YOU (4): As Lord or Savior?

MORE OF MY CONVERSATION OVER ON FACEBOOK:

Hello, XXXXX!  Honestly, at some level, I appreciate all three things you mention, knowing that on a *superficial level* they might be the only options in our making some kind of *temporary fix.* But, they would be just that, temporary at best, leaving the ‘heart’ of the problem untouched.

With any good treatment of standard physical ailments there needs to be a good ‘diagnosis’ first before a sound ‘prognosis’ can be had.  Without identifying THE root cause…we just end up tracking down dead-end streets, only to find ourselves in an ongoing search for better answers, or just giving up in frustration.  Nor will things get any better by our being ‘led’ by *emotions* (how we “feel” about this or that), for oftentimes they actually impair our understanding of what’s really going on.  We depend then on the facts, moving hopefully from thinking well about the symptoms to grasping well a corresponding course of action.

Therefore, it is imperative that we get to *heart* of the problem!  Anything less won’t due.  Anything other is superficial.

In the course of our looking at this scenario (drunk-of-a-husband/nag-of-a-wife), I’ve made the observation that the *heart* of the problem is…one’s first-birth problem…an inborn-identity-crisis.  To attempt to “fix” this *heart* problem by placing band-aids (i.e., tough-love, “self-love”, boundaries, etc.) on the outside is nothing short of bad medicine.

Again, I agree, there comes times when one has to “step back” (a.k.a, tough-love/boundaries), but these are mere external measures.   What remains untouched is the *heart* problem; the root problem that bore all the bad fruit.  No medicine, no talk-therapy, no manipulation will make the internal fix.  Regardless of whether it is alcohol, drugs, sex, money, work, leisure, etc. that is in the picture, all of it remains very much external.  All the so-called “abuse” is a mere symptom.

And, I agree, there is something to be said about so-called “self-destructing” or “self-loathing.”  They are real, yes.  However, I don’t believe they in themselves are the *heart* problem, but again, only another way of speaking of the symptoms.

It might help if we ask questions like: Why is this person in an apparent state of self-loathing?  Could it be that they are merely feeling “sorry” for themselves?  Could it be that they are so disappointed in themselves and others for this reason or that?  Could it be that they began with too high of an opinion (expectation) of themselves, that they deserve this or that, but things didn’t turn out the way they thought they must?!  Could it be that they simply can’t bear with reality (things not going “our” way)?  Couldn’t it be they want control (of themselves, others, circumstances, etc.), but sulk (seek to suppress reality) when they realize it just ain’t so?   Could it be they are fearful and/or prideful when faced with the “control” question…they aren’t ultimately in control?  Could it be they can’t live sober (face-to-face with reality) so they mask (protect!) who they really are?

Granted, all of our inner-trouble speaks of a need for a proper self-image, but our wrongly *identifying* THE problem only creates more problems; all of which are a response that DEMANDS that others see us as we want to see ourselves.  And yet, we are afraid to face the harsh reality that we ALL are but human, not all that different, and have a BIG problem.  Nothing is ultimately fixed; the game goes on and on.

In sum, it’s always an *identity-problem.*  We’re born with it.  We struggle with it.  We mask it.  We dress it up.  We dress it down.  But, it always remains the same inside, an *identity-crisis.*  Our jobs, our cars/houses, our marriages, our children, our bank accounts, our 401K’s, our parents, our friends, our hopes, our dreams, our talk-talk-talk, our experience(s), our education, our mere-religion, our country, our name, our so-called goodness, our looks, our stuff! are never THE  solution, nor are they THE problem.  Our-selves!  Ourselves, our inner-self, our soul, this is where the problem lies and where the solution must be applied.  Anything less is artificial, a mere masking of that inner reality of soul.

So as for this notion of “self-love”…I find it never to be a remedy but always a reality (natural), regardless of how distorted it becomes, we have by birth a distorted preoccupation with ourselves.

What’s ultimately needed then?  Love from Above (vertical)!  Not from within (internal) or without (horizontal).  This is the source of everyone’s identity-crisis.  We are born with broken hearts, suffering from a distorted self-love.  We need a transplant!  Not a pace-maker.  We can’t perform it, nor can our friends and family, but only One.

YOU (3): As Lord or Savior?

ONCE AGAIN, FURTHER THOUGHTS SHARED WITH A FRIEND ON FACEBOOK:

Hello again, XXXXXX.  Appreciate your input here.

