Each of us on the panel was so eager to share their testimonies hoping that someone's life in the audience would be forever changed. What I didn't expect as I prepared to share was that God would certainly be using one of the panel member's testimony to really touch my life as well. There was this one particular lady who shared how she was "single again," and how she and her children were making the much needed adjustments. She discussed how one of the areas that they were having the biggest adjustment was with their extended family. She spoke highly of her extended family and seem to have a wonderful relationship with them. Her concern was that she felt so obligated to keep everybody happy that she found herself putting her new life on hold to give her extended family time to adjust. Having children does complicate things especially when your family structure has drastically changed. As this lady wondered, what is the best etiquette for not feeling guilty in moving forward with your life especially when your extended family still wants to do life with you as though nothing has changed.
This lady went on to share how she was very interested in a man, but she felt reluctant to acknowledge her interest in him out of obligation to her extended family. At first, she thought she could have "the best of both worlds" by expressing an interest in him when no one was around, and as she would say she felt it natural to put him "on the shelf" when the extended family wanted to spend time with the children. After months of trying to keep everyone happy, she said it was like God just "hit her with a ton of bricks" as she realized during a holiday function that everybody in the room was happy with their significant other, and she was the only one there lonely. Not only that she had to accept the raw fact that she was living her life to please others and that meant she was allowing her extended family to keep her stuck in the yesterdays.
As I listened, my initial thought was that this is a lot of effort to keep everybody else happy simply because you feel so obligated in an area that has expired. My interest was definitely peaked, because her testimony made me think about how I might approach a situation if I was interested in someone whom I discovered still felt obligated to people or things out of loyalty that they were willing to sacrifice living their life for a former life that no long exists. Depending on the situation, I think we all need to have a sense of patience in knowing that everybody is not like we are nor do they move at the speed we move at. Yet, on the other hand, I don't believe that if you feel God has presented you someone new that they should have to compete with your extended family for your loyalty. You are the nucleus, so it is your responsibility to set the boundaries with everyone particularly when your children are involved. The extended family will always have a connection to your children and to you to some extent, but definitely not the same as it use to be.
As this lady was concluding her testimony, she said she knew that she had wasted quite a bit of her time. What she thought as having the "best of both worlds" actually turned out that the guy she was interested in decided to move on, because he sensed that she wasn't ready to have a healthy, meaningful relationship. She said her first reaction was anger, but she knew deep down she couldn't hold it against him. Her lesson was that when God is speaking to you about a particular person, He's also speaking to them about you as well.