Monday, July 2, 2007

Grace Happening People - "G" Stands for Galatians 6:2-5

June 9, 2007

Today I begin a twelve-week summer series based on the anagram “GRACE HAPPENS,” each letter representing a quality that equips us to be “Grace Happening People.”

“G” Stands for Galatians 6:2-5:
Grace Happening People Bear One Another’s Burdens

Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
…each one should carry his own load.
Galatians 6:2-5

According to Galatians 6:2, we are to “carry each other’s burdens.” Conscientious Christians take this to heart and often wear themselves out helping others. The cycle goes something like this: Someone asks me for assistance at a time when I am already up to my ears in obligations. But I say “yes” because it is the Christian thing to do. Disappointed because my friend or relative doesn’t express appreciation or, worse yet, asks me to do yet another thing for them, I end up feeling bitter and resentful for being taken advantage of. Then I feel guilty for my unchristian attitude. This cycle repeats itself over and over again as I attempt to meet the needs of others, wearing me down and wearing me out.

How is it that my attempts to emulate Christ culminate with me feeling so many joy-robbing, energy-eroding feelings? Is this really what it’s supposed to feel like when I reach out or respond to someone’s plea with grace? Is this Christian charity—or is it codependency? Codependency is a state of being in which we continually overextend ourselves in “helping” others, and in so doing, ignore our own needs and responsibilities, depleting our physical and emotional energies.

The motive underlying codependency is to meet my own unmet emotional needs. If I don’t feel very good about myself, I will do things for others in order to feel appreciated, needed, loved, accepted, of value… In other words, when I do something for you out of my codependency, I am expecting something back, namely affirmation that you value me. My self-esteem and sense of well-being are dependent on how you feel about me and treat me.

When I am in tune with who I am in Christ—an individual who is infinitely loved and valued by God—I am able to make wise choices on when and how to serve others. Secure in God’s love and grace, I am able to discern God’s direction from my own vain attempts to meet my unmet needs.

One of the most helpful pieces of information I have learned along the way is to NOT do for someone else what they are capable of doing for themselves. Galatians 6:5 informs us that we each have a daily load—and it is our responsibility to carry it. When we do for others what they can do for themselves, we rob them of the opportunity to make a contribution and to enjoy a sense of competency.

Think of a time when you were overwhelmed by a burden and someone came alongside with advice, encouragement, tutoring, a loan, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold during a nerve-wracking wait in a surgery waiting room or court room, companionship during chemo, childcare when you’re ready to pull your hair out… Think also of a time when you wanted someone to cover for you, take up slack when you slacked off, pick up after you, do your chores—while you goof off…

Grace Happening people learn to discern when to offer assistance with a burden and when to stand back and be a cheerleader, offering encouragement to someone in carrying their daily load. Picture in your mind a pair of oxen yoked together, walking side by side, sharing their load equally. Alone, the burden is unbearable; together it is doable.

Christ invites us to, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30) According to Matthew Henry, this yoke requires self-denial (not codependency), but “it is a yoke that is lined with love.” What better place from which to demonstrate and receive God’s grace!

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