A blog worth reading by a young man whose love for the Lord and love of folks trapped in brokenness is inspiring…
Worthy of consideration – well written, Julie. You have summarized the situation quite well!
“I just feel so worthless!”
Perhaps the deepest, most pernicious lie many people believe is that they are “worthless”. The WordNet definition of worthless is, “Lacking in usefulness or value”.
Synonyms offered include despicable, ugly, vile, useless, insignificant, pointless (Yes, I see that hand over there!).
Anyone who has carried around the sense of being worthless has felt all of those things, and more.
But, all of them are lies!
While we may be undeserving of any good thing, deserving and worthy are two very different things.
To be deserving means to have earned something and goes to functional value. Worth, on the other hand, is not about “doing” but about “being”, and goes to essence.
Let me give you an example:
Suppose you have a block of gold sitting on the table in front of you. That block of gold, being gold, has an inherent worth no matter what form or shape it is in. If it is melted down and shaped into a doorstop, its worth is still the same, but its functional and aesthetic value has changed.
That same block of gold melted down into a creamery to use with grandma’s fine chine tea service will have a different functional and aesthetic value, but it is still gold and it still is worth what it was before anything was done to alter it.
Now, we can fashion that gold into a magnificent jewelry ensemble, greatly increasing its functional and aesthetic value, or we can leave it in its rawest from and stuff it under a manure pile. The one thing that does not and will not change is its INHERENT WORTH.
In like manner, when we consider each and every human being on planet earth, we find that each and every person – no matter what they have or have not done – is created in God’s image.
This concept of being bearers of the imago dei goes all the way back to the earliest chapters of the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Three times this phrase appears there, and each time it refers to God’s view of mankind, not mankind’s view of himself.
First we see God creating man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). Then we see that the children borne of the first man and woman are also considered to be “in the image of God” (Genesis 5:1-3, with 1:26-27 revisited).
The third time we see this phrase is highly significant and points to the sanctity of human life – again from God’s perspective – when God’s institutes capital punishment for murder.
Noah and his family have just departed the ark and God gives them the basic laws they are to live by. Two are brand new: first, from this point on you will be eating meat: don’t eat it raw. Second, ““Whoever sheds human blood, by other humans must his blood be shed; for in God’s image God has made humankind.” (Genesis 9:6)
In the New Testament, Jesus’ half-brother James revisits and intensifies how we are to regard one another when he says, “But no human being can subdue the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse people made in God’s image.” (James 3:8-9)
But this is only the beginning of how we are to understand our inherent worth and value.
In Psalm 8, David muses over how it could possibly be that the Divine Creator of all that exists would have regard for mankind, and –even more significantly – would place His creation in the hands of mankind to steward and to manage.
In Matthew 6, Jesus invests quite a few moments commanding His listeners to not be anxious about any need they have because their Heavenly Father knows all of their needs, just as He does the needs of the birds He provides for, and “you are of far more value than they”.
God also provides beautifully for the grass and flowers, even though, once again, mankind is worth far more and will be provided for even more than they.
Later, Jesus says something else that is significant. In Matthew 16:26, He asks, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
As far as Jesus is concerned, one person is of more WORTH more than the created world!
In Luke 12:6-7, Jesus declares, “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
The list goes on and on, including how there is rejoicing in heaven when ONE sinner turns from their sinfulness and surrenders to Christ as Savior (Luke 15:7, 10).
This rejoicing comes as a result of the restoration of a lost loved one loved to their rightful and intended place as a future co-inheritor with Jesus and one who will be glorified right along beside Him (Romans 5:1-2, 6, 8, 10; Romans 8:16-17, 28-29).
Remember that block of gold? When we have turned from our ways and surrendered to Him, another change takes place. Our inherent worth is still there, but there is a change in our functional value (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In Ephesians 2:10, we find one of the most beautiful word pictures in all of Scripture that explains: “For we are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do the good works He determined long ago would be our way of life.”
Thank of a master artisan, like Michelangelo, crafting a magnificent statue out of a clump of marble. It doesn’t start out very pretty at all, but the end result is a magnificent piece of art. That is the way the word poiema (masterpiece) can be best understood.
