Everyone else that I work with was heading off to have a fun weekend with their families... or maybe just to have a weekend with their families. I was heading to a nearly empty town home to spend time with the dogs. Dominyk has plans for today, so he won't be home most of the day. I am fairly good company for other people, but I do not enjoy being with me. I think to much when I'm alone and I'm missing my kids, grandkids, and especially Bart.
And then I got a picture from Bart of him holding Hattie and Hazel and not while I knew I wouldn't be there for that, not being there bothered me way more than I thought it would, especially when I found out Hattie had my middle name. I won't ever be able to tell her or Hazel, like I have the other 5 grandchildren, "I was at the hospital when you were born. See, here's the picture." I will have to say, "I saw a picture of you guys with grandpa. Here it is."
So I cried some more. Right at some mediocre Mexican restaurant in South Boston, Virginia, of all places. I'm not much of a crier (although the past few months nobody would believe that) but when I am emotionally exhausted it does happen. And I have had an extremely emotionally exhausting week. I had been given the opportunity to have introductory meetings with a bunch of people who I concluded were pretty awesome folks. I felt like in those 30 minutes spots I had gotten a pretty good glimpse of who they were. But their views of each other floored me. I may write another blog post about trust because I've been thinking a lot about it, but for now I'll leave it at that. I don't want to go into too much detail in case it makes the organization look bad because in the midst of a system that isn't functioning well, some good things are happening for kids and there is so much potential here.
But you know me, so you know I'm going to process here and say more than I should.... hopefully not too much more. But I think that if you are part of a family system or if you are part of a team at work, especially if it is a Christian non-profit, some of the stuff below will make sense.
Systems theory says that there are roles for people to fill in a system. Take the example of a large family. In that system there is a "worst behaved child." In fact THAT child is the one that is causing all the trouble at the house and messing up the family (according to the family system). The funny thing is that when that child moves out, the family is functioning the same way because another person fills the role of "worst child."
The other thing that is interesting about a system, family or otherwise, is that people may not even know their role, but they start to respond as the role dictates. For example, in a family system, you might have a "best kid." So in our family, we sometimes call him "Somebody." Everyone who knows my family can probably guess who it is. It's Leon. We started calling him somebody because whenever Bart would say, "Hey can somebody set the table?" everyone else looked at each other while he jumped up. Or if I said, "Hey can somebody take Grandma home?" all the other drivers would look at their Sunday dinner plates and Leon would say, "Sure." Or if one of my grandkids parents called the house and said can "somebody" watch so and so, sure enough, Leon could. The more that this was reinforced the more he acted that way and so when people are angry they accuse us of having Leon as a "favorite." But it's really hard not to appreciate somebody who always fulfills the role of "somebody".
I think you're understanding systems theory well enough to understand now some of what I'm going to say and to recognize why I hit bottom. I mentioned a few blog posts away that the leadership team that I am now a part of is made up of three scary smart guys (they liked that by the way. I forgot they might be reading this when I wrote it or I sure wouldn't have said that. :-) And I have been able to develop trust with them very quickly. They had given me a heads up on that the system in one of my departments was dysfunctional, but I had no idea how dysfunctional.
After my appointments with all these great people who are part of a broken system, I recognized that the system that exists here is very similar to a dysfunctional family system. There are roles that each person fills and some of them are assigned to them almost immediately because of their arrival into a position. Others are assigned over time, but once they get assigned, that is how they are expected to act. Examples include "best house parent" "most entitled employee" "the one who shows favoritism" "weakest link on the staff" "voice of the group" "uncaring and unconnected case manager"... you get the idea. And just like in a family system, people start to act according to their role, often without realizing it.
Whew. Hang in there with me.
When I started to hear about how people were treating one another, I talked to my mom. She's 86, super sharp and very wise, and has lived in "communal living" situations for much of her adult life -- before and after raising kids. So when I talked about drama, gossiping, back-biting, rumors, mistrust, etc, she said, "Oh, that's communal living" to which I responded, "not on my watch." And here is why.
We are in a situation where we cannot afford to let that kind of environment take us over. The kids who are coming to us are traumatized, often abused, very hurt children and unless we can get our act together as a team to serve them well, we will retraumatize them. And I don't want to part of that. So far I think the kids are being served well, but we need to do better with our relationships with each other.
