March 18, 2012
Have you ever given everything you could to somebody and had it not be enough? They either weren’t able to accept what you had or you weren’t able to give what they needed, but either way, you were heartbroken and dissatisfied with the outcome. I have been in that situation several times, sometimes with people very intimately involved in my life, and other times with people I was sure God had brought into my life for a purpose. Either way, I felt like I had failed.
I felt that way with my ex-husband. I could see his need, but he was not able to do the growing he needed with me. Now with the distance of almost a decade I can see that he wasn’t ready, and it wasn’t really about me. He has since learned some of the lessons that he needed to, and others not (like most of us), but I wasn’t meant to be the one that taught him things that he needed to figure out on his own.
I have felt that way about parishioners. People whose need I can identify, but whose work to change I cannot do myself. It is hard to see what a person has to grapple with and yet be largely powerless to make that grappling process complete. It leaves me feeling as if a terrible loss is occurring. There is lost time that that person could spend being better and doing better. There is lost relationship, lost purpose, even sometimes lost hope.
One of the many lessons God has for us is that while we can support, empower, encourage, and equip one another the actual growing and changing can only be done by the individual in relationship with God. There is a bumper sticker I sometimes see that says, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. I think a large part of the wisdom embedded in there is that we can’t change others, so we might as well focus on changing ourselves. We can spend our lives mourning how we were not able to help someone over their hump or through their struggle OR we can be the best, most supportive person we can to others while focusing our energy on making our lives excellent. That way we can actually measure our successes instead of feeling like we are failing when changing another person isn’t our purpose. We can lift others up in prayer and offer support, but the only one we can change is ourselves. Might as well get to work, there is plenty of room for change right here.