"I was raised to be co-dependent. I thought love meant making everyone else happy all the time. Some of my earliest memories are filled with panic because someone wasn’t perfectly content and SOMEHOW that was my fault. I kept on with this behavior for a stupid long time. I dated fix-er-uppers. My longest high school relationship was with an emotionally and verbally abusive boy, but I had no idea until Glamour magazine put out an article on emotional abuse. Imagine me, sitting at the front desk of a small town athletic club, reading a magazine, weeping. Cause that’s when things started to shift.
Glamour magazine said that, often, people who are emotionally abused feel guilty acknowledging abuse. They don’t have bruises or broken bones, so they believe the lie that they aren’t being abused. The truth is, though, they are carrying emotional bruises. Their hearts and minds are battered and that’s just as horrific as a physical bruise.
Isn’t it true that, sometimes, we just need someone else to point out the horror of our dysfunction in order for us to relinquish the fear that we are just crazy?
Sometimes we have to step back in order to propel ourselves forward.
That moment, at that dingy front desk, was my first step back. That was also the first time I felt a little shove forward.
Have you heard the definition of insanity? Doing the same things over and over again, expecting a different result. That might also have been the definition for Stephanie. I’ve spent most of my life trying to get orange juice from an apple. I keep squeezing that damn fruit and trying to explain to it how much I need orange juice. No matter how hard I try, that apple is never going to be an orange. I am never going to get what I need from it. Are you tracking, or have I lost you in the land of fruit and insanity?
I married a broken man because I was a broken woman. I was looking for a safe place to land, hoping I would finally belong somewhere. I was longing to be understood, to be someone’s partner. I assumed marriage meant safety, connection and, honestly, being in control. Cause, let’s be real, co-dependency is really about being in control. If you’re squirming in your lawn chair right now, you might be co-dependent. It’s okay, you can squirm. I twitch a little as I write it. It’s hard to shine the light in that direction.
Most of us can identify with the side of co-dependency that feeds others. We know what it looks like to spend our lives trying to rescue and heal other people. It’s harder, and deeper, to acknowledge that, ultimately, the sickness of co-dependency feeds ME. I feel safe when I think I’m in control. I think I’m in control when I can make other people happy. It has nothing to do with actually serving a need in someone else. It’s serving my own need - the need to feel safe.
So, when I fail, and the other person is still a raging mess, I panic. When I finally realize that this apple is producing apple juice, I have a little meltdown. I’ve been envisioning, conjuring, pleading for orange juice. What the hell do I do with a glass full of apple juice?
I’m not in control anymore.
Que panic attack.
I can see you, friends, hunched over your heartache, looking for any other way. I know how it feels to want to just keep juicing, to just keep praying that some other result will come from the same behavior.
Maybe it will, because that’s your story and I’m not writing you. But I do know this: old behavior does not produce new results.
There are times in our history of God and faith and community when God has asked someone to keep doing the same thing over and over again. Remember Hosea? Poor Hosea who obeyed the call to misery and heartache. Oh Hosea. It would be easy for us to say, “Yeah! I’m Hosea. That’s why I keep hoping for a different result. I’m called to it.” Maybe you are, friend. I’m not here to question that. It’s your story, your heart, your life. You have to own it and take responsibility for your own actions.
I can offer you this though.
Hosea lived in a time before Jesus; a time of sacrifices and prophets and the law. He answered that call because God had something to say to a rebellious people that just wasn’t being heard any other way. Let’s not miss the most important part of this call: God was calling Hosea to deliver HIS message. He didn’t ask Hosea to do it just to do it. He wanted Hosea to be a part of his story; a part of the coming invitation to be rescued by Jesus.
God is not for our wounding. He is always, always for our healing. But don’t think he won’t let us walk our wandering roads to get there.
When Israel asked God for a king, he relented. It wasn’t the road he wanted for them. He had something BETTER, something WHOLE-ER, something BRIGHTER. But they demanded and he relented.
He’ll do that, you know. He’ll get out of your way if you are determined to go around him. He’ll hold his space of invitation and redemption, but he won’t get in the way of you crowning a king. He’ll let you keep squeezing and pounding the apples. He’ll let you repeat the same behavior over and over again. That doesn’t mean he’s calling you to it.
Maybe he’s calling you to something better, something whole-er, something brighter. Maybe he’s asking you to put down the fruit, step back and wait for a minute. Maybe he has something to say to you in Hosea’s story without asking you to BE Hosea.
Something like this.
There comes a point when God strips it all away. We’ve been wandering and wounding and beating down the doors of things and people we think will make us feel better. We’ve found addiction, sorrow and broken hearts. We’ve produced disaster for ourselves and for other people. Thank God, he FINALLY says, “Enough”. No more, friends.
He strips it away. He brings us low, not to destroy us, but to heal us. He calls us to step back. We must step back. In Hosea’s story God takes away Israel’s vineyards, her beauty, her status and her false gods. He strips her bare and leaves her desolate. We aren’t God in this scenario, friends. We’re Israel. We’re the wanderer. We’re the prostitute. We’re the broken. We’re the unfaithful. We’re the insane. We’re the ones who have been juicing apples for decades, pleading for orange juice. No one, ever, is going to be able to give us what we need. Ever.
Our old behavior leads us into the kinds of spaces that only allows for one thing.
We must be brought low. We have to step back. If we don’t - we will never ever heal, we will never move forward. We will only sink until we die.
But then this happens:
"That is why I'm going to win her back. I will lead her into the desert. I will speak tenderly to her. I will give her vineyards there. I will make the valley of Achor [Disaster] a door of hope. Then she will respond as she did when she was young, as she did when she came out of Egypt. "On that day she will call me her husband," declares the LORD. "She will no longer call me her master.
God takes the apple our of our hands to replace it with an orange."