Christians Are Not Pack Mules

18 07 2013

“Our son, Leroy, has a problem,” Fritz said as he and his wife sat in the counselor’s office.

Dr. Hank’s brow furrowed, and he said gently, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Where is he?”

“Well, he said he didn’t have a problem and refused to come with us today,” Fritz said.

“Hmm. Well, tell me what’s going on,” the doctor said.

Fanny spoke up, “Leroy is twenty-three years old and still lives with us. He has a hard time holding down a job. No one seems to value his excellent skills. They ignore his ideas to improve business, which upsets him, so he quits. Without an income, he can’t keep an apartment, so he lives with us.”

“Yeah, eats us out of house and home, drives our car, and we’re not sure, but I think he’s started drinking,” Fritz added. “During the day, when he ought to be out looking for a job, we can’t pry him off the couch. He lays there playing video games from when he gets up around noon until after I come home from work. If I ask to watch the evening news, he gets mad and storms off to his room or goes out with his friends…but not until he’s hit his mom up for some money. I’ve told Fanny to tell him ‘no,’ but she does it anyway.” The tension in the room began to increase.

A little smile creased Dr. Hank’s face. Looking from Fritz to Fanny, he said brightly, “Leroy is right. He doesn’t have a problem.”

“Doctor, I’m a little confused,” Fritz said. “Haven’t you been listening?”

“Yes, Fritz, I have,” he replied. “What I heard gave no indication that Leroy has a problem at all. It would seem that the two of you are the ones with a dilemma.

“Leroy has a home, a warm bed, food, clothing, TV, video games, even a car at his disposal. That doesn’t sound like he has a problem to me.”

Fanny’s voice began to rise as she said, “We’ve been the best parents we know how to be, and given him everything he needs to get back on his feet. We’re also Christians. We ask ourselves, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ and then we do it. We don’t need you to fix us, we need you to fix our son.”

Doctor Hank clasped his hands and looked at the couple. “Let me explain it this way: The three of you are on a journey through life…a camping trip, if you will. The two of you are carrying the tent, everyone’s sleeping bag (including Leroy’s), all the food, clothing, and other things necessary to live. Meanwhile, Leroy is be-bopping along behind you with nothing but a video game in hand, content as can be. From his standpoint, things are great; from yours, not so good. Does this make sense?”

He could see from their faces that they were beginning to understand. “Would you like me to help you help Leroy to have some problems?

“Aren’t Christians supposed to help those in need?” Fritz asked. “Galatians 6 commands Christians to bear one another’s burdens. We don’t want to be a bad “witness” for Jesus. That matters a great deal to us.”

“I know the verse you’re referring to,” stated the doctor. “It’s Galatians 6:2, which reads: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Did you also note verse 5? That one says: For each one shall bear his own load. (NKJV).

“They seem to contradict one another, but will make much more sense when we look at the words, burden and load.

“A load is basically a backpack – containing what each person needs for his own well being…the things for which he or she must be responsible. If we were to go on a backpack trip, I would expect to carry my own sleeping bag, clothes, toothbrush and paste, and whatever food I planned to eat on the trip.

“A burden, on the other hand, is more like a boulder or the cargo of a ship. It denotes something that is too big for one person to carry alone.

“Leroy hasn’t learned to provide for himself. Life as a grown-up is tough at first. He got knocked down a few times, and realized that it was easier to come back to your house and let you do what he ought to be doing for himself. The things that should be in his backpack: rent, utilities, transportation and insurance; his own food, clothing, and so forth are missing from his pack…in fact, would you agree that his is empty?” Doctor Hank paused to let his words sink in.

“Should something major come along – the death of a spouse or child, a major illness, or catastrophe, these things would qualify as a ‘boulder’ or ‘cargo.’ He would need help carrying these. These are the ‘burdens’ we are commanded to bear for one another.”

“That you love your son is evident, but by carrying his load for him, you are actually handicapping him. While it feels like you’re caring for him, it is actually a very unloving thing to do. Not only for him, but for his future wife.” The doctor peered into Fanny’s eyes and then asked her, “would you marry a man like your son?”

She gulped, then whispered, “No, I sure would not.”

Fanny looked at Fritz and said, “I think Leroy is about to learn that he has more problems than he ever imagined!”

