When my husband came home for a few minutes all frazzled and began filling me in about his morning, I heard my rescuer-self answer to his every need. There was going to be a funeral dinner at the church next door but due to construction those attending the dinner would need to be directed to alternate entrances—the problem was that no ushers were available on short notice. "Oh, I can do that," I answered. The things I had to do that morning could wait, and I often helped out in little ways like this.
My husband also said the part-time secretary would also make a directional sign if she could find the time. "Oh, I can do that," I answered again. Also, the church sidewalks needed to be shoveled and because it was mid-week, the boys who provide that service were in high school. "Oh, I can do that, too," I agreed. My husband wasn't finished with his list of needs: he also needed to call the Smiths to find out if Bill had been admitted to the hospital. Repeating to myself, I said, "Oh, I can do that."
Just the week before I was asked to do seven things for others—all within a 12-hour period. The requests included driving to my son's school to deliver his forgotten swimsuit, baby-sitting a sick baby for seven hours, putting together a mission program for Primary Church that coming Sunday, teaching and leading hand-signing songs to the girls' group, taking a roll of pictures of the outside of the church drawing for our church's anniversary, making a copy of my husband's sermon for a friend who had missed it, and agreeing to have a salesman (a total stranger) come into my house by appointment that weekend. I said yes to every one.
They were all good, helpful things to do (except, perhaps the salesman part). What was God trying to tell me with them bunched together like that in such a short time span? What was God trying to tell me through my husband's needs that I was capable of meeting? What is wrong with doing good and helpful things? What is wrong with being available to meet other's needs? What is wrong in saying, "Oh, I can do that" when I know I can?
What is wrong with all this is that when I do all those things without discrimination and without priority, I become quite exhausted and don't have time for my own family, myself, or God, The rescuer is the type of person who wants to take in every stray dog or cat. This is the type of person who would foster and /or adopt as many hurting children as possible, if the family, money, and time would allow. This is the type of person who is always doing things for the church and for other people. This is the type of person who just doesn't seem to be able to say no to people—even when not actually asked! "Oh, I can do that," is her constant cry. She wants to make everyone's life go smoothly any way she can, regardless of her own needs and desires. Her own needs and desires seem to be to help everyone else's needs and desires. She is the type who wants to stop the bleeding, stop the crying, stop the hurting. She would even be happy to save the entire world if she could.
In the past, this rescue syndrome may have been referred to as a "maternal nature." I prefer Rescuer since it is a male trait as well as a female trait and certainly can be attributed to many Christians—especially those in the ministry.
If you, like me, often find yourself being a Rescuer—there is hope for you. I think God has just wanted to make me aware of the type person I am and not to give up the bigger goals (a relationship with Him, my family, and the priority of witnessing for His kingdom) in order to say yes to others' little goals.
I want to assure you that it is not selfish to say no to doing things for others. Just because you have flexible time to do it, just because it is for the church or your husband's job, just because you are the pastor's wife, just because you don't have a good reason to say no—I want to assure you that you are free to say no for your own sake, your family's sake, and the Kingdom's sake.
How tricky Satan is, to wear God's people down with indiscriminate works of goodness and kindness. We must learn to choose our fights, to choose our good works. We must not run around like chickens with our heads chopped off. We must learn to make our priorities and stick to them—keeping our eyes on the bigger goals.
We must keep our hearts and minds and souls loving God in all we do, whether it be housework, a paying job, volunteer work, committees, or even things for fun or self-improvement (like reading, writing, sledding, painting or walking). Do what you can to help others, but you make the choices with prayer about how God wants to use you for Himself. Otherwise, you will be pulled in too many directions in this hurting world and be tired—worn out and useless for the bigger goals of the Kingdom.
Most of all, remember Jesus is the only true Rescuer. Give Him your life and your dreams and your goals. Ask His guidance in all you do, then wait and listen and say, "yes, I can do that"--to Him first. With our eyes looking vertical toward God, then our horizontal rescuing will fall naturally into its proper place.