We just released my first study, and a group of women that regularly gather online for encouragement and discussion decided to add it to their list of readings. After they wrapped up walking through the study together, they asked if I would be willing to participate in an online discussion. There were a handful of questions (below in italics) that emerged, and they invited me to respond and engage with an amazing group of women. I loved their thoughts/questions, and I am so humbled and honored to have been a part of their dialogue. I wanted to share with you their comments and my futile attempt at short responses.
Also, I asked the facilitator of the group if I could share their page for other women to join in the conversation:
Good Morning Heroes! Jennifer Mazzola has graciously agreed to a day of questions and comments on her new study Don’t Be Mad At Your Yes! I’ll get us started with a few questions. Please feel free to jump in or add your own.
Q & A For Jennifer:
On page 2 of the intro & again on page 7 you reference a grandma..I’m a grandma, a good portion of my friends are and this giving more of your time, energy & resources than you should or would otherwise for the grandchild’s sake seems to be something that most families bump into here or there on some level or another. Is there a rule of thumb, a general suggestion of some sort , a book, podcast, or line of teaching that helps guard & guide a grandparents heart to allow mom & dad to face the natural consequences of their choices & still be a source of safety & support for the grand baby?
My short response is, no, I don’t believe there is a rule or guideline. I wish there was. I have spoken with a handful of adults that now find themselves helping more than they expected with their grandchildren and for a variety of reasons. It’s easy for me to stand back and say, “Don’t help, let them deal with things themselves,” and that’s mainly because I’m not a grandparent yet. Trying to think through that part of my future, and thinking about my parents and how they helped me, I just don’t think there are clear-cut guidelines. I think we teeter between enabling and truly helping, and I think the only way we see the difference is to consistently check in with the Holy Spirit. I realize that may sound like an over-simplification or a cheesy Christian response, but I think it’s the base for seeing family dynamics with clarity.
I do think there are questions you can ask yourself in dialogue with God …
Why am I doing this?
Are my grandchildren in danger?
Will they truly go without if I don’t step in?
Am I doing this from a sense of guilt? From mistakes I feel I made as a parent?
Am I setting up my family for success in the long term?
Is there a way I can help that does not enable?
Some examples that come to mind from working with people in these scenarios:
Repeated issues centering around abuse, addiction, neglect – I’ve seen families bail out their children time and time again, and for reasons I completely understand. Then add grand-kids to the mix, and they find themselves watching repeat cycles or having the whole family come in and out of their home. Someone I worked with decided that pattern needed to stop for their children, but they wanted to help their grandchildren, which had no volition in the situation. So, they offered to bring in the grandchildren but without the parents. They also paid directly for things for the grandchildren, such as after school care, piano lessons, etc. but did not give any money to their children. It did get difficult for this family as their children began to use the kids as pawns and to place guilt on their own parents, but over time, as healthy decisions and boundaries were consistent, the dynamic did change.
I’ve seen other people set a specific amount of money or time they are comfortable with and stick to it. One family gives $200 a week to their children, but when more is asked they hold the line. Another grandmother I worked with offers two days a week of childcare for her preschool grandchildren but no more. The parents have to figure out the rest. I think these strategies help people feel like they are serving/helping but within reason and healthy boundaries.
I actually went back and asked the grandmother I wrote about how things are now. She continues to support her daughter and now two grandchildren in all the ways she did before and even further. But she did say she has worked really hard to not “punish” her daughter through comments and insults. She works to own her choice to give money and resources rather than blame her daughter.
Ultimately, to me, that’s the goal. What can you and the Lord agree upon for your current situation and season? What can you offer without bitterness, sarcasm, guilt, shame, enabling, etc.? I could keep going on about boundaries and guilt laden living and more, but I’ve already written too much, and we are only looking at question one! Ha!
I love this, “I think we too often get this image of Christianity is a never-ending series of yes’. God gave us options for a reason. In fact humanity gets options right out of the gate.” Can you share a little more on this? I can feel bad like I’m being a bad example of Christ’s love, letting God down or not exercising my faith if i say no. I’m often put in a spot where if I say no to something, it wont get done.
Lots of layers here.
1. God places man in the garden and says (my paraphrase/summary) …”All this is yours. Work. Multiply. Enjoy. But … do not eat from this tree.” The first choice for humanity: to eat or not eat. At first, there seems to be no question, but as other questions arise (from the serpent), their heads tilt. Should I eat from the tree? What will actually happen (even though God already told me)? So, they choose. Then, they choose to hide. So why not remove the choice so they don’t make the wrong one? (That is one of the first questions I had for God when I became a Christian.)
We have all experienced relationships where we felt forced to be together. Maybe we felt stuck. Maybe it was as a sacrifice. Maybe we just had to work with someone. But we didn’t feel we had a choice, and those relationships rarely thrive. We don’t feel free, empowered, loved, or cherished. We feel trapped, hopeless, and stuck. God gives us a choice to love Him and to choose Him because it’s the only way to have a true relationship. Freedom of choice is what gives love depth. It’s not how much I “do for you,” but the fact that I “do for you” when I don’t “have to.” (I hope that makes sense typed out.) God doesn’t want forced robots or trapped servants. He wants people who choose Him. So we had an option at the beginning of all time, and we have daily options to choose Him now. We can say yes or no to God all day long. (Side note: He still chooses us every day.)
