By: Dan Crain, REMERGE connector and pastor.
This is a blog in a series from the content, Loving Freely
Hello, my name is Dan and I am a recovering co-dependent.
I didn’t have language for it until ten years ago. I just knew something wasn’t quite right. I found myself constantly helping others with a profound sense to be attached to their change. It came out at random times, particularly as I was serving my friends on the margins.
I found myself always craving safety and security and I tried to surround myself with people or things.
What I was really craving is the sense of security that was found in the Garden of Eden with God in Genesis one and two and the city of peace that is coming when Jesus comes to renew all things. Paul gets a taste of this when he knows and experiences Christ while he’s in jail in Philippians.
What did Paul know? What was he aware of? Christ’s presence. This is why Paul mentions joy sixteen times in some form in this letter. Christ was his joy, not people or things.
As humans we are prone to find identity, validation and self-worth a part from what Christ has designed us for. It’s not that these things are bad; certainly we find God and life in many of these things, it just when we need these things and become attached to them that lead to death.
This is what I feel like what Paul is getting at in Philippians 3. He has lost all of his superficialities in life and now only desires Christ. The more I hold titles, jobs, positions, things loosely, the more I find myself “rejoicing” in the Lord.
He goes on to talk about the true circumcision, being filled by the Spirit of Christ, boasting in Christ Jesus, putting no confidence in the flesh as his sense of belonging. He then lists out all the ways he can put confidence in the flesh, being circumcised on the eighth day, belonging to the tribe of Israel, being in the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew, a Pharisee, a persecutor of the church and righteous based on the law. Seven titles or roles that he once put confidence in, but has now considered all of these things loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.
We can all easily list out seven roles or titles we put confidence in. Dad, mom, husband, wife, business owner, pastor, teacher, writer, son, daughter, artist, trainer, cashier, director, etc. These are all superficialities that can mask what’s really happening on the inside.
The root mean of co-dependency is to be “dependent with”. What do we need in our lives to be dependent on to give us security? What is lacking in me that I feel like I need to be helping others?
In college I was a part of a large Christian university that would have three chapel meetings every week. We would invite speakers from around the world to come and preach to us. These were mostly men who had been very successful in life and ministry. Before they would get up to speak someone would introduce them and go on for about a minute listing off their credentials in life; who they were, what church they led, how many people they started their church with and now how many thousands they were “running”. No doubt it was an example of God’s faithfulness and fruitfulness in their lives.
But, after sitting in the seats for four years my best friend and I started to wise up to what was happening. When the speaker would be introduced, we would jokingly take out a piece of paper and take notes of all the credentials because it felt as if it was about them validating themselves.
Titles, roles, numbers of people, accomplishments. All really good things that feed us in very dangerous ways.
Jesus seems to say that we should be seeking something else in his sermon on the mount in Matthew 6, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” This is set in the context of pursuing all of these things that we feel like will give us safety and security in life.
What is that thing that Jesus tells us to seek? His kingdom and his righteousness, which if we get to the root, is Him. What if we lived our lives so aware of Christ’s presence in and around us, so engulfed and saturated with his love, and so present to the needs around us in a healthy way that we spent our days in pure joy regardless of what is happening all around us?
This is what happened to me in college. I had an experience with Christ’s presence that was so tangible and real that it changed me and continues to change me. I began to spend hours alone with Christ in his presence. I have never experienced peace like that before in my life. The more I was engulfed and aware of Christ’s presence the more I let go of my need for titles, roles and accomplishments.
I began to wrestle with this core question, “What am I looking for from other people that only Christ can give me?”
One small step to begin to live into this is Sabbath keeping. Stepping away from all those titles, roles and accomplishments for one whole day centers us and brings us back to the reality that we are not at the center of the universe, Christ is. This is why one of the first things that God tells the Israelites to do after bringing them out of Egypt was to rest. At Mt. Sinai he institutes the ten commandments and number four is to rest.
So, rest, knowing that you are not defined by what you do, what you have, can accomplish or prove to others. In Christ, you are his child and in him we are safe and secure.
It is from this place that we can love others freely.