What I'm Reading Today: Exodus 12-14
Over the years I've worked with lots of folks whose lives were affected by a family member's alcoholism. In almost every instance, I have heard a variation of the same story.
Folks will tell me that at first it was hell. Over time, however, each member of the family/system figured out a role to play so his or her family could make it through the ordeal. The son, for instance, learned that his role when his father came home drunk was to carry his dad to bed and let him sleep it off. This helped keep the problem out of sight. The daughter learned that when her dad came home drunk and argumentative, her role was to prevent other family members from arguing with her father. This kept the peace. The mother learned that her job was to call her husband's employer and make up an excuse why her husband wouldn't be coming in to work that day.
Usually in these scenarios there is one member of the family that is forced to take responsibility for the overall functioning of the family/system. As long as that individual agrees to play that role, the family/system worked just fine (or so they thought). Eventually, however, that person in the leading role reaches his or her breaking point. He or she becomes consumed with anger or resentment that he or she has to assume all the responsibility for the family's well-being.
The truth is that the individual is not trapped. He or she could make a different choice at any time and let go of carrying the responsibility for others.
You would think it would be an easy decision for the person who plays the leading role in the family's/system's drama to make the decision to let go of their role and invite others in to the process. In truth, it is a hard decision. For there is a tremendous amount of pressure placed on the individual to quit rocking the boat and revert back to the previous way of living.
This temptation to slide back into unhealthy ways of being is something that jumped right out at me in today's story from Exodus. For in today's story, we hear are told how the Israelites were able to break free from the bonds of slavery in Egypt and obtain a new sense of freedom as the journeyed into the desert.
You would think they would be thrilled by this development, right?
Almost as soon as they hit the desert, they started complaining about their new life. They even started longing for the good old days in slavery – when life was familiar and comfortable. They wanted Moses (the primary actor in their drama) to take them back to slavery in Egypt. How sick was that?
All of this reminds me that the process of change is a painful – and long-term process. At each juncture, it is easy to want to give in and resort to one's old ways. If you find yourself in the midst of living into a new way of being in your own life, be aware of this tendency to revert to old ways of being and catch yourself. Remember that just because a way of being was easy doesn't mean that it was healthy.
Til next time …