Last week I talked about backpacks and boulders. If you didn’t read that post, go back and read it. If you’re an auditory learner, you can listen to the podcast.
Now that you’ve mastered the concept of backpacks and boulders (if not the practice), let me help out those of you who are worried the world is going to end if you don’t step in and save the day like you’re used to doing.
In the book Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud pairs the concept of Backpacks and Boulders with an important law also found in Galatians 6. After the apostle Paul encourages us to “bear one another burdens” while “each carries his own load”, he follows up with this important truth:
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-8
Paul is making a powerful point: In God’s kingdom, there are no crop failures. Every action has a reaction. Everything planted, good or bad, will bloom.
The problem is that sometimes the wrong person gets the crop.
God is brilliant, and has designed this nifty little world to be full of natural consequences that teach valuable life lessons. I’ll give you an example. You might have heard of this thing called gravity. If I try to jump off of something that’s too high, gravity pulls me to the earth. And it hurts. And then I learn to not jump off of things quite so high. I sow a stupid decision, I reap a broken foot.
Unless some well meaning hero steps between me and the ground. Then I might walk away fine, having softened the force of my fall with their broken body.
If this is a once in a lifetime heroic deed, then that person might have saved my life (or at least my ankle). But if it’s a pattern, then they are actually wrecking both of our lives.
Here’s the funny thing about Sowing and Reaping… when we keep stepping in and taking the consequences for someone, we think we are helping them. But we’re not. They’ve no motivation to change. And we start getting resentful, because we think they should be thankful. But they’re not thankful, because they’ve begun to expect that we are SUPPOSED to step in and take their consequences.
The sower of bad decisions doesn’t have the problem. We have the problem.
If your kid forgets their homework at home and you rush it to them at school, your kid didn’t bear the consequence, you did.
If your coworker chronically shows up late for work and you always cover for them, your coworker doesn’t have a problem, you do.
If your teenager gets busted at school for something stupid and you rush to the principles office to beg, plead, or threaten for the punishment to go away, then why would your teenager bother to change? They’ve got a perfectly good system in place.
There are no crop failures. Stop taking the consequences for your loved one’s bad decisions. You think you’re being loving and tender. But there’s a good chance you’re being enabling and codependent.
Let them fall and fail, especially when the consequences are minor. As people grow, their decisions get bigger, and the crops get bigger too. A loving parent allows for short term hurt to avoid long term harm.
So, this week, don’t turn backpacks into boulders, stop being the superhero, and stay out of the way when God tries to use a perfectly good natural consequence to spare your loved ones a lifetime of bad character!