I stood in the entryway to my open-concept living space and surveyed the damage. Toys and scraps of paper littered the floor, stickers were stuck to my table and someone had graffitied my front window with a crayon. Never mind my overflowing sink and the unfolded laundry that had yet to be transferred into nearly-empty drawers.
I had said “yes” to watching a friend’s kids for the entire day and any semblance of schedule and list of priorities had flown out of the window. The kids left freshly bathed and in their jammies, and my own kids were long since asleep. It was just me and my to-do list now. Forms to fill out for my son’s school, finishing touches on my paper due tomorrow and then there was the pair of pants I told a friend I would hem for her. I was running on very little sleep as it was, but it couldn’t be helped. People needed me.
Helping the needy
I had lived this way for as long as I could remember – dropping everything to run to the aid of whoever was in deepest distress. They had needs that I could fill, so I did. And the needs of my children, my husband and myself went to the side, and this needy person became my priority.
Society’s view is to not get caught up in the troubles of others – we have to take time for ourselves and our family and keep our priorities straight. But I “knew” not to buy into this selfish mantra and reject the pleas of the needy. After all, I am Christ’s hands and feet. He kept late hours and ran on little sleep too.
A skewed viewpoint
My viewpoint here was valid but skewed. I couldn’t seem to balance my time between those with whom I have a life-long commitment and those who needed me. It is true that Jesus sacrificed Himself for all of us – the desperately needy. And it is also true that we are to be Christ’s hands and feet to a needy world. But why did my life of serving seem so out of balance? After all, I already knew my calling to serve God by being a wife and a mother.
Thankfully, the same God who opens the eyes of the blind revealed to me that my problem didn’t lie in poor time management, jumbled priorities or over-commitment. It was because of a lie I didn’t even know I believed. I thought I could be their savior.
Saving the day
This was what drove me – what attracted me to needy people. There was a huge adrenaline rush in saving the day. There was praise attached. Glory even. I was on the throne in this person’s life. They needed me to save them. And I thrived on it. I was willing to live on next-to-no sleep in order to be able to say “yes” and be a life-saver.
This is called co-dependency. It is an excessive psychological or emotional reliance on another person’s reliance on you. Basically a Savior-complex. And it is so common. Probably because it is rooted in Satan’s initial sin – his desire to “be like the Most High” and in his first lie to mankind – “you will be as gods.”
In each situation, eventually I would become so overwhelmed with this person’s need that I would shut down and cut myself off from their demands, which brought heartache and turmoil. But what I truly needed forgiveness for was that I put myself in the position of being their savior when I should’ve pointed them to The Savior. I offered a clay jar instead of the treasure within.
Listening to God’s voice
I’m still in the process of separating truth from lie in this area. It’s difficult to know when to help and when to wait. Mainly, I am learning to listen for God’s voice when He wants me to step in and to know when my sinful old-man wants a fix. But it is a huge relief to realize that the weight of saving someone isn’t on my shoulders.
The Savior has an entire church and all of the resources imaginable to minister to those in need. Maybe He will use me, but maybe He wants to use someone else and if I stepped in I would rob that person of the privilege of being an ambassador of the Savior.
Finding balance to help when needed
This is not a cop-out – a reason to put my feet up when I should be serving others. There are times when I ought to temporarily put my family and myself aside because God is calling me to help someone in need. And I don’t need to over-analyze whether or not I felt a heavenly nudge to show Christ’s love. I should live Christ’s love always.
But I should never offer myself as a savior. Co-dependency is a trap that is easily rationalized and can have devastating results on anyone in a close radius. God help us all to look to Christ as the only Savior and to point to Him whenever anyone cries out in need.