What this means is that, instead of getting our sense of worth and value from what we do and how flawlessly we do it, we focus on being who He created us to be and allow the “doing” to flow naturally from the “being”, like ripe fruit falls from a tree.
A peach tree does not have to sit out in the orchard and focus all of its attentions on growing peaches – it simply grows peaches because it IS a peach tree…the “doing” flows naturally from the “being”.
God created us worthy of love, worthy of dignity, worthy of His very best –the sacrifice of His Son in our place – and there is nothing that can change that any more than we can change our DNA from human to any other creature.
Our inherent worth is just as much a part of us as our humanity and it cannot be taken from us. And even if there are those in our life who now deny or have denied us that dignity and worth, it does NOT change the fact that we are inherently worthy of it.
There is more that I will say about this in a future post, but please hold on to the truth that, while we are deserving of no good thing (it cannot be earned), we are fully worthy of God’s BEST (we were created that way!
Soli Deo Gloria
“I’m always a little confused by my own mind …”
Sitting in abuse healing groups week in and week out over the years, I have heard this said – or some variation of it – hundreds of times.
As a survivor, I’ve experienced it myself, so I get it: sometimes your own mind can be the most confusing place to find yourself.
We seek truth, yet we shy away from it. We want to know, but we feel better off not knowing. We want to understand, but some of the pieces necessary for that seem to be missing.
On top of that, when we are high-functioning in at least one area of our life, the confusion confuses us: “Why am I so confused so often, and why can’t I figure this out? I do so well (in whatever area of life I am high functioning), yet I suck here.”
One of the reasons for this kind of confusion is that there is a part of us that has learned to survive by keeping the deepest truths in the shadows.
If what we believe to be true about ourselves is indeed true, then we are even worse that we believe ourselves to be. That would then means that we are beyond help and there is no hope because all of this evil that happened is about our “being”, and not about somebody’s “doing”.
And the village of “Shame-filled Hopelessness” is the worst place in the world to live.
The remedy to the problem is simple but is also one of the hardest for survivors of abuse: The safest place to be is the scariest place to be, and that is leaning into and walking through the junkyard of the painful memories of your life, seeing them as they truly were and not as what they have come to look like.
What that means is that we learn to re-examine the hurtful things that have happened and, instead of thinking, “When ‘so-and-so’ did ‘such-and-such’ to me, it wasn’t because there was ‘something so wrong with me’, but ‘there was something really wrong with them that they would do this to any child, including me.'”
We get these things into the light where God’s power is activated and released, out of the darkness and the shadows where our Enemy lurks and works. W don;t do this alone, but we pursue the truth because THAT is where our freedom really lies.
Yes, it is scary. The fears we have are real fears. But we have to remember that, while feelings are real, feelings ARE NOT FACT!
Feelings change; facts do not.
When we learn to see things for what they were instead of what they have come to look like, the truth shines through and the confusion clears. We learn to file things in the right folders, put proper names on things, and call things what they are.
Jesus’ promise that, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32) is never more true for a survivor than here.
Soli Deo Gloria
“Even when I really, really wasn’t happy with my mother, I could never imagine ever speaking to her that way.”
When did it become not just “okay” but normal and acceptable for children to dishonor their parents?
I’m not talking about a simple LACK of honor . . . I am talking about the active DISHONORING of their parents by children – especially grown children – that has become so commonplace it is now normal.
I have been witnessing this phenomenon of the rampant disregard for and dishonoring of parents in our society for several years now and it was brought home this week while my wife and I were vacationing.
The above “Overheard” statement was made by the lady whose home we stayed in for most of our trip. She is a gentle, soft-spoken woman who has two grown children.
She lost her husband a couple of years ago and has been managing and growing the family business since that time. She has also been nurturing her daughter through her divorce from a man who was abusive.
As I was sitting at the breakfast bar listening to mothers talk about how their daughters have been relating to them in recent days, I could see how big a deal was to them. And how heartbreaking.
Both of them are very confused. And heartbroken. And they are not the only ones these days.
Many parents of grown children have the same heartbroken disbelief over how the children the love can be so quickly and easily dishonoring.
