Why are you so responsible?

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You probably already believe this, you’ve been taught it so often.

I am listening to a troubled friend. They pause for a breath, and sometimes I can’t help it. I blurt things out.  These days, it seems like I am often blurting:

“You are responsible for so much!”

I feel so sorry for them – so much to control when they feel so out of control, so many wrongs to right when they feel so wrong (and wronged!), so many needs to get filled when they are surrounded by people who are not giving them enough!

Being over responsible may be why some of us do so little for Jesus.

Dutiful Christians can see what needs to be done; they are smart enough to see what would be required of them to get it done, and they resist getting started. They can’t see how they could do all that! What’s more, they resent being asked to do all that. Even more, they have a secret they rarely reveal: “I am not able to do what I think I ought to be doing and I don’t want you to think poorly of me when you find out. So I am going to keep looking like I am just fine, and tell you that every time you ask, even though we both know I am lying.”

A few spouses and parents reading this might think I do not know what I am talking about, since they are taking care of an irresponsible mate and their children seem to be anything but “responsible.” They won’t even turn out a light or cook an egg for themselves! But they might be wrong about what is going on. Just because a husband withdraws when he is upset, does not mean he does not care deeply for the relationship. He might feel scared to mess it up by presenting his unholy feelings. Likewise, if your child can’t succeed at cooking the perfect egg, they might rather starve. Likewise, if you are responsible for improving all the weaknesses of your mate and children, they are likely to be just like you, searching around for weaknesses in others and themselves and demanding something of others and themselves which is beyond their present capabilities. And on we go.

It is understandable how the world, in general, might get to this way of life. After all, most people believe they are alone. And many philosophies and a couple of religions, specialize in making the “reality” of being alone palatable. If one is the center of reality, they feel an overwhelming responsibility for themselves; they are responsible for the well-being of the planet, and the good or bad experience of each fleeting, precious day is squarely on their shoulders. The TV commercials last night included one about a young man advertising himself on a dating site – I wanted to cry. Even on a commercial he looked awkward and hopelessly hopeful his grand gesture would result in love. He was being sold as one of the brave ones who take love into their own hands and get it.

I think many of us Jesus followers have a problem. We aren’t righteously responsible.

We are prone to carrying God’s responsibility in the name of God instead of accepting our actual responsibility. Our unwarranted responsibility is killing us. We are often miserable failures who make everyone else feel like they have to be more than they are to be acceptable. We want to do great things, but since it mainly depends on us to do them, alone for the most part, we don’t even get started.

Why is it so hard to build a church? Most of the people in it love Jesus. Could it be because many of them are preserving their limited resources, since they know they will be responsible to make their small lives work out perfectly and they instinctively know the call of God in the church would overwhelm their limited resources? They can’t be responsible for the church; they are responsible for everything!

I have several friends I often need to stop in the middle of a paragraph to say, “I don’t need you to react to my feelings before I have them. Please stop taking care of me by not telling me the truth about what you think and feel. If I can’t handle what you are saying, God will help me.” I think they think it is kind to be responsible for my feelings. In some sense I guess that’s true, but I already have a Savior. They could be kind without being messianic.

That’s what I am getting at. We can only be responsible for anything because God is responsible for everything. God decided to need us; we are not responsible for making ourselves useful. We are accepted as who we are and as who we will become at the same time. I think I can say it is a sin to be an aspiration who is responsible to become someone worthy rather than be a beloved child who is deemed worthy right now. Children grow naturally in the light of love. Grandiose aspirations take what is good and wreck it out of their overwrought sense that they need to make something better out of it and so prove their value as a person worthy of their lives.

Jesus followers have plenty of responsibility, of course. We are entrusted with the Holy Spirit, after all. But, like Paul so clearly teaches, we carry our glory in “clay jars.” Our main responsibility is to let our light shine and reveal our splendid weakness as we fully trust Jesus to bring things to right. Isn’t is irresponsible not to do that?

About Rod White

Pastor for Circle of Hope, http://circleofhope.net , grandparent, church planter, peacemaker, comrade, spiritual director, psychotherapist, silence lover

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