Secondary Gains, Part 2

This was originally posted in Sept 2010 and much has changed in my life – but the concepts here are good.

So I last wrote about the adaptations that can become stumbling blocks when it comes to chronic, physical issues.  But what does this mean for relational ones?

When relationships are difficult, if we have the courage and possibly healthy background – we confront the issues and move on to repentance, reconciliation and relationship.  This is healthy and biblical and definitely worth the effort. But it takes two.  What if ongoing sin issues by another person, and a lack of repentance, keep all of this from happening?  We are to forgive certainly (Jesus forgave us though we didn’t deserve it).  But reconciliation and relationship are missing.  So how do you move forward in that kind of relationship?

Some people simply leave.  But let’s say that’s not the right choice for you for whatever reason.  We don’t abandon our children simply because they are difficult and while we can manufacture space with parental units, totally cutting them off can be challenging.  There are simply some difficult relationships we cannot escape even though we would wish to.

We adapt.  This can be good in that it can keep us sane. It may mean not investing in that relationship. Lowering our expectations of what that person can do to meet our very real wants and needs.  It does not mean revenge or resentment is a good place to camp. God asks us to love the unlovely and show respect for others, even when they have wronged us, simply because – well, HE asks us to.  They are as equally created in the image of God as we are and deserve our consideration and prayers even if we cannot have a true relationship with them that we would desire.

So we adapt. We work around the issues.  We learn new ways of ‘doing life’ with that person that keeps us feeling safer in the relationship. Maybe it means stepping back, not sharing our deepest thoughts.  It may mean finding other places to get our needs met (I am NOT advocating emotional or physical affairs here. . .).

But what happens if they do change?  That is what we want after all, isn’t it? Anger, resentment, hatred will all raise their ugly head at how that other individual has messed up and destroyed any hope of relationship with us.  We find freedom by moving away from that person.  We sometimes find our own ego stroked by comparing ourselves to them.  But then they go and change?  Whoa! Hey, that’s not allowed unless we dictate it – right?  Yet God has the power to change a human heart and we are to pray for those who persecute us.  So, what if He answers that prayer?

This happens in difficult marriages.  Husband decides finally to be the spiritual head of the home.  Even if he repents of his past failures and tries to keep his wife involved in the decisions and changes that are taking place (this is ideal guys, dictating to us will only garner resistance), the wife is going to have difficulty– even if it has been what she has prayed for.  She has to give up control and freedom to a person who has not proven himself worthy of the trust he is now demanding of her.  See how difficult this is?  She’s adapted, and even though it is not what she originally wanted, her life had become a predictable, even if unhappy – then the rules changed.

So here’s the tough question.  If someone is bugging you because they won’t change, ask the question, “If they changed overnight, if God did a miracle here, would I be able to accept it?”  If the answer is “no” then the real issue is not the other person – but you.  Let God deal with them and you get to work with Him over all that’s holding you back from the abundant life He’s calling you to, regardless of whether the other person changes or not.  Lean into it and see what God can do in you!



Secondary Gain, Part 1

This post is originally from September 2010. . .

There’s a hidden danger in chronic issues that we face.  Whether it is physical pain, or relational dysfunction.  We adapt.  And that’s good in many ways.  But then we also start to seek compensation for our crippled state.

I used to be a type-A doer.  Energizer bunny.  Until my thyroid took me down.  My perspective on my value and worth took a major hit when fatigue would literally leave me flat on the couch unable to do much of anything to maintain my house, or care for my kids.  Thankfully I wasn’t working a job outside the home and a clean house is not as important to my husband as it is to me.  I struggled for months with medication changes and energy issues. . . and learned to adapt. To be okay with reading a book instead of vacuuming the house (which also made me sick due to other issues).  It eventually became kind of nice to not carry the responsibility for the world on my shoulders.  Not that anyone else picked up the slack, mind you.  Although I have to admit that God’s done a pretty decent job in most areas – I’ve found He doesn’t do dishes or pick up duplos.

I’ve slowly been recovering.  That means I need to get off what could now be determined as a lazy butt – and do the work I need to do.  I’d rather read a book – or work on writing one.  See how I’ve adapted?  I could claim fatigue – and sometimes that’s real.  I need to be careful about budgeting my energy which is hard because if I do get a burst – I clean as much as I can– and then pay for it for days afterwards with pain and fatigue.  Secondary gain would say – avoid that and simply enjoy a good novel.  While I’m at it I can be a victim of my spouse who’s financial abuse denies me some of the care that could possibly make it better.  I’ve come so close to resolving this only to have the financial rug pulled out from underneath me time and time again. So really, I’m a victim.  So I’ll just sit back and relax and curl up with another story.

So many times we pray for healing.  There is a story in Scripture where Jesus asked the guy, “Do you really want to be healed?” (John 5:6). The man lying by the pool for so long, waiting for the angel to stir the waters so he could get in, had in many ways given up.  It was a great question for Jesus to ask.  Do I want to be healed?  What would it mean if my thyroid really returned to full functioning and my back pain were resolved?  Hmmm, I would feel better, enjoy walking and bike riding and other physical activities, and be able to do more and be a better servant of my King.  Good things.  However,  I would also be able to clean the house more, and might be required to engage in more physical work that currently at this time threatens me with disability. I might not be as available to read or write.  I wouldn’t be able to moan and groan and garner the limited sympathy available for chronic health issues.  I wouldn’t be able to use my thyroid as an excuse for my weight either.

See how secondary gain can keep me from fully embracing the abundant life Jesus offers? Even without healing it can hold me back from pursuing God’s best for me.  Secondary Gain – it’s complicated emotional issue –and to overcome it we need to take a brutal self-inventory.