The Mind of an Enabler


I have made them my slaves;
obediently they wait on me,
their brown bodies pegged here and there
to branches around my home.

Free to fly but they stay,
their wings clipped by my compliance;
they await the rustle of my sack

like prisoners eager for the rattle
of jailor’s keys, rumble of a dinner cart,
they fasten on the creak of my door.

They need me; impatient twitters
send shivers of guilt along my nerves
fine-tuned to their hunger cries.

They have made me their slave.
I could stay inside, read my book.
I could turn my back, take a break,
but I must obey.

I wait on them lest they
starve and I be faulted
for cruel neglect. People would talk;
I’d die of guilt and shame.

Or they all fly away – leave
my trees bare, my yard empty,
my days without usefulness.

They need me – comforting thought!
So I pay the price in willingness,
sacrifice my life to be here
at their beck and call.

Day by day, seed by seed,
I have bought their independence.
They could fly but they stay;
they wear my shackles –
and I wear theirs.

Christine Goodnough

I’m not at all against feeding the birds. Rather, this poem came to me as I thought of a “cat collector” I heard of who ended up with over 100 cats in their home. But there are many human examples as well.

One day I invited another Christian woman and her husband to come and dine with us. This dear woman, close to 60, told me it might not be the thing for them to do to go away for dinner. “We have a son at home and he’s not a Christian. It’s always a burden, you know.”

Her son was in his mid-thirties by then and I thought he was well able to look after himself, but she felt they needed to be there for him, just in case. (He’d accept the Gospel if they got one more opportunity to tell him?)

Further observations convinced me the problem was more in her desire to be needed – her hang onto her role as  MOM – than in his need to have her there.

In Montreal we saw an extreme example of how you can waste your life hanging on or needing to be there for someone: a shy, thirty-something woman “in love with” a schizophrenic. He could talk the talk and she fancied him to be a wonderful Christian; her hopes were pinned on the day he’d be well and they could be together.

She had to sneak away to the mental hospital to visit him because her mother totally disapproved; she saw no future for her daughter in that setting and wished she’d get a life.

But he needed her, she felt; with her help he might recover. So she was sacrificing her life to be there for him. During the times he was out on a pass, they’d get together and have wonderful Bible studies; he’d be “so full of spiritual knowledge.”

Then he’d leave her and go frequent gay book stands, indulging in pornography (he revealed to my husband.) We visited him at the hospital a few times at her request, taking her along, but when we talked with him alone his mind was so full of evil – thinking himself Hitler, etc– it all came spewing out like a sewer. Whether she never heard it, or never wanted to acknowledge it, I don’t know.

We quit going. As far as we could tell he had no interest in changing, and she didn’t need our help to pursue this lost cause.

(Note to Followers: Something went awry in the post of this article, so you’re getting it twice. My apologies.)


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