I also believe that while I'm not going to get into detail about spiritual warfare, that the very best way for the enemy to keep us from doing incredibly positive things is to keep our attention off the mission and have it focus on each other. And perpetuating a dysfunctional system here has been his tactic for a long time.
So all that to say this. As the story was unfolding, I was able to see how the system had pegged people and victimized them. People who are good people. People who I am already beginning to love. And it happened so sneakily that they didn't even realize it had happened. Some of them don't even know what their own role is -- but they have been assigned it. And I believe that all of them came here with good intentions and are good people that have been victimized by a system and have become the role they have been assigned.
I was explaining this to Bart and he asked me what my role was. And I had actually had a person pretty clearly define it for me from her perspective (without knowing that was what she was doing). My role is "the person who comes here and is not completely supported by anyone so they stop trusting everyone and eventually leave or get fired." I can't let that happen.
I am by nature a very very trusting person. I have belief in the basic good intentions of Christian people. I believe there is always always hope. And I believe that I can trust my gut. I also do not believe that any of the people here are the person that the system has decided they are.
After concluding all of my meetings, I realized that I would never know the truth. I would never know what REALLY happened. People's perception is there reality. But I knew that I needed to rally the troops to give each other a fresh start, to forgive and move on from the past, and to attach with vehemence the system which was created and has been perpetuated by the one who has come to "steal, kill and destroy."
Note: If you happen to be part of my staff and for some reason found this blog, you are just getting a preview to Monday's meeting. :-)
So I developed ten guidelines which basically are the way we are taught in Scripture to treat each other. And I'm going to ask people to commit to those principles. If we can do this, we can kill the old system. And then there is no limit to what this place can do for children. If there is already so much good being done that if we can get this part right, the place is going to be unstoppable.
So if you are still with me you should probably get a major award, but all that background is necessary for you to understand why I hit bottom last night. I put together all this information in my head and I had a plan of attack. And I explained it to a few people yesterday in some very honest, direct and respectful conversations. And I felt really good about my conclusions and where I was headed.
And then, suddenly, after everyone left for the weekend, I started to have a panic attack. What if I shouldn't have said that? What if so and so talks to so and so? What if I have misplaced my trust? Crap, what was I thinking! I was too open. This is going to come back and bite me.
I had to have a long conversation with myself not to freak out.
And then it hit me. I had already been sucked in. I had already, in one week, become the person that my role had defined me to be. I had let the enemy grab ahold of me and start to lie to me in just five short days. Whatever has a hold on this system was messing with my head. I had come in, I had clearly seen the issue, nailed it even, and yet I was already being consumed by it. I was so angry with myself ... I did NOT just leave everything that I loved to follow God to a place where some dysfunctional system was going to control me.
Those of you who know me know that my low point didn't last very long. We had dinner, I insisted on Christian music instead of country on the way home (sorry, Dom), and turned on the radio to hear Chris Tomlin sing, "where you go I'll go, where you stay, I'll stay, when you move, I'll move, I will follow you. Who you love, I'll love, , how you serve, I'll serve, if this life I lose, I will follow you, I will follow you." And then Jeremy Camp gave me my rally cry that I will conclude this post with.
Some of my blog posts are for others. Some are for me. I guess after spending almost 2 hours writing this, that this one is for me more than for you. But maybe there is someone out there reading this that is involved in a system that is being controlled by the evil one, and God is calling you to make a difference.
So my low spot last night has led to me to the morning after with more determination that ever before.
I will be the person that I am. I will live with integrity. I will be trusting. I will be hopeful. I will not live in fear. (Fighting the urge not to worry if I will get in trouble for writing this blog post).
I will love deeply. I will believe in people and develop them. For the sake of the kids, I will confront in love again and again and again no matter how many times it takes. I will prove daily that I can be trusted and I will give folks a fresh start. I will hold nothing back and give everything I have. I will do what God has called me here to do.
Because there is nothing I am more certain of than the fact that God wants me here. You've heard the stories, you've read of the miracles. You know I am here for a reason. And even though this may be the hardest thing I've ever done, I am going to lead this group of people forward.
I reminded myself last night of how clear my instructions were from God and the phrase in the picture above entered my mind. "Never doubt in the dark what God showed you in the light." He has been so clear during the "daytime" that I must trust him during the dark moments like last night.
I am not going to get sucked in. And these amazing people who are here because they love and want to serve kids are going to do just that better than ever before. Because once and for all this system is going to be defeated. I can feel it at the core of who I am.
Same Power by Jeremy Camp