Karmen has a link on her website to a talk recently given by the author of “The Shack.” I have read the book and found it very good especially as it relates to the value that God places on us, his creation. Slowly, I am coming to understand that he sees each and every one of us as a possession of ultimate value to him and that the primary thing he offers to us, with that in mind, is grace and mercy and relationship with him. I believe the work he did for us in Christ was primarily an act to show us how much he really does in fact love us. It reveals the depth and commitment of that love. It reveals our value to him.
I am not much for watching web clips, especially 73 minute long clips, but because of Karmen’s prodding (mostly gentle) I caved and listened to it. It was also very good, but I didn’t really understand how good until a discussion she and I had in the car yesterday while coming back from a long weekend at Table Rock Lake. I would like to log my thoughts here and again would like to point out that I am not trying to say something profound nearly so much as I am using my blog as my journal. Take from it what you wish.
In the presentation, Paul Young talks about his history, how he grew up and came to this point in life. In his story he mentions a history of sexual abuse as a child. The result of this experience, he said, left him without any boundaries, and so later in life when he encountered someone else without any boundaries, an affair that nearly destroyed his life was the result. I was confused as to why a person who experienced sexual abuse would have no boundaries. Logically, it seemed to me that a victim of sexual abuse would have all sorts of boundaries as a result of the experience in an effort to protect him or her self from future abuse rather than wide open or non-existent boundaries. But my discussions with Karmen in the car brought everything into focus.
We got into a discussion about the value of people and how not being valued as a child leads to dysfunction later in life. And as we talked, it became more clear to me how a victim of abuse, whether it be sexual or just plain neglect, could lose their boundaries. The reason is because those boundaries are just completely shattered by what happened to them. I think there is probably a continuum of abuse with sexual abuse being very near the extreme and then working through physical, psychological, emotional, verbal, and other forms of abuse and not necessarily in that order. Getting to the lesser extreme on the continuum of abuse I would think that one finds cases of neglect where a child is properly raised and tended to but gets the feeling that he or she is mostly a nuisance because of a lack of love. And I think that when any of these abuses are taking place in a child’s life, what that child ends up learning is that they are not valuable as a person, and that screws up your boundaries. In the case of sexual abuse, that individual is taught that they are only valuable for sex. Something which shouldn’t be true for anyone much less a child. But even in the case of neglect, where a child gets the idea that they are just extra baggage that has to be cared for, that child doesn’t learn that they have value to anyone around them.
Well this doesn’t work well because somewhere deep inside us we have an innate sense that we are supposed to be valuable to someone. So we start looking for it. Sexual abuse victims, with boundaries that have been completely shattered, can end up looking anywhere with anyone or anything. Neglect victims probably don’t reach the same level of dysfunction because some of their boundaries are left intact most of the time, but they certainly can as they too search for value. Both, and all in between, may struggle constantly with self-confidence and self-worth, addictions, depression, anxiety, etc,. all in a quest for value as a person. And of course the ultimate source of our value is not in things, money, power, or even each other. We crave knowing our value because God put it in us, and only he can ultimately satisfy it. But he has also instructed us to value each other.
I think this is where the greatest commandment statement begins. “Love me. Love others.” There you have it. We are instructed to value each other by none other than the one who made us. He knows we will end up dysfunctional without knowing that we have value, both to each other and to him. He tells us how to avoid it. Love each other. It is amazing the wisdom that is behind those verses. There is no call to judge, no call to punish, no call to set each other straight, no call to harshness, no call to toughness, no call to giving each other what we deserve, no call to exhort each other to just try harder. Just a call to love. And I now see so much more behind that simple call to love each other.
So now I am thinking about my job as a father. I think that it is probably one of the most important things I can do for my boys, to show them that they are valuable to me. To show them that they are worth the time and effort. To be willing to go out of my way for them. To anticipate their needs. I will bet that there are very few kids who are made to feel how valuable they are in the correct sense that end up with boundary issues and major dysfunctions in their adult lives. If there is a way to insulate your kids from destructive lives, maybe this is it.
So now I am also thinking about my job as a husband. I think that it is probably one of the most important things I can do for Karmen is to show her how valuable she is to me. To show her that she is worth the time. Worth the work. Worth the effort. Worth any struggle. To anticipate her needs. I will bet that there are very few unhealthy marriages where the spouses work to show each other in basic and in novel and in creative ways that they are valuable to each other in the correct sense. If there is a way to insulate my marriage from destruction, maybe this is it.
I decided to show my family their value in a different way last night. Jack sometimes has some downright ridiculous fears, especially at bedtime. This has happened long enough that it almost seems to be a manipulative tool on his part to try and delay bedtime. In my frustration probably most of my management of the issue has been in the form of “buck up.” And of course, we haven’t really seen any progress. But last night, I decided to show him how valuable he is to me. I stood there by his bed and stroked his head and his hair. I talked with him gently and calmly. After 20 min or so he said, “Daddy, I love you.” One time he asked me to rub his head a little harder. 20 min more and he was asleep. I don’t think I have ever watched one of my kids fall asleep. It misted my eyes to do it. I plan to do the same thing for Jace. And as I was doing this little thing to show Jack how valuable he was, it occurred to me that I was also showing Karmen how valuable she was. I was taking time to show them that they were worth my time, worth my effort. I was following God’s instruction to love others. I don’t see that he is excluding my boys and my wife from that.
I don’t feel like, after looking over what I have written, that it is as clear as I would like it to be. So let me summarize. We, as God’s creation, innately know that we have value, mainly to God but also to each other. Abuse, especially early in our lives, destroys and/or distorts boundaries and teaches us either that we have no value or that our value is misplaced. We spend much of our lives then searching to satisfy our thirst for value outside of healthy boundaries that have been warped or destroyed. This leads to pain, suffering, destruction, and more loss. Only God can show us our ultimate value, but he tells us that we should value each other. That life will go better for us if we value each other. As a husband and father probably one of my main endeavors should be to show my kids and my wife how valuable they are to me both to hopefully prevent life outside humanizing (I borrowed that descriptive word from NT Wright. More on that in another post.) boundaries and repair any life that has been lived in the dehumanizing zone outside of those boundaries.
Does any of that make any sense at all?