They simply cannot understand what it was they had done that could have caused their daughters to speak to them harshly, to be short and curt to them, to disregard their feelings as if they are a nuisance, and to rise up in angry belligerence when they disagree with them.
These two ladies were talking about how they – two women I respect and admire – were feeling as a result of how they were left feeling by recent interactions with their daughters – young women I also respect and admire.
And it got me thinking about how far we have come from God’s original, exquisite design.
The Bible admonishes children to do two things: first, when they are young, to obey their parents; second, when they are older, to honor their parents.
Both of these are given as commands, not suggestions, and in both instances it is to the children’s advantage that they do so.
It’s pretty easy to figure out what it means for child obey their parents. But, what does it mean for child to honor their parents?
Do you know what honor is, what the word means?
The Hebrew word underlying “honor” in the 5th Commandment proposes a heaviness, a weightiness, a relentlessness, and a richness, all in a long-lasting, continuing sense.
It implies a lifelong responsibility, thus it is used in the sense of honoring, glorifying, imposing, or being weighty.
In English, honor means “to give high regard, respect, and esteem to; give special recognition to; to bring or give respect or credit to; an outward token, sign or act that manifests high regard for.”
Two English words – respect and reverence — help bring into focus the implications of this commandment.
Respect means “to have deferential regard for; to treat with propriety and consideration; to regard as inviolable.” Reverence means “to show deferential respect.”
Honor has a far wider application than obey. Honor is expressed in courtesy, kindness, respectfulness, thoughtfulness, mercy, and generous, affectionate deeds.
Just as surely as God requires parents to care for, love, nourish, defend, support, and tenderly provide for their children their first moments of infancy, so children in their strength should reflect this back to their parents, even in their perceived “weakness.”
God has not provided a disqualifier for this command, the loopholes, no escape clauses. He does not say, “Children, honor your parents as long as they are worthy of honor.”
When a grown child speaks rudely, harshly, angrily, disrespectfully to their parents – no matter what justification they may believe they have – they are in fact dishonoring their parents.
And it’s not so much about the deeds were the words, but about the heart behind them. In God’s economy, dishonoring one’s parents is dishonoring God.
And, on top of that, it breaks the heart of the parent being treated so – especially a mom.
Mom’s are, for the most part, loving, caring, nurturing, self-sacrificial, lovingly devoted to, easily made proud of, and very often heard bragging about their children.
And even if the child is engaged in embarrassing, shameful behaviors, you won’t hear it from mom.
How is it, then, that a grown child could have such blatant disregard for heart and feelings of the one person in their life who has invested more in them than any 10 others?
And heaven forbid anyone were to come against that child — who do you think would be the first to come to that him and him child’s defense? Would it not be Mom?
To hear a grown child say that they are entitled to respect “too”, while it is true to a certain degree, they are not rise up against their parents and demand it from their parents.
To do so would require them to be dishonoring – and that is absolutely not okay with God.
Bottom line: Children — grown children — honor your parents in the Lord. This is your duty, your sacred obligation, and it is honoring and pleasing to God.
You may just find life turning out richer, better, and longer than even you feel entitled to.
Oh — and if you’ve been dishonoring and disrespectful to your parents — get on the phone and apologize. You never know when you will have waited too long and it will be too late.
Soli Deo Gloria
(This is reblogged from Messenger Insight)
How do I respond when a loved one says ‘I’m gay’?
by Charlene E. Hios, Executive Director, Bridging The Gaps Ministries
In today’s age of gay rights, in a culture that is affirming of homosexuality, many of us may know someone who self-identifies as gay or lesbian. This person may be a neighbor, a co-worker or friend. The “new normal” has us living in a world in which homosexuality may hit close to home.
Many Christians now must ask, “How do I respond when a loved one says ‘I’m gay’?” How you respond when they disclose that they believe they are gay or lesbian makes a world of difference in your relationship with them going forward. This is especially true if they are your child.
First, remember this is not about you. It is about that person. The desire for your loved one is that they be reconciled to God from this sin. You can, and must, extend God’s love while holding to a position that homosexuality is sin. (It certainly is not the only sexual sin identified in the Bible, but it is indeed one of them.) They can be reconciled with God from this sin and others.
