During this season parents have fun moving an elf to different places during the night so that the children get up excited to see where the elf has moved. The elf has powers of observing children to make sure they are qualifying for the delights of Santa on Christmas .
In some unequal relationships, however, one partner only moves with permission, like an elf on the shelf. There is no joy and a lot of pain since a partner cannot be the same person who has no power in the relationship.
Here’s how your “self” gets put on a shelf.
Do you feel that you are always prevented from free movement in your relationship?
Is any idea you have always explained away?
Is any desire you have for your needs respected met with shame, criticism or even an angry outburst?
Are you free to pursue your talents or skills outside your home?
Are you able to use any money you earn as you see fit?
Is any question you ask challenged as disrespectful?
Are you called insulting names if you don’t follow exactly what your partner wants?
Are you blamed for problems but never appreciated for handling responsibilities?
Do you find you do the giving but don’t receive in the relationship? Emotionally? Communicating? Workload? Physically?
If any of these are what you are experiencing, you have been put on a shelf. You are being held in a small space and moved around only to fill another’s needs. Your partner believes they are entitled to your service but have little if any responsibility to serve you.
Their idea of a godly partner is “don’t need”, “don’t ask”, “don’t feel”. They believe a partner should only be taken off the shelf when they need her or him.
What is even more disturbing is that some partners enforce this position by appeals to religion. The idea that your full, mature and free self is displeasing to God is a very high and hard shelf indeed.
We dishonor God who created us when we allow someone to keep us on a shelf. We are created in the image of God, which means we share the power of mind, speech and spirit with our Creator.
God empowers us to be more, not less. Some toxic man-made doctrines seek to keep partners limited, easy to control, for the gratification of the other person’s ego and freedom from mutual consideration and respect in a relationship.
This view of another reveals a departure from God’s desire for humans and relationships.
These two pictures are of a woman who was trying to obey a false doctrine that God wanted her to be compliant and limited in order to be pleasing to God but matured in her faith.
On the left is her “before” under the false doctrine. On the right is her “after”, an image of reclaiming her full personhood in God, free to flourish as her true self.
On the left, her “self” was on the shelf. She’s smiling because she is a person who enjoys helping others. She’s part of a group that downplays her “self” to earn acceptance. She has accepted the false view that her only worth comes from serving others. Her acceptable role is child care.
On the right, she accepts herself and knows she is pleasing to God because of the way she is made. She’s smiling because she no longer has to deny her own needs to serve others.
Which one looks more fully herself? Which one looks like she’s been on a shelf?
May you be glad, free in Christ this Christmas.