You’re right, the choices are tough.  When things unravel we’re left with options that aren’t all that pleasant, unfortunately.  Too often in comes down to making moves that just minimize the fallout.  And as you say…some of this ends up in the hands of the one (husband or wife) that is probably least able to see some of the more obvious things for what they are, which has to do with how things got all out of whack to begin with.

One of the dangers in the scenario that we’ve been discussing is that the one who seeks to “protect” the children, etc. may well be missing their own inner-brokenness; the very brokenness that led them to embrace such a relationship at the beginning.  In cases like this, it would be all too easy to place all blame upon the “other” and miss (or be unwilling to accept) one’s own faults.  Again, we are talking here about a particular situation—a typical one—where both spouses are living out an “identity crisis.”  Of course there are exceptions to the ‘shoe fitting’ well upon the foot of either spouse.

Further, I am trying to keep in mind, as I think through all this, that, these are not troubles found in marriages only.  As we can see, a scenario like this one has a way of readily spilling over into the lives of the children.  They (like their parents) are struggling with a ‘first birth’ condition (identity crisis), on top of which the parents (perhaps one or both) have piled further trouble in the way they nurture the child.  All of which, tends to result in the child-now-adult perpetuating many of the same responses they saw demonstrated by their parents.

So, now the child-now-adult ends up re-enacting the foolish ways of their parents, not realizing the root cause is not ultimately their parents but their very own ‘first birth’ condition (identity crisis).

Everyone involved in this scenario has missed this basic problem…identity problem.  Everyone in this scenario ends up perpetuating this one problem, fleshing it out in this way or that.

We could go on and on here observing how THE problem applies to EVERY single relationship, not just marriage, and not just the parent-child one.  Suffice to say, all too often we would rather hide our troubles than face them squarely, and then perhaps find ourselves in a position to really help whomever, without treating them like they were beneath us somehow, without acting like their Lord (master) or Savior (martyr).

YOU (2): As Lord or Savior?

FURTHER THOUGHTS SHARED WITH A FRIEND ON FACEBOOK:

I hear you, XXXXXX, and understand the commonly held belief that we are to begin with “loving oneself.”  The challenge is that, in reality, it doesn’t bear out.  Let’s take the drunk-of-a-husband for instance; his problem is that he BEGINS & ENDS with himself, clearly loving himself and his own ways, over his wife, children, etc.

The drunk-of-a-husband demonstrates the destructiveness of “self-love” and its inability to reach the pinnacle of genuinely “loving-others.”  He is trapped in his self-love.  He continues to put hope in himself and/or his using the bottle, which gives a temporal sense of relief that eventually gives way to the harsh reality of how problematic it is to “love-himself-as-is.”

Meanwhile, his nag-of-a-wife continues to grow bitter and more self-righteous, all of which demonstrates the problem of her ongoing “self-love.”  She loves the idea of having to be the one to “fix everything,” as if she is the savior of her husband.  And watch her closely, because she doesn’t stop with him…she ends up doing the same thing to her children, which leads them to run off; and she also does it to her closest friends who either learn how to maintain a safe distance or hide.

“Self-love” is the broken-condition with which we are born.  Self-love = holding as a standard our own interests, at the expense of others.  In the scenario before us, the husband and wife are both selfish, self-RIGHT-eo-US!   The selfish disposition and response of both spouses merely perpetuates the problem.  Unwittingly, they continue to feed off one another, which leads toward devouring one another.  And all the while…they assume it is the other spouse who’s doing them wrong.

All the while, a solution is in the opposite direction from loving oneself!  It’s found in one or both spouses having a self-LESS disposition.  A NEW disposition of self-less-ness is impossible to come by when we consider that this is not how we are first born.  And to make matters worse, we’re instructed from our earliest days that self-love (our first born state) is the way to go.  Thus, the problem–our nature (first born state)–is compounded by the nurture (earliest instructions) we receive.

***Please note: I understand the wife here could (should!) be genuinely concerned for her drunk-of-a-husband (or substitute any other vise he’s gripped by…porn, drugs, illicit sex, money, authority, entertainment, etc).  Her problem, in this case-study, is that she sees herself as better (morally or otherwise) and wiser than him, and that his ultimate hope is in HER or at least doing things HER way.  When, in fact, the problem lies much deeper within his soul, just as it does in hers.  Until she can be released from the bondage of her own self-righteousness, etc, she’s of little or no help to him, but is only apt to make things worse.  Once she is released from her first born state, she might then at some point be able to come in humility and patience to his side, helping him as a friend (neighbor) and not as lord and savior.  For the latter is never the place of anyone of us, but One.