Whether the disclosure comes from a family member or friend, their admission of homosexuality hits you hard, especially as a Christian. Your initial reaction is likely to be one of shock, disbelief, anger, hurt and guilt. You have started the grieving process. No, your loved one has not died; yet, with the news of their homosexual identity, but you have experienced loss.
Immediately, you start thinking of the dreams you had for your child. You may even start thinking about what others will think. You will wonder if you will even be able to face your friends, your family and everyone at church. Then your anger toward your child or your loved one will surface. How can they do this to you? All of these thoughts have gone through your mind in a matter of moments. Your loved one is standing right there before you waiting for you to respond.
Turn away from your anger or you will push them away. Turn your love for them towards them. They need you to show them that you love them. Embrace them! Say to them that you recognize that this was not an easy thing for them to do. Share with them that you know it took a lot of courage and that you are thankful that they told you. You are not endorsing their homosexuality but you are affirming their courage, their love for you and your love for them.
Although it is hard to hear someone say “I’m gay,” recognize that it is better than hiding it in the darkness. Praise God that they have brought their homosexuality into the light. Your loved one may sound euphoric or say they are more joyful than ever. Understand that the reason for this joy is that they have brought this deep dark sinful secret out into the open. They may not see it this way, but it is something you can take comfort in. Let it give you hope.
One of the most important responses is to listen to your loved one. What was their thinking process on this matter? Ask them when did they first “feel” different. Keep away from the word “why.” Continue to listen to their answers. Do not get defensive. You are fact-finding. This is about you learning their experience. This is not about you telling them yours. You want to understand their process of rationalization. Do not say, “Why didn’t you tell us?” Ask, “What kept you from telling us?” There is a lot you will learn by asking these questions and others.
Never bring up the matter of homosexuality, allow them to bring it up, and they will. They may give you books to read that express their thoughts on homosexuality. Read them. This allows more needed discussion.
Do not argue, but always bring the discussion to God’s Word, especially Gen. 2:4-25 that reflects God’s intended design. Step back and let the Holy Spirit move. As your loved one shares their journey, you should not affirm their conclusion; however, you can confirm the journey. Tread lightly and be gentle. Intercede before God for them. Your loved one wants you in their journey; otherwise, they would not have told you about it. Ultimately your desire is for them (and yourself) to be restored into the image of Christ. This involves a true, lifelong transformation from sin to Christ-likeness. Even in this most difficult of circumstances, God is faithful to extend His grace through forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration.
Note: Charlene Hios is the founder and director of Bridging The Gaps Ministries in San Francisco, Calif. She is a graduate of Golden Gate Seminary (GGBTS), and is studying for her Doctor of Ministry. A former lesbian who was washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11), Hios travels around the country speaking to churches sharing her testimony and speaking to how churches can minister compassionate truth telling and grace to a world impacted and affected by homosexuality.
“There is no such thing as a bystander when it comes to abuse.”
The following is another excerpt from the book I am writing about my experiences being a Biblical counselor to abuse survivors:
Abuse Has No Switzerland
As I have mentioned many, many times in the past, “There is no such thing as a bystander when it comes to abuse!” Intentionally or unintentionally, we automatically side with either the victim or the offender. There is no neutral territory, no middle ground.
Abuse does not and cannot happen in a vacuum: it happens in relationships; it happens in families; ; it happens in churches; it happens in communities.
Evil people don’t look evil – they look just like everyone else. So, becoming aware of and sensitive to the warning signs of abuse and abusers is necessary if we are going to answer God’s call to rescue those caught in abuse.
Failing that, by default we provide aid and comfort to those who abuse because, wittingly or unwittingly, we ensure an environment where the abuser feels safe to carry out their evil against their victim(s).
There is a sense of desperation and hopelessness for many survivors that flows from the reality that most people around them do not recognize the signs and symptoms that indicate abuse is happening.
Ironically, despite such a large cross-section of the populace who have experienced or witnessed abuse, there is a veil of ignorance overshadowing the realm of abuse and oppression. It prevents these co-survivors from being aware that it is happening in the lives of others around them.