To push our adult children out of the nest and let them figure out how to grow up is not easy, (especially for moms!) but it is necessary. We will answer for how we either helped – or handicapped – our children. It takes great trust that God has them in His hands and will never leave them nor forsake them. Prayer and the support of Christian friends helps us to navigate through this transition, as well.

Rightly dividing the Word of Truth is never more important than when it comes to determining whether to step in and help someone bear their burden – to come alongside and remove a boulder…

…and when our ‘help” will interfere with what God is trying to teach them,

carrying for others what they are responsible for carrying themselves

…while we become their “Christian” pack mules!

For another article on boundaries read: Possessing My Possession

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17 responses

23 07 2013
tlhumphries

Reblogged this on Thoughts Along the Journey and commented:
I really liked this post by another author I am newly following at Lessons by Heart. I think this speaks to a lot of us. It certainly got to me. Let me know what you think! And check out some of her other posts, also. You’ll be glad you did.

22 07 2013
tlhumphries

Profound lesson here. May I please reblog?

22 07 2013
lessonsbyheart

Be my guest! And thank you very much!

\o/

20 07 2013
A Disciple of Jesus

Reblogged this on a disciple of Jesus's Blog and commented:
An excellent Parable

19 07 2013
vonhonnauldt

Or they could do like we did our youngest – moved out from under him – right after he’d leased a brand-new Jeep. Took him a while to get rightside up, but now he says that it;s the best thing that ever happened to him. Although he said that before he got married.! 🙂

19 07 2013
lessonsbyheart

🙂

This has been a tough one for me. Because of my own upbringing, I had no boundaries, and wasn’t sure what was the “right” thing to do as a Christian. It’s been a fight with guilt and uncertainty, but I’ve finally got a clear understanding of the situation (I think!).

Moved out from under him, eh? That’s too funny.

\o/

19 07 2013
Dana Bradley

Another great one sweet Tami! My parents didn’t let us loaf around after high school years and I’m glad I didn’t let our’s do the same. We need to be good eagles and give that baby bird a little boost out of the nest and scoop him up IF he isn’t flying on his own. Most of the time that baby eaglet is flapping thos wings with sheer delight….flying free!

19 07 2013
lessonsbyheart

Thanks, Dana. You’re such an encouragement to me!

Love you,
\o/

18 07 2013
Peg

LOVE this, Tami! A subject that needs to be addressed more. You did a great job of it! Got some people I’d like to share it with . . . 🙂

18 07 2013
lessonsbyheart

Pass it on! 🙂

\o/

18 07 2013
Peg

Thank you!

18 07 2013
annabachinsky

Loved this Tami! Especially since I am planning on moving out next month and my parents don’t fully “approve” my decision. Maybe I should read this post to them 😉

But seriously, it’s so important for parents to give kids responsibilities and “loads” of their own. I am so happy that I could only get my first cell phone when I could afford to pay for it and my own car when I could pitch in for most of it. Sure, I was a little envious of my friends at times when they got everything handed to them with no cost but growing up I learned how to be financially stable and how to be responsible for my own things. I think it’s important for every kid to learn this in some way or another!

18 07 2013
lessonsbyheart

🙂 It’s harder to let daughters go than sons, I speak from experience. Mine didn’t just move out – they moved to another state! It took all I had to trust the Lord with their well-being. He was faithful, I’m happy to report, and they’re now both happily married with children of their own.

May the Lord light the road before you, and make the transition easy(er) for your parents. This will be a time of growth for all of you. Be gentle with them!

\o/

18 07 2013
Steve Austin

I pray that as much as I love my little two-year-old, that we learn the importance, later in life, of teaching him responsibility and independence…to carry his own load.

Thank you for this!

18 07 2013
Steve Rebus

Wow, what a fantastic but challenging lesson to learn! He is blessed with amazing parents who bring him up in the Lord.
Prayers are with you as you take your next steps. 🙂

18 07 2013
lessonsbyheart

Thanks, Steve. I invented the people here to illustrate a point – however, with seven kids I’ve had opportunities to run this scenario through my mind while shooing one or two out of the nest. I know adult people (over 50 years old) who are still comfy and cozy in their parents’ nest, while the parents are broke and crazy. I don’t want to BE one of those parents, and don’t want anyone else I know to HAVE kids like that! 🙂
\o/

18 07 2013
Steve Rebus

Amen! Great scenario and really important message! Thanks for sharing. 😀

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