YOU: As Lord or Savior?

A FEW OF MY THOUGHTS, FROM A CONVERSATION OVER ON FACEBOOK:

“It seems to be the case though, that, what we have here is a classic alcoholic husband and rescuing wife, both who are enslaved within a system (mindset/heart-disposition) whose components complement each other all too well.

One typical configuration, of enslavement, is seen in the husband’s combined mis-use of alcohol mixed with a ruling and enslaving love of pleasure.   An escapist pursuit of:

1) a false hope from the pains and frustrations of life;

2) playing the angry and self-righteous judge of his wife’s clinging and dependent ways;

3) the self-crucifying of his periodic remorse;

4) a trust in man which seeks personal validation through acceptance by his bar companions; etc.

Then we have the reciprocal pattern in the wife’s rescuing behavior, a combination of:

1) playing the martyred savior of her husband and family;

2) playing the proud and self-righteous judge of her husband’s iniquity;

3) a trust in man which overvalues the opinions of her friends;

4) a fear of man which generates an inordinate desire for a male’s love and affection as crucial to her survival; etc.

The internal enslavement of both (and consequent behavior, thoughts, and emotions) makes sense within their system of identity. The enslavement of soul is sometimes modeled, taught, and encouraged by the other person(s) involved:

1) her nagging and his anger mirror and magnify each other;

2) his bar buddies and her girl friends reinforce their respective self-righteousness and self-pity.

The outworking of enslavement is sometimes reactive and sometimes compensatory to the other person:

1) he reacts to her nagging with drinking, and

2) she reacts to his drinking by trying to rescue and to change him.

Sadly, the children are swept up in this, later playing either the master (like the husband) and/or the messiah/martyr (like the wife). It gets real ugly when a person grows up playing out both roles! Either way, the ‘once-child-now-adult’ is having to face the crisis they were born with:

1) who they ultimately are; and

2) who they were nurtured by (who their parents, etc. were).

Yet, even those with the best of parents can/do readily find themselves caught up in the same mess, and in this case the parents aren’t even part of the blame, nor is anyone else with whom they interact, necessarily. Why? Because they (like all people!) are born (nature) with an identity crisis. Left to themselves, each and every person has the same fundamental problem: an inherent identity crisis (= alienation from One greater then themselves).

Too often what we receive from others, particularly as adults, is nothing more than a “negative-feedback loop.” Meaning, we are likely seeing a reflection of our own folly even if it comes back at us as an opposite behavior/disposition.

As we push they pull, and vice versa.

[Note: the core principles here are gleaned from an article about idolatry by David Powlison.]

Confronting Familialism

Piper:  “I am declaring the temporary and secondary nature of marriage and family over and against the primary and eternal nature of the church, the family of God.  …Do not elevate natural process – like procreation, childbearing, and marriage – to anything bigger than what they are: temporal, physical means of keeping the world going and illustrations of Christ and the Church, that when comes…fade away!”

“Married to Another”…then one another

Piper:  “God designed marriage to display the holy mercy of Christ and the happy submission of his church (see Eph. 5:21-25). Here the doctrine of justification by faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ can be a great marriage saver and sweetener.  ..There is more healing for marriage in the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness than many of us have begun to discover.”

Christian-objectivity

Piper: “Husbands and wives, drive into your own consciences these huge truths—greater than any problem in your marriage—that God “has forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Believe this with all your heart and bend it toward your spouse.”

Christian-objectivity in marriage

Piper:

“…[L]iving vertically from the grace of God and then bending out horizontally in forgiveness and justification toward your spouse.

“…[H]usbands and wives, drive into your own consciences these huge truths—greater than any problem in your marriage—that God “has forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Believe this with all your heart and bend it toward your spouse.”

[emph. mm]

Sunken Marriages…in the Gospel

Piper on Gospel-nutrition for marriages:

“So husbands sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gospel until you become more lowly and humble. Wives, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gospel until you become more lowly and humble. And then treat each other with meekness flowing out of that lowliness. The battle is with our own proud, self-centered inner person. Fight that battle by faith, through the gospel, in prayer. Be stunned and broken and built up and made glad and humble because you are chosen, holy, loved.”