There are two main reasons for this that I have seen: First there is the self-denial and minimization that survivors engage in when considering their experiences. The abuse/oppression has been miscategorized as something else, or it has been minimized and declassified in their mind as abuse.
The second main reason co-survivors are unaware that abuse is happening in the lives of others is our human tendency to project our standards of behavior on to other people: “I can’t image (or, I would never think of) treating someone that way, so I can’t image someone actually being that evil to someone else.”
The result is that we call authoritarianism “a firm hand”, we call physical beatings “discipline”, we call verbal/emotional abuse “she was just angry and didn’t really mean anything by it”, and we call the isolating of victims “protecting them from the world”.
There are innumerable other ways we fall into this trap of corporate denial, but you get the idea.
The question is, then: How do we stop providing aid and comfort to this enemy?
First, we have to understand that it is never okay with God for one person to misuse or abuse another person!
Second, we have to commit to becoming better educated about the warning signs of potential abusers and the signs of ongoing abuse. Our hope is that this book will be a useful tool to help with that.
I cannot tell you how heartbreaking and traumatizing it is for someone who is experiencing abuse to have what is happening to them be ignored, overlooked, or – worse yet – discounted, minimized, denied.
Jennifer’s story is another example of how this happens in the church. Jennifer is a pastor’s wife. She grew up in an abusive and neglectful home. Her family of origin had stringent rules of behavior that allowed no margin for error. Violation of those rules met with such severe punishment that she still has scars on her back and on the backs of her upper thighs.
The punishment for violating the rules never took place in front of others – it was always reserved for when the family had withdrawn to the confines of the four walls of their home. So deceptive were the parents about the abuse the children were subjected to that they intentionally presented a false front to everyone around them.
In fact, the parents presented a calm and understanding face to the world at large when one of the children spilled something or allowed their voice to get too loud or used the wrong utensil to eat with. But this was only a front.
Jennifer describes one incident in particular when the family was at a church barbeque and picnic. She had been carrying a paper plate loaded with food toward the family table. Two other children who were running and playing collided with her and the plate of food got mashed food-side first into her little white dress.
She was horrified! Jennifer remembered her mother specifically telling her before they left the house not to get that dress dirty!
Terror-stricken and hyper-anxious about the severe beating she knew was coming, Jennifer wet herself. The shame she felt was overwhelming and she ran and hid inside the church – but not before she saw the dark look pass across her mother’s face.
The anxiety this little nine year-old girl experienced at that moment resided in the pit of her stomach clear up until she sat in my office at age 48.
The pastor’s wife found Jennifer cowering in one of the Sunday School rooms, having seen what had happened and having watched Jennifer run into the church. She felt bad for the little girl and her heart went out to her.
Sadly, however, this kindhearted, well-intentioned woman of God was convinced in her own mind that Jennifer’s reaction was due to embarrassment – not terror.
The pastor’s wife sat on the floor next to Jennifer, pulled the curled up, whimpering little girl on to her lap and began to gently rock her, gently trying to console her. She used reassuring words, declaring to Jennifer that everything was going to be all right, that there was nothing to be ashamed about, and nothing to worry about.
Jennifer wanted it to be so –so much so that she started to almost believe this kind and loving lady. When she weakly said, “My Momma’s gonna punish me real good,” the well-intentioned but uninformed woman failed to hear the firm resolve in the little girl’s tone.
Had she been better trained, her ear would have picked up the sureness with which that statement had been made and, perhaps, she would have pursued a line of questioning that would have cracked open the veil of deceit that concealed the long-term violence Jennifer and her siblings had been subjected to.
That was not the case, however, and the pastor’s wife eventually calmed the terrified little girl enough to coax her in to returning to the picnic area and rejoining the festivities. Jennifer’s mother gave no indication at all that she was in the least bit upset about the mess on Jennifer’s dress or that her daughter had shamed herself and her family by losing control of her bladder.
On the contrary: “Momma” was all smiles and laughter as if nothing had gone wrong at all.
