God often speaks to me through my dreams. Maybe it’s the only time He can speak to me uninterrupted or He can take me through an experience with no lasting negative consequences. Whatever the reason(s), I had a very powerful one this morning! The feeling and vision of this is still so fresh and I hope I can paint this picture eloquently.
I dreamt that I was in an airport and I think I was traveling from overseas back to Austin. There was one short flight before the long, over the Atlantic flight. I think I was traveling with my family but family as in my parents and sister. At the airport I took my sister to get a drink at a little restaurant. You had to open a door to go in and out of the restaurant. I ordered a Sprite and she ordered a Coke. However she wanted it in the bottle. After the waitress gave us our drinks, I decided that I wanted one in a bottle as well. I didn’t want her to waste the drink in the cup so I told her I would just pay for another drink. I paid with cash and received change. At that point, my sister ran out of the restaurant. And at the same time a cute guy walked in and said something to the waitress. He looked at me and smiled. I smiled back. He picked up a medium sized, awkwardly shaped box (hang in here with me!) He walked ahead of me as I tried to gather my three drinks, my purse, the money change in my hand and the receipts from the purchases. I was already carrying WAY too much. He then tried to open the door with the box in his hand and starts acting like he’s struggling to open it. He looks at me with my arms obviously overloaded and asks if I can open the door. Well, he had noticed me, smiled at me, and now he was asking for my help! Of course I was going to say yes without giving it any thought at all! I hurry to the door like an excited little puppy looking for love. As I try to open the door with one finger, I drop the Sprite that was in the cup and it goes everywhere. Embarrassed, I drop almost everything else to start cleaning up the spill. All the while he is just looking at me fumbling around while he held his box in one hand.
At some point, my purse drops off my shoulder and onto the floor. He says, “Here let me get that for you.” He picks up my purse with one hand, holding the box in the other hand and walks out the door that I was still holding open with my foot. I wish you all could SEE the mess and FEEL the desperation that I saw and felt! I gathered what I could and rushed after him leaving behind the mess and the change on the floor of the restaurant. I look around in the airport and he is no where to be found! I scramble through crowds looking everywhere for that cute guy that smiled at me, knowing that he had my purse and thinking that he is probably looking for me as well. It feels like several minutes have passed and the guy is no where to be seen. I trudged back to the gate and notice that my family is already on the plane. I am too embarrassed to tell anyone that I have lost my purse or that I left a mess back at the restaurant. So I board the plane feeling defeated and still carrying that stupid box.
The plane is designed with 10 seats across and who knows how many rows back. I look for my family but can’t see anyone and the only seat available is up front and center. I guess we weren’t given assigned seats. Maybe it’s the Southwest Airlines of Europe. Anyways, I feel exhausted and haven’t quite grasped the concept that I now have no money, no way to call anyone with my phone in my purse, no bag (because I am assuming my parents grabbed it but I don’t know where they are on the plane) and no passport! The seats on the plane are designed in a way that the head of the seat can extend out further and come all the way around your head. It can also angle forward so that you can lay your head down in front of you comfortably and take a nap (brilliant, I know!) So I lean my head forward on the head rest knowing that I don’t really have anything else to do. Somehow my seat wasn’t bolted in properly because leaning my head forward threw my seat off balanced and I rolled forward. I couldn’t see anyone else because my head was in the head rest but I could hear laughter behind me. I pulled my head out and tried to right myself up. I looked behind me to see some other guys my age laughing at me.
“Do it again! That was funny!” Feeling like I am at least making someone happy, even if it’s not myself, I pull my chair up and do it all over again. They laugh harder so I put my chair up in the correct position again anticipating that I will just roll again and again. But one of the guys stops me and says to his friend, “Look, if I pull her feet out from under her then she will fall over!
Then demonstrated pulling my feet out and laughing as I fall over. In the process my shoes fall off but I hardly notice because of the humiliation I was feeling. Yet I knew that I would just let them keep doing it and let them keep laughing.
An hour later, I exit the plane in defeat with my head down not . I walk out realizing that I now don’t have money, a passport, my suitcase PLUS now I don’t have shoes, but I still have the weight of carrying the box and the reminder of the choices I made. I walk to where people are eating and sit down at a table. I lay my head down realizing that I can’t even leave the country without a passport, can’t eat without money and I still haven’t seen my family. With my head down on the table, a lady next to me offers me some food seeing that I’m in a rough spot. And I eat a bit before getting up and wandering around in the airport trying to find my next flight.
There was more to the dream and at one point it gets a little weird, but that was the gist. I woke up with a very real picture of what it looks like when I give more than I have to give even to the point of degradation. If I am juggling several plates to help others, then I can’t take care of myself. If someone asks me to help and my hands are full then I am also not able to take care of myself or what I have already said “yes” to.
Also, just like I lost my purse but was carrying around someone else’s box, TWOS can make unhealthy trade-offs in order for someone to like us or appreciate us. I traded my prize possessions for someone else’s empty box. And then out of duty, I carried around that empty box so that if he saw me again, he would still appreciate me. Now I am not saying not to help carry other’s weight and burdens for a time, but what is the motivation behind helping? What is the goal behind dragging around someone else’s weight if it puts you in unnecessary danger? The guy obviously didn’t need the help and I could have just as easily said, “Sorry, my hands are full!” He would have shrugged and just moved on.
We can all see that the flight is just pathetic! And it seems little far-fetched, but there was a time that I would do self-degrading actions in order for someone to notice me and want me. It’s very sad to think back to now being an almost 40-year old. Thank goodness that God has healed that part of my past. But I found myself asking if there are any behaviors that I am doing now that may not be as harmful, but are still people pleasing. Some people will never be satisfied with what you do for them and others are not self-aware enough to realize what their ask is costing you. Also, when you try to only please other people so that they will appreciate and want you, then you cannot assess your own needs. I couldn’t see that I was about to be stranded in Europe with nothing but the clothes on my back and a stranger’s box. It a silly scenario, but think of how many times we can’t take care of our own needs and find ourselves run down, depressed, or on the verge of a breakdown.
I suggest that TWOS take a lesson from the SIXES and ask questions. Before answering or jumping in to to say “yes,” stop, take a deep breath and ask yourself some of these questions.
Can I truly take on something else without my priorities suffering?
Why do I want to say yes right now?
Is it because I want them to like me and agreeing is the only way I think they will like me?
Are there negative trade-offs that I would have to make to help someone else?
Is God asking me to say yes right now, wait to say yes, or does he want me to just say no?
I am sure that there are several other great questions that will get you to stop and think through the subconscious impulse to say yes. It will take practice, but just think about what this poor little girl from my dream lost by people pleasing! Definitely more than just her shoes! That is an image and feeling that will stay with me for a long time.