someone who would be their best friend in marriage. I have to say, these last few years have been good one for me. I’ve been crossing people off the list one by one as wedding bells have been ringing. (I’ve also had years of stagnation to the point that people wanted off my list because it wasn’t helping!)

In the midst of all this, I find another conversation going on. As singles are longing for, loving and pursuing someone there is a chorus of friends that are cheering publicly but doubting privately.

The doubts are varied and many:

Does this couple have what it takes for marriage?
Are they a good match?
Do they have any idea what they are getting themselves in to?
Shouldn’t someone tell them the hard truths?
Aren’t they being too naive and not counting the costs?
Is it a good thing that “she” is marrying that “he”?
Does “he” really want to marry that “she”?

We all can think of couples that married, all the while everyone had doubts in their mind if it would actually work.

Here’s the big question: “When do you say something and when do you keep silent?”.

I’ve thought about this a lot. I’ve boldly gone to friends months before the big day, said the hard thing and gotten the response, “Did I ask you?! Keep your advice to yourself!” Other friends have come to me after a first year of marriage that was full of tears and sorrow. They have looked me in the eye and asked, “Did you have doubts about this relationship and not tell me before the wedding?” Gulp.

So, when should you say something to a couple that you are concerned about? Here is the grid that I use:

When to pause before you speak.

“They have no idea how hard marriage is”

This is the most common thing I hear by myself and others. This is said by married couples who also had no idea what they were getting themselves in to on the day of marriage. If the only reason you want to say something is to give this couple an “education on the reality of how hard marriage is” then perhaps you should keep quiet. No one has a clue on their wedding day what is ahead.

“No one is being direct enough with them!”

This is also said by people who actually aren’t involved in the day to day of the relationship. I have actually had people come and ask me to step in to a relationship where I was not invited and did not know the couple very well. Others simply perceived that I was able to be “direct and honest” with the couple. I declined. I don’t fancy myself a professional “hit man” on those headed to the alter.

When to speak up and speak in love:

If they have invited your input.

If someone in the couple has invited my input, then I am obligated, by love, to ask the hard questions. I have been given permission to do so!

When the issues are repetitive sin.

If I see issues from the outside that are blatant, un-dealt with sin… I feel the Christian community can approach them with concern. I once asked a girl, “Does it concern you that your fiance regularly get’s drunk on the weekends to blow off steam?”. I knew her but not well. She later thanked me for being bold enough to ask the question.

When no one else is speaking in to their life.

Just because no one else is invited does not give me an automatic right. But, if I see a couple that I love “going it alone”, it concerns me. I will simply encourage them to find another older, wiser couple to walk with them. I have seen many times that one or both resist this because there are dysfunctions they are hiding. Overcoming this resistance is not always successful but I give it my best shot.

I might say something like, “I love you both so much. Marriage is difficult but wonderful. I want to strongly, strongly encourage you to find someone that can ask you both the hard questions as you prepare for your big day! If you need suggestions for people, just ask.” I then follow it up later and ask them if they have acted on my advice.

So that is my grid, what about you? Are you bold enough to ask the hard questions or are you too bold and an unwelcome counsellor in a couples life?

By the way, if you are actual friends with an engaged couple, here are 3 simple questions that will help them immensely! You don’t need to be their wise sage, but can raise the value of having input in any couples life!
  • Who are you going to for pre-marriage guidance and counselling?
  • How are you doing with preparing for the wedding, is there any way I can help and support?
  • Do you have people that you can talk to after you get married?

Stop Blaming Facebook

Recently, a friend of mine quit Facebook. He didn’t just take a break. It wasn’t for Lent. He deleted his account and is never coming back. Basically, a divorce.

In preparation for this, he wrote a rather impassioned letter explaining his motivation. It included the various ways that Facebook was stealing his attention, personal time, focus, and more. Facebook got thrown under the bus and didn’t come out the other side in one piece. The response on his blog was very positive and a discussion ensued. He strongly challenged others to follow his lead.

This isn’t the first person I’ve seen quit Facebook. At some point, most people have taken at least a break. With good reason. The statistics are glaring, we have a hard time staying away. Stealing glances here and there. Busily taking selfies and posting pictures of our most memorable times. Instead of experiencing these moments we gripe about slow upload speeds.

I, though, have got a problem with this “I’m quitting Facebook” mantra.

Why? Facebook is not our problem. Our own relational brokenness is the problem. Facebook is just the latest magnifying glass of this fact. We need to stop making Facebook the scapegoat for our own immaturity. It is not the root of our problems, never has been, never will be.

Quitting alone won’t deal with the root issue that consistently leads us to choose virtual relationships over real relationships. Blaming Facebook hides our real problem. The problem is in our hearts.

Here’s what I would like to see. Instead of  saying, “I’m quitting Facebook, it wastes my time and ruins lives! It is the root of all evil!”

I would like some real honesty. How about this:

“I’m quitting Facebook because I have made a simple website a priority over actually talking to my kids. That’s my reality. I consistently look at my news feed instead of listening to people. I post pictures while on dates with my husband. I have made a helpful thing into a hurtful thing in my life and relationships. The problem is me. I’ve got some basic maturity issues that I need to look at. For whatever reason, I can’t be trusted as a member of a silly website. I’ve got to figure that out. Facebook is not my problem but I can’t be trusted with it either.”

That is a declaration I’ve never seen but perhaps we should see more often.

I do a one week series of lectures on Relationships. The first day always deals with the state of isolation we all find ourselves in. Some students come from hyper-connected backgrounds, online all the time. Some students don’t own a laptop, cell phone and are not members of Facebook or any other social network.

You know what is fascinating? They all weep equally as they confess, one by one, how alone and isolated they feel. Membership in Facebook didn’t cause it. It’s the human condition. Since the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned, all people are born searching for a real relationship with God and one another.

Thankfully we’ve got Jesus. He doesn’t rescue us from Social Networks. But he does rescue us from our real and true isolation. Because of Jesus we can be brought near to God and brought near to one another.

Let’s all together stop blaming Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever else is yet to come along. When we quit Facebook out of blame we have not dealt with the true source of our problem.

Let’s deal with the real problem. Let us confess our isolation. Let us do the brave work of moving towards one another in real relationship.

Until then, we’ve got Facebook to keep each other posted on what we ate for dinner.

How about you? Is your participation in Social Networks reflecting a healthy or unhealthy heart?