That’s what I mean when I say “choice has been a part of the very beginning.”
2. How we feel when we say no.
I think there is value in understanding God’s love is not contingent on how we handle our yes or no. He chooses to love us, and we will not always get it right. If I say yes to something I shouldn’t, or no to something I should, God’s love for me is not altered. My life consequences/what I have to deal with may shift, but God remains the same. Now, how others interpret my relationship with God based on my yes or no is out of my control. If I say no, and I’m seen as “less of a Christian,” I can’t control that. I can only ask myself, “Did God and I talk through this yes or no thing, and did I make the best choice I could with the capacity, resources and energy I had at the time?”
Early in ministry, I was frustrated, overwhelmed and didn’t feel I could add another thing on my plate. I was talking with a friend, and she interrupted me, “Jenn! Wait! Do you hear!?! There are children in Asia that need your help?!? Wait! Hold on! There are homeless people in NYC that need support! And there are …” You can see where she was going. She said, “The point is you cannot be everywhere all the time, or everything for everyone. You are not Jesus.” That moment reminded me to give myself permission to be more present in the moment with where God placed me rather than distracted by all the needs swirling around me. God has gifted and nudged each of us in a direction, and that will require us to say no to other things. Saying no, even to wonderful things, is part of honoring God with where He is calling us. No, in these cases, means a stronger and healthier yes in other areas. That requires tons of faith.
3. “It won’t get done.”
Nope. It might not. If you say no, some things will not get done. Balls will drop. Deadlines will pass. Projects will be stressful. If the thing that needs to get done actually “belongs” to you, then that is different. But, from my experience, I tend to rush around picking up dropped items from other people’s plates. That would be okay if I could do it without regret, bitterness, gossip, etc., but generally, I can’t.
Sometimes the best thing in the world is for something to not get done. Of course, when someone could be seriously hurt or others’ jobs are on the line, that may be a different scenario. Which, again, is why taking the time to listen to God’s Spirit in the dynamic is so valuable. I am a master at taking things that are not urgent or threatening and making them urgent and threatening.
There are lots of things that “didn’t get done” in scripture, and every time, God seems to use it as a teachable moment. Someone getting sidetracked or wandering, and then something ends up not happening as a result, may be part of their journey. Maybe my kids need to miss an assignment. Maybe someone does need to have a difficult conversation with a boss. Maybe that church thing will unfold as terribly as you foresee, but if that’s not yours to own, you might be cutting into a path God is using in someone else’s life.
A friend of mine says, “Not my monkeys, not my circus.” My biblical equivalent to that is from Galatians 6:
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.”
This idea of loads versus burdens. We are called to carry each other’s burdens, but each should carry our own load. That is how Paul guides the church in loving one another.
Again, wrote too much. I could keep going.
On page 10, last paragraph, you zone in on, “Jesus says , yes or no & anything beyond this comes from the evil one. He is reminding us that these two words are powerful tools…” My question is in the last statement, ” it’s not considering the stuff beyond that can result in dysfunction.” Can you explain that?
I don’t have this image of God sitting on a throne watching our decisions, removed, and waiting to see if we will choose yes or no correctly.
I have a relationship with God where we take walks (sometimes literally). I say what I’m thinking. Here’s an example:
Me: I was asked to volunteer.
God: Okay, so what do you think about that?
Me: On one hand … On the other hand …
God: So if you go with the one hand, what will you have to sacrifice? If you go with the other hand, how will your attitude be?
We go back and forth like this for a while, and I make a choice. Most often, I honestly don’t’ think the Lord is as concerned with my choice as I would like Him to be. I can remember, early as a Christian, needing God to give me my yes or no. I would literally flip a coin. As I keep walking, I feel like God is less about that and more about my heart condition through the yes or no. That’s how I read the scene with Mary and Martha. (I’m going to assume you are familiar with that. I apologize if not.)
I have heard that scene taught in regards to making sure to have quiet times (which I think are amazing and important) or to teach about not trying to earn works based salvation (also good reminders), but for me it’s not the work Martha is doing that’s the problem. Jesus doesn’t scold her because he is in the kitchen. He doesn’t say anything until she complains about her sister. And he addresses her worry, not her work. That is how God has to work in me. I can’t tell you how often He has spoken over my heart, “I’m not as interested in what you decide as I am in how you will respond if others don’t decide like you, or if nothing works out, or if you will end up mad at your yes.”
For me, my struggle is how judgy and arrogant, people please-y, and whiny I can become with my yes or no. It’s the stuff “beyond this” that is where I believe the enemy has a foothold in my life from time to time.
Does that clarify? Look at me! A shorter response!