I wake up slowly (like most mornings) but this one is different. How? Well, in part, because it is barely morning. After a long week, this is my opportunity to sleep in. Thanks to my beloved wife for leaving me to my slumber and to my kids for not peppering me with elbow slams and “off-the-top-rope” wrestling moves. My body slowly sheds the sleepy melatonin hormones replacing it with the endorphin-like serotonin that will guide me through the day…I make my way off the bed, down the hall.
My senses are on overload as I take in the state of my house. First, the Boy’s room…light on, bed a mess, Rescue Hero toys on the floor as if they were trying to escape from their storage box. Second, the bathroom…light on, water running ever so slightly in the sink, brushes for teeth and hair on the counter. Then the Girl’s room…suddenly we’re in Kansas where a tornado has whipped up a flurry of clothes, paper, scissors, dolls, blankets and ribbon into a hairball that absorbs the room itself. The light is on. Metaphors of growing up in a barn flood my thoughts.
There is only one thing to do. Unfortunately, I don’t know what that is. Give them up for adoption? Divorce? Run away? Give up? I resist and slowly bring order. Breathe. I begin my path of absolution. Lights off, a path to the bed and closet, and a reminder to instruct the family in the ways of responsibility. A heaviness is with me now.
As a kid, I was taught that responsibility was a good thing. It was instilled deep in my behavior as a young boy. Words from my mom and dad still rattle around inside my brain as an adult. Turn off the light—close the door—pick up after yourself—be responsible. While I don’t shun my parents for teaching me this virtue, I wonder…
I wonder when responsibility became response-ability. Definition? Response-ability: “A manic state of managing your surroundings with the goal of controlling each variable.” It is an almost OCD manner of being where anything out of place must be tied to someone’s lack of responsibility. It is all about who…
Who left their plate on the couch? Who didn’t turn off the light upstairs? Whose is this? Who is in charge of—Who did this—Who forgot—It’s her, his, your, my fault. All come easy, but the last one swishes its way past, encircling me in the sing-song tone of “He’s got the whole world…on his back” – not the kids song I grew up with. Not the truth.
When did I wander from God having the whole world in his hands, to me having the whole world on my back?
More importantly, what do I do with this newfound awareness? I see myself carrying this response-ability and working to impress it into the mold of my life. It is beginning to shape my surroundings, my relationships and my family. Now that I catch myself teaching my kids response-ability, raking them over the coals for small infractions with socks, paper plates and light switches, I wonder…where is the line between being responsible and expecting response-ability?
I’ve always loved Proverbs 16:9. I quote it regularly in various versions:
“In his heart, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” NIV
“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.” NASB
“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” ESV
“We plan the way we want to live, but only GOD makes us able to live it.” MSG
Easy to quote. Not so easy to live.
Only God can lead me as I commit to being obedient in my love to him. God as I plan, prepare and work to live for you…guide each step, mark out where each footstep should fall in following you. You know my desire for responsibility is at the core a desire to serve you, to be a wise steward, to care for all you’ve provided. When I move from that to a lost place of controlling my surroundings, stop me. Prompt me to be aware that you are in control. You determine, direct and establish each step. Only YOU can make us live The Way.