Friday, June 11, 2010

1-2-3. Eyes on me.

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 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.


  1. Oh Shilo, how easy it is for many of us to fall into the temptation to think we are the voice of God in another's life. What wisdom the Holy Spirit has revealed to you to be aware and watchful on Darla's behalf to guide her and train her to surrender her nature to God so He can put His nature in her!
    What a blessing it is to witness God's hand on your family and to be counted as a friend!
    Tnank you!

  2. What a great post!

    First of all, I thought of all the similarities of Darla and Cassie (who is NOT the oldest child). She was the natural administrator/organizer/leader. She gave her life to Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade when she was 5, and immediately "needed" to evangelize her little brother and all of our babysitters. :) As the oldest sister of a dozen children, we worked hard to assure her that she was not responsible for each of the younger siblings.

    I also thought of our roles as parents with our young adult children. There are definitely times that we want to "fix" them, yet we must keep quiet. Sometimes the Lord calls us to speak the truth in love (even if it hurts). Other times He calls us to keep quiet and to pray. We must allow our Big Kids to choose their own paths; we can't "drag them home by the t-shirt" (I could so picture Darla doing this ...).

    Always a delicate balancing act.

    While Darla may need encouragement not to try to be "in charge" of her little brothers every day, she may also grow up with some amazing organizational skills and passions (like her parents) that the Lord will use for His work. Our Hosanna followed right after big sister in the administrative capabilities and it is a joy to watch the Lord work through those gifts He has given her.


    Laurel :)

  3. Shilo,
    You are an amazing daughter and how wonderful it is when a father can enjoy learning from such an awesome daughter. I LOVE YOU!

  4. Awesome post. Very insightful and very well written (as they all are), but this one stands out to me. I love you, my bossy big sissy.

  5. FYI- Jasmine was logged in as me. I didn't post my own comments to myself ;)

  6. Hey Shilo... you probably don't remember me from the coffee shop way back when, but Jenn told me to check out your blog. God has not only gifted you with an incredible ability to write but also with such Godly insight! Love this post... it hits close to home!