“So husbands, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gospel until you become more merciful and more lowly and, in that way, more longsuffering. Wives, sink your roots by faith into Christ through the gospel until you become more merciful and more lowly and, in that way, more longsuffering.”

“Now what I find so helpful here is that Paul recognizes that both forgiving and forbearing are crucial for life together—whether church or marriage. Forgiveness says: I will not treat you badly because of your sins against me or your annoying habits. And forbearance acknowledges (usually to itself), those sins against me and those annoying habits really bother me! If there were nothing in the other person that really bothered us, there would be no need for saying “enduring one another.””

“Our hope is based on this: We are chosen, holy, and loved. God is for us, and all things will work of the good of those who love him.”

again…GOSPEL-DRIVEN Parenting


[T]he larger issue of how the obedience of believers – their sanctification – relates to their justification, [thus] we ask:

1) Are the children learning from us that the practical, personal obedience God requires of believers is the way to become a justified person or the way a justified person becomes?

2) When you tell a child to do something, and insist on his obedience – which you should – are you leading the child to think that his good behavior is the root that grows into justification, or a fruit that flows from justification by faith alone?

3) Are we helping the children see saving faith both as the way we have Christ’s righteousness as the basis of our acceptance with God, and as the way we have Christ’s power to become like him in daily life?

4) Are we keeping both those things together but in the right order:

a) faith in Christ as the link first to his perfection and pardon, and second as to his purifying power – the one for justification (his perfection and pardon),

(and)

b) the other for sanctification (his purifying power)?

The same faith linking us to Christ for both!!!

J. Piper

[emph. mm]

GOSPEL-DRIVEN Parenting



“Are we teaching the Old Testament and the New Testament to make our children wise unto salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? The emphasis is on “faith in Jesus Christ”! Or are we turning the Scriptures into a collection of little morality plays?

“Do the stories of the Bible point again and again to the need for a Savior or do they point only to the need for you to get your moral act together?

“Are children getting the impression that Christianity is mainly a list of do’s and don’ts or mainly the story of how God justifies the ungodly through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

“Are they getting the impression that the foundation of their acceptance with God is their good behavior or the perfect behavior and death and resurrection of Jesus received by faith alone?

“Are they learning to win God’s favor by a righteousness they perform, or by a righteousness that Christ performed for their sake?

J. Piper

[emph. mm]

Robust view of common grace…

This bears upon the question of what educational forum one will choose for their child. Included among many other questions needing to be asked there’s:


‘What measure of common grace exists, or is it essentially denied?’

There are a number of erroneous (“Thus saith the Lord”) perspectives that are likely to be encountered along the way. Listed below are some tendencies which: a) confuse things “common” & “holy”, and/or b) fail to appreciate that how we educate our children is a matter of conscience.

  1. Classical-centered approach — sacralizes “the older the better”
  2. Church-centered approach — sacralizes whatever Christians can do (i.e., teach math, etc.)
  3. Home-centered approach — sacralizes domestic life
  4. Social-centered approach — sacreligious about God and man

A common denominator links these varieties… FUNDAMENTALISM (both secular and eccleisastical)!

Common grace is a commodity hard to come by.

Against the tide…

Over at DeRegnisDuobus there’s a conversation regarding education of children, and the following question was posed: “If you’re against public schools, tell us why.” Bearing in mind it is not public education itself that I have concerns with (understanding the usual principle norms there can be found in other educational contexts as well), my response was as follows:

To begin, we are concerned with any educational context that inhibits the general welfare of the child, which unfortunately includes even the home in some instances. No doubt there are circumstances where the child is better off away from mom and/or dad for at least part of the day. Though providing a suitable education (whether done by you or delegated to someone else) is a great parental obligation, this is but one facet of nurturing their lives.Ours three sons (13,11&11) are educated at home for at least two reasons: relational and principle.

Among many other interests, there is the desire to preserve and nurture relations for a lifetime. Education at home is one way to provide a consistent daily interface with adults who are both honest sinners and striving to be gracious, in hopes of building a genuine trust upon enduring associations (regardless of whether the child is ever converted).

Essential we find it, to provide a context that abhors manipulation by parent, peer or himself, wherein there is a consistent opposition to premature exposure to forces opposed to the common good. Fostering a reasonable measure of development for particular life-experiences is fundamental.

Maintenance of a realistic and practical poise on both culture and life in general is a daily endeavor. Providence, we trust, will not ‘leave any of our children behind’.