Over the last weeks I have led you on a deliberate journey showing you the kinds of Strongholds which can develop in our lives and how they occur. Then we have addressed how to identify and deal with the strongholds we find. Last week I took a risk and shared some deeper things from Deeper Bible level 601 which has significance to the issue of strongholds over us. I was delighted with the fact that so many of you responded and shared how it impacted you. Some of you surprised me by how personal and direct you were in your sharing. Some then commented as to why you felt safe to do that – because I had done it with all of you. Well surprise surprise! Look how it works. As we open up and share the deeper stuff that encourages others to do the same. I guess God must have been right all along when He suggested we confess our sins with one another and share our burdens. I could open up this Nugget to comment on the one aspect for the whole Nugget but I will control myself. If you want to know more then tell me. If I get sufficient numbers of you who comment or ask then we could move in that direction at some stage. I told you these Nuggets can be live like the Gems.
Firstly, let’s consider the idea of dependence. Have you ever stopped to consider that we human beings, the apex of God’s creation, are the most dependent creatures on the earth. Just think about dependence for a moment and you will realise it is true. Perhaps God designed it that way for a reason to tell us something about ourselves.
The human baby is the most dependent of all creatures on the earth. It takes us the best part of the first year to be able to move around and function well enough. But two to three years to develop the ability to stand, walk and talk to any level at all beyond the most basic dependence on our parents. The rest of the animal kingdom has already graduated to full skills of movement and communication to participate in competition while we human babies are still in nappies or moving with trainer wheels. Now that's a sobering thought you have to admit.
Now let’s consider submission and the ability to obey and do what we are told. We probably have a degree of selective memory loss as to what we were like at two years of age on this test. But as parents we are only too aware of what happens to the human baby at two. It is like we start going in reverse in regard to the ability to submit, obey and fall in line with all of the rest of nature around us. There is a wild, untameable portion within mankind which lends itself to mayhem and disorder. Observing the coronavirus world around me at this point I am not sure we ever fully “fall in line”. My Bible tells me that this world is tainted with sin. When I became a parent I really understood at an experiential level that you don't ever have to teach a child to be naughty. It just comes naturally. But let me leave all the preamble behind and get to the point.
Dependence – Independence
Most of us don’t realise that we’re on a continuum of Dependence. Oh, we all realise that a human baby is the most dependent creature on earth. We know that because we have experienced it. The rest of the animal kingdom is light years ahead of us at the end of our first year. It takes each person a long time to realise the reality of the concept of dependence. Very early in the race we strive for independence little realising what it is we are striving for. If we did realise we might indeed run the other way. Many of us spend our lives avoiding responsibility and consequence. But in the process, we strain at the bit to break free of parental and societal controls in order to be independent. Some of us, if we thought about it and gave our honest view of independence, would likely confess that we didn't in fact want it and would like to return to the blissful state of dependence and no responsibility. However, by the time we are that wise, it is already too late. Welcome to independence. Enjoy it while you can.
We all want to become independent too soon. When we gain more maturity, we can see some of the pitfalls ahead. When we become parents, we are then thrust into the role without really any adequate training. As a high school teacher, I often reflected on the fact that society asks its citizens to gain a license in order to do some of the dangerous things in life: hunt, drive a car etc. But when it comes to parenthood, nobody in authority ever demands to see your license to be a parent. If you have the urge, or should we say the lack of control, then any Joe Blough can be a parent. And yet it is dangerous for all those in close proximity. Oh, my goodness when did we get so laissez faire? And nowadays we don't even require a marriage license before you ought to have a parent license. Now let’s be honest and allow me to take you the next step in the point where we won’t insist on a mum and a dad having a license. No, we don't need that. You can get a pseudo-parent license (assuming you needed one) without a mum or a dad. It doesn’t matter what God said. You can try parenting with any combination or permutation you like. Enough of this foolishness.
Let me take a quote from Paul of Tarsus from the Message.
Will you put up with a little foolish aside from me? Please, just for a moment. The thing that has me so upset is that I care about you so much—this is the passion of God burning inside me! I promised your hand in marriage to Christ, presented you as a pure virgin to her husband. And now I'm afraid that exactly as the Snake seduced Eve with his smooth patter, you are being lured away from the simple purity of your love for Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:1-3)
As good parents we ought to train our children to become Independent by giving them permission to make decisions. We start small and give them the permission and the responsibility to make their own decisions. All the while discussing with them how to arrive at decisions and what responsibilities are. They then learn to grow in their ability to make decisions and take responsibility for the decisions they make. By doing that you help your child to mature and to become independent. If you don't have a plan to enable that to happen often what you do works against you and your child. We have all been in situations where a boss or leader over us, gives us decision making power and then takes it back again when the decision is to be made. You know how that made you feel. It is one of the most frustrating things to deal with. Or think of the boss who likes to micro-manage. They give you a task and verbally give you the authority to carry out the task. When you have completed it to fulfil the brief you were given, the boss then returns and begins to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic in
accordance with how they would have carried out the task. We have all encountered that situation before I am sure. Now put yourself in the shoes of your child and consider the impact of what you have just done to them if you try either of these approaches with your son or daughter. (Sorry there are only two gender options available).
