• Dana L. Butler

Obliterating Mommy-Martyr Syndrome [From Running On Fumes to Living In Him]

As much as I try not to, I tend to “zone out” a little spiritually when I travel.  Getting out of our normal routine as a family almost always equates to little to no focused, intentional time with the Lord for me. This is a bummer for lots of reasons. I really felt the absence of my times with Him on this past trip to North Carolina.  I had a TON of fun, great times with family, and even had some really sweet moments of prayer in the midst of doing other things, or as I’d lie down to go to sleep at night.   But I also found myself much more distracted than normal, less intentional about praying “leaning” prayers, and less aware and in tune with His nearness than I have been for the most part as of late. The interesting thing was that I didn’t noticeably feel the results of my lack of focus and intentionality with Him until toward the end of my trip.  I’ll share with you my primary symptom.  Can anyone else out there identify with this? It was “Mommy-Martyer Syndrome.”  

It’s sad but true that this is what I “default” to when I’m short on intentional time with the Lord.

Symptoms of the Syndrome 

For me, “Mommy-Martyr Syndrome” begins with a few yucky internal conversations- like this: “Yeah, sure, I’ll just handle this whining kiddo all by myself while you walk off blissfully unaware that I could really use some HELP here-”  

OR- “No, I really don’t mind doing ALL the work while you sit down and put your feet up.” Sound at all familiar?  

The thing about these internal “mommy-martyr” conversations, is that when I take a step back mentally and look at the situation a little more objectively, my frustration is, most of the time, at least 80% unwarranted.

Stan probably did nothing, or very little, to “earn” my frustration toward him.  (And yes, it is almost ALWAYS directed toward him.) While these internal conversations are happening, I am often somewhat aware of them and disappointed by the condition of my own heart.  I hate feeling like that inside, the absence of the fruit of the Spirit and a Kingdom atmosphere (righteousness, peace, and joy) in my heart in these moments.  But in the moment I usually feel powerless to change. The next step, after the yucky internal convos, is a more obvious irritability toward Stan.  I’m quieter, my responses to him might be short, and I tend to be noticeably bummed out. So, by the time we were on the plane on Saturday evening, heading back to Kansas City, this was a pretty accurate picture of my condition.  I was irritable.  Short.  Easily stressed out.  Not lighthearted.  

Stan felt the brunt of it.  Undeservingly, I might add. It wasn’t till I had a few minutes to think and pray during our first flight (somehow, miraculously, in the midst of all of Isaac’s exhausted-2-year-old-stuck-in-car-seat-on-plane ridiculousness) that I realized: my shorter-than-normal fuse was a direct consequence of my lack of focused time with the Lord.   I had stopped setting my heart before Him daily in such a way that He was resourcing me for every moment.  I had gradually crossed the line from living life in His strength, to dealing with life in my own strength.   And I can only run on fumes for so long before I start taking it out on the one human being who lays his life down for me more than any other: my husband.  In those moments, I am subtly looking to him to fill a need in my heart that only the Father can fill. Ugh.  It makes me sad that I do that.  I hate how I am capable of hurting Stan’s heart.  The ugliness that comes out of my heart when I move into that “Mommy-Martyr” mode.  When I’m running on fumes instead of being supernaturally resourced and empowered by my ultimate Source.

Finding the Cure

So, I prayed.  I repented.  I shared my revelation with Stan, told him how I realized I had been running on empty and not being resourced by my Father and how my irritability had been a symptom of that.   And I reached out and held Stan’s hand, despite my [unreasonable] emotions to the contrary.   And immediately, the ugly heaviness lifted off of me.  My irritability toward Stan was replaced by a gracious, affectionate heart toward him.  

I’m not kidding – the heart-change was instant.   This was SO not something I could pull off in my own strength.  I had been powerless to “fix” myself on my own.  It was the grace of God, His kindness that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4), and the moment I repented for trying to walk on my own and intentionally, in my heart, leaned into Him again, trusting Him as my Source, the grace was there.  Everything I needed was there.  

It’s all found in dependence on Him. Just a thought for you today, friends: What are your personal symptoms of trying to do life in your own strength?  Of not intentionally positioning your heart to be empowered and resourced by the Father?

Maybe you could ask God to lovingly highlight these things to you?  To lead your heart back to a place of leaning into Him, of tapping, by faith, into the grace for each moment that He’s already put within you through His Spirit? He is so, so committed to doing this for us, my friends.  To walking intimately with us as we trust Him to be our Everything.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3 (NLT)

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