As I was getting the kids ready to get out the door and into the car (which often feels like herding cats) I heard Darla attempting to help. "Everett? Everett! 1-2-3, eyes on me. 1-2-3, eyes on me, Everett."
My eyes widened at the perfect little teacher voice I heard come out of my 5 year old. To be clear, I have never said "1-2-3, eyes on me" to any of my children. Apparently this is something she picked up from Sunday School.
I have been praying for my responsible oldest daughter because I know the weight she is putting on herself as a pre-schooler. I saw it when she drug Everett home from the neighbors by his t-shirt, refusing to let him suffer the consequences of disobedience. I saw it when she tried to ask Jesus into Hudson's heart for him because he didn't feel it was as pressing as she did. I heard it when a neighbor commented, "She sure does take care of her brothers, doesn't she?"
As the mom I am torn. Part of me loves having a mini-me to help keep the family in line. The wiser part of me knows that it's not healthy for her to carry everyone's burden or to believe that it's up to her to fix everything and everyone.
The wiser part of me has learned from experience. She's not the only person in this family who tried to control two little brothers...right down to their salvation. I spent many years trying to boss around my siblings. I would have told you "I know they aren't my responsibility" but how I felt was something else, entirely. I agonized over their choices and fretted when my sister dated guys I didn't approve of. I was convinced that if I said the right thing the right way they would have to receive it and change their lives.
My wake up moment came from my wise Aunt Nancy. I was lamenting to her when my brothers were running around the world breaking their big sister's bossy heart. They were teenagers and I was technically an 'adult'. I was hurt that my attempts at relationship and truth speaking were ignored or resulting in confrontation.
Aunt Nancy said simply, "Shilo, do only what God has asked you to do. If God tells you to bake them cookies and drop them by the drug trailer...do it. If He gives you Scripture to give them, do it. But don't do anything that He doesn't lead you to. Then their response is not your responsibility. You can say, 'I did it out of obedience to God, not for an expected response'."
Really? That easy? Everything controlling in my body stood on end during our conversation. I stewed on it, prayed on it, and ultimately started surrendering my need to "fix" my brothers. I began asking God to compel me instead of my own good intentions. Not to say my heart wasn't broken. I just recognized that God is able to take care of his children and I needed to let Him, whether it involved me or not.
The amazing thing is... the Lord managed to grip both of their hearts without my input. I think my role was supposed to be a lot less preaching and a lot more praying. Oops.
Poor Darla truly has the odds against her because not only is she an oldest child, but both of her parents are oldest children.
When I met S. he was counseling people out of his dorm room and often putting off homework because of someone's personal crisis. His mom had died the year prior and his desire to be at home to "fix" his family was a constant battle as he finished school.
His open door policy in the dorm became our open door policy at our one bedroom apartment as newlyweds. Soon we were immersed in youth ministry where the need is high and emergencies are commonplace.
S. would say, "I know they don't need me. I know I'm not responsible for them." Oh, but it's hard to see straight when texts come in during the middle of the night. And how much more dangerous the trap when someone literally says, "I need you." (and even scarier if you've ever believed such a statement!) When you are surrounded by many people who have sincere, severe needs and are desperate to unload them, it fast becomes cloudy. If we forget to ask, "Lord, what are you calling me to in this situation?" our default response becomes, "I can fix it!" We then are overwhelmed when we can't adequately meet other's expectations. We find ourselves in boundary-less, unhealthy relationships and pretty soon are having anxiety attacks and passing out in the bathroom (can you tell we've been there?).
There is so much freedom knowing the Lord doesn't need me. He is quite capable of doing His work whether I am cooperative or not. That being said, it brings me exhilaration, joy, and gives me understanding of His character when I get to be part of His work. Therefore instead of running around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to fix everyone's messes, I am learning to ask and be intentional about the opportunities He puts in front of me.
A few years ago S. and I both felt clearly that God was telling us to ask S.'s sister Megan to live with us. She had rough years behind her and we weren't certain she was ready to change. Yet, we wanted to obey and we knew it was the Lord. Megan moved in and we got to be a small piece of her story; filled with redemption, beauty, restoration, and an authentic relationship with Christ. Our time with her was not filled with attempts to "fix" her or pick up the pieces of her life. Our time was spent letting the Lord work and being available to share Truth, to ask hard questions, to simply be a haven for her to rest. Sometimes the Lord brought hard things to my mind to talk to Megan about and sometimes He called me to pop popcorn, watch American Idol and just enjoy being sisters. Aunt Nancy was right! I experienced freedom and Megan became one of my best friends.
My prayer for Darla is not that she would be more responsible or less responsible for her brothers. My prayer is that she will learn (& that we will model!) to encourage, serve, and speak truth in love while understanding that ultimately her brothers are accountable to their parents and God... and very little of that has to do with a bossy sister.