Reigning in Responsibility

When both nature and nurture agree on something, what is a soul to do? Both personality tests and the test of time agree that one of my greatest strengths is responsibility. While this sounds respectable and often comes in handy, hyper-responsibility can easily get out-of-hand, especially in ministry settings.

While the world medals the necks and trophies the shelves of responsible people, sometimes habitual sin can be strengthened underneath the shining surface. I see this in my self. I watch it in my son who is so similar to me that it scares me.

Responsibility, in its right place, can lead to lives marked by order, effort, and excellence; however, over-grown hyper-responsibility can lead to lives marked by anxiety and paralyzation or crippled by the need for control .

I am not championing an abdication of personal responsibility. I am reminding those who tend to hyper-responsibility to abdicate the stolen seat that belongs to the Lord Himself.

In his poem” The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats begins with the following powerful lines:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre,
The falcon cannot hear the falconer:
Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.

Those who struggle with hyper-responsibility have two options: to limit their world to small spheres they erroneously feel they can control or to find a better center for their lives.

Responsible people are usually only able to rest in the presence of one more responsible and capable than themselves. Sometimes, those can be hard to come by in human form; however, there is One who is rightfully responsible for all of life (Acts 17: 24-27). He upholds the ever-expanding universe with His word (Hebrews 1:3). He categorizes and corrals the stars (Isaiah 40:26). He is the sustaining center of all things and in Him all life holds together (Colossians 1:16-19).

If He does these things, He can handle my schedule and my syllabus. He can handle their report cards and their college application processes. He who manages myriad microorganisms and macro-economies can manage my heart and my home.

I’m not a tattoo girl, but if I were, I would get these truths inked on my arms. I need to be reminded of them daily, as my soul slinks back toward the center without my even realizing it. Weekly, I have to sit down and re-size my circles of concern and responsibility. Insidiously, things that are concerns sneak into my circle of responsibility, leaving me weighted down, at best, and paralyzed, at worst. They slowly sap the joy and peace Christ purchased for me at the cross. They steal my focus from what the Lord has actually called me to do by demanding that I am responsible for things that are not mine to carry.

Sitting long in the presence of the Lord, I am able to own what is mine and release what is not. In fact, over the years, I have learned to add another layer to my processing: ours. As one who tends to have two speeds (all or nothing), and two categories (yours or mine), the Lord is adding ours. For even in the few things that are my responsibility, I am working together with Him (Colossians 1:28-29). He is my yoke-fellow, the One who longs to be invited into the tasks at hand, the One who directs and energizes the tasks at hand (Matthew 11:28-30).

The Nexus

“The Nazarene is the nexus;
In Christ the center holds,”
When self seeks to steer,
The Holy Spirit gently scolds.

The ever-expanding universe
He upholds with a word,
Yet you steal the center?
How asinine and absurd!

Let Him be the Lord He is.
He alone does all things well.
“He is center; I am spoke,”
May both life and lip tell.

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