Jennifer started to have hope, started to believe that the pastor’s wife had told her the truth and that this time, there would be no beating for breaking Momma’s rules.
She relaxed and started to run and play with the other children, even making light-hearted conversation with her mother a couple of times, gaining confidence in her hope because her mother was responding in-kind.
When the party broke up and the families gathered their things, Jennifer furtively cast glances at Momma, assessing her mood, searching for some sign that the feeling in the pit of her stomach could go away and never return.
The children laughed and compared stories about their adventures at the picnic, and the atmosphere in on the ride home was relaxed and easy — like a real family.
There was absolutely no sign that Momma was angry. In fact, Jennifer started to feel like maybe she had been forgiven! The stain on her dress was a reminder to her that Momma could not have forgotten the accident.
But, maybe Momma realized it wasn’t her fault. Maybe…
The car was unloaded, their things were put away, and the children all headed upstairs to bathe and get ready for bed. The tight knot in Jennifer’s stomach began to release its grip.
She started to actually feel happy for the first time in — oh, she didn’t know how long!
“Jennifer?” she heard Momma say. “Get yourself up to my room.”
All of the anxiety-filled terror came rushing back with a vengeance, overtaking her little mind and heart so powerfully that she almost fainted. That meant the beating she had been falsely led to believe would not be forthcoming was about to be unleashed on her frail little body.
Of all the terror-filled moments of her life, she couldn’t remember one that was so intense.
She couldn’t feel her legs move as she climbed the long stairway to the second floor and moved to the large room her parents shared at the end of the hallway.
The only thought that kept racing through her mind was, “Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod…” She couldn’t breathe through the fear.
To this day, the details of the beating she received that night are but few bright flashes of memory buried under an overriding sense of searing pain.
The violence and brutality that took place that night was a repeat of hundreds of other such incidents that would also be replayed hundreds upon hundreds of times more in the years to come, but with one marked difference – it seared her soul a little more with each stroke of the belt.
When the belt broke and the beating still continued, her mother continuing to wield the remaining piece at least to the point where Jennifer passed out, part of her mind mercifully escaped the scene, not recording the remained of the night in a part of her memory where she could recall it from.
School was out, so no one had reason to take notice that Jennifer was not around for over a week following the picnic. Her parents told the people at church that Jennifer was home “with a touch of a bug”, which was why she wasn’t with the family the following Sunday.
The other children did not let on that Jennifer had been laying on her stomach with cold compresses on her back and bottom since her last “discipline” session. No one was any the wiser.
Oh, and the pastor’s wife? She took them at their word — she had no reason not to, right?
She had no reason to believe that Jennifer’s statement, “My Momma’s gonna punish me real good,” was anything more than an frightened child’s overstatement.
She had no reason to think anything of the fact that none of the children in the family ever did anything that hinted of rebelliousness or mischievousness – they were just remarkably well behaved children.
The pastor’s wife had no reason to think there was anything untoward about a family with four school-age children where the girls were always pristinely dressed, the boys were never scuffed or dirty, and the children were always, always, always obedient, compliant, and submissive in their demeanor to everyone. They never squabble or even tussled.
Good-hearted, well-intentioned people in the church who “Give folks the benefit of the doubt”,”Let’s not assume the worst about people”, “People are basically good”…these are nice ideas, but not founded in reality and not Biblically based.
Human beings are selfish and fallen, not “basically good”. Humans beings are scoundrels at heart and rebellious toward righteousness and justice.
God specifically warns us in His judgment oracle in Genesis 3 that men and women will tend toward selfish domination and overbearing approach to relationships – and we see it played out in the very next chapter when one brother beats to death (dare we say “physically abuses”?) the other.
We need to be better students of human nature – we need to study human nature from God’s perspective, not secularized psychology and sociology.
We, the Church, need to listen more attentively and be more prayerful about what we see and hear from those around us.
And we need to be more cognizant of the fact that, under the right set of circumstances, every one of us has the propensity to selfishly abuse others.
Only then can we stop believing that “it doesn’t happen here with our people.”
Only then can we stop pretending abuse isn’t happening.
And it is only then that we will start standing with and for the abused instead of with and for the abusers.