Several years ago now, I was in a Bible study which had some very assertive people who were often unwell. And so there were endless rotas: to take meals around, clean their houses, do their ironing, or give them lifts.
Now, I was over-burdened myself, but I didn’t want the leader to judge me as a pretend Christian, or a talking head Christian, a chattering class Christian, a “knows the word but doesn’t do it” Christian, or “a puffed up with knowledge” Christian–oh you know the cruel categories we come up with to judge those whose different gifting threatens us.
And so I signed up for rota upon rota. The leader, who had a lowly job in real life, got a real charge and real energy from dominating this church group, mainly well-paid professionals, as if she were our line manager, and we her unpaid employees; these nagging rotas came around even when the group was not in session.
But for all my signing up, the leader did not really like me and I did not really like her, oh the irony!
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And then—last straw– the leader asked one of the unwell Taker ladies, “What more can we do to help you?” And the lady said, “My children would like fresh-baked caked when they come home from school.” And a fresh baked cake rota was passed around. I jest not!
I thought, “This is ridiculous. I have never baked a cake in my life, and I am not driving across town—past exquisite bakeries– bearing sugar and white flour which anyway I’ve banished from my own life.
That’s it. I am going to do the work God has given me to do.
And if the work God has given me to do is to write, then I am going to write, not wake early to chauffeur the woman with mild ME who drives herself to work 4 days a week but is too tired to drive to Bible study. Perhaps she could host it instead, or call in a taxi. I am not going to take my turn of cleaning the house of the lady, who has been feeling too tired to clean, but eats out all the time; she can get a cleaner. I need to stop visiting that negative lady, who said she was lonely and wanted visitors, but depresses me and tears me down. And I am no longer going to drive across town with meals; the supermarkets deliver better meals than I could cook.”
I thought of Rabbi Friedman’s Parable of the Bridge. Whenever you try to fulfull your destiny, they will be people who will insist they are going to drown unless you hold the rope. You can help them up, but you cannot indefinitely hold the rope.
In this case, none of the people who wanted us to provide cleaning, cooking, ironing, chauffeuring and home-baked cakes would have drowned if I did not provide these services.
All this may be the work God has given the leader to do; it was not the work God has given me to do.
If the leader judges me for not taking my turn on her rotas, she judges me.
Fine. Let her judge me.
So she kept asking me to host fund-raisers, to take my turn providing domestic services (equivalent to a part-time job if I’d agreed to all) and I kept saying No. With a bully as with a toddler and or a puppy, one has to be consistent. No, no, no.
And I was happy with my decision, and I did not sign up to her rotas, and I got even happier.
And I incredibly began to get on far better with the leader, which I did not when I was feeling bullied by her demands, and was simmering with resentment , and she, on her part, felt the uncertainty and restlessness of the bully who scents blood, has been successful in some thrusts, and wonders how far she could go in manipulating people to do things both she and they knew they did not want to do.
I now had boundaries. She knew I wasn’t going to crumble, and that brought some peace to our relationship. Ah, boundaries, they are good for both parties.
If you are doing things which are not the work God has given you to do out of fear of judgement, or to curry favour, just stop. You will not curry favour. You will just place the mark of a easy mark on your forehead. You will just be used and abused. You will just get angrier.
Figure out the work God has given you to do, and do just that and do no more out of fear of judgement.
Fine. Let them judge me.
How liberating that was. The peace of that: To train myself not fear men’s judgements, but only to care for the judgement of the Lord, the righteous judge.