Let me paint another scenario for you. Imagine the feelings your son or daughter have if you are using some of the above bad parenting or leadership examples with your child when they are 35 or 40 years of age. Excuse me? I don’t have to use many words to spell out what I mean here. Just think of the example I used of the lady whose mother was coming to stay in the context I have explained above and you will get it. If you keep treating an older child as though they were significantly younger, wake up and realise the harm that causes. The frustration that builds in your son or daughter if they are eighteen and you treat them as a 12 year old. Or worse yet when they are thirty-five and you treat them as a five-year-old. The wider the disparity between their actual age and the age you imagine them to be, the greater the frustration and annoyance. We have had many conversations with Indonesian couples in their thirties whose parents treat them as young children who know nothing. Their frustration levels are so high you can feel it. Those same thirties somethings have said to Tania and me, “We love talking to you two. You treat us like adults and listen to our opinions and ideas. Our parents don't and we feel they won’t ever.”
The disparity grows if there is an agenda behind the scene; if you as a parent have such a deep longing to be needed as a mum or a dad that you keep your thirties something son or daughter under your control by playing mind games and manipulation with them. Just cast your mind back to the story I told in Dealing with Strongholds in Our Lives (March 14th). If the reason you are manipulating the interaction between your child and yourself is because of some insecurity in you then both you and your child will end up being impaired and the worse for the experience. You can’t seek to keep your adult daughter as your little girl. She is not. Just take a good long look at her. She is crying out for you to see her as she is. A grown woman who longs to talk with her mum like adults. Such behaviour on your part suggests that you have not matured and become independent. You are still dependent and you are attempting to make your adult daughter dependent on you too. Probably to satisfy some lack in you rather than an inadequacy in her. This is a classic co-dependency reaction. Face it, confess it and deal with it. If it is not yours to deal with but your mother’s, then be strong and help her to grow up and become independent.
Independence and Submission
We are all on the continuum of Dependence – moving from Dependence to Independence. We need to realize it is a continuum. We can’t pass from one stage to the next until we have left behind the previous stage. We can’t bypass a stage and still remain whole and complete. We can’t hope to become independent until we have left dependence behind. Neither can we move on from dependence totally until we have been able to apply the steps of becoming independent to all spheres of our lives. We may be able to achieve financial independence before we have even thought of the need to gain emotional independence. Similarly, we can be financially independent by virtue of a good full-time job but we may still have emotional ties to our mother or father which keep us bound to them dependently. We need to work at gaining true independence in all spheres of life.
You can only truly become independent when you have learned to submit. That is true of a child to their parent. If you have trouble submitting then you will likely have trouble becoming independent. While we don't expect parents to submit to their children, given the inability of a child to mature until a certain age, a wise parent will demonstrate an ability to submit to the child. If not submission then certainly a measure of mutuality fostering the independence of the child. A good parent facilitates the training of the child toward independence. If that is not the case then beware! Because without mutuality in becoming independent you can find yourself trapped in dependence. This can occur on the part of the child who doesn’t yet know how or realize why they need to move to independence. But it can also be true of the adult who hasn’t really achieved independence themselves and so keeps the child dependent on them for reasons of insecurity within. That was the problem on the part of the mother in the story I referred to above. If we are not careful we will keep our children tied to our apron strings not for their sakes but for ours!
There is a fine balance biblically between growth, independence and the ability to submit. I am going to take you into another life example in the next Nugget and I am going to let you into a secret. But that is for next week’s Nugget. Both of these, the life example and the secret have been life changing for the people I have shared them with. But before we move into new territory you need to get your mind around the principles I have outlined above and then I will take you deeper.
To spell out the principles in this Nugget again you need to take the time to understand the relationship between dependence and independence and to understand that the movement is on a continuum from dependence to independence, not the other way around. Furthermore, you need to understand that true independence involves a component of submission. I know that sounds strange. Why would you have to submit if you are now independent? A good question. One of the mysteries of God.
Till next week . . .