A Deep and Penetrating Question

A Deep and Penetrating Question

At the end of January, I had the privilege to speak at a homeschool discipleship day. During the last session I was asked questions which caused me to reflect and dig deep for a response. I had shared a good bit of my story throughout the day, which I had described as the best and hardest year of my life.

For those who don’t know about the significance of 2012 in my life, let me give a brief overview. In 2011 I was speaking on Deuteronomy 6:7 at a homeschool event in Alaska. After the session, I was asked why I left out verses 5 and 6? I read them and was convicted, and impressed, by the order and content of God’s Word. Here is the complete text: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

I had invested 30 years in teaching and modeling my faith to my family (verse 7) and now the Spirit was teaching me that before I could teach my family to love God and His Word, I needed to love God and His Word (verses 5-6). I began seeking God and asking Him to help me love Him with all my heart, soul, and might. God in His love and wisdom answered my request, and in ways I did not expect. 

On the one hand, He began revealing His love to me in unexpected ways. I was surprised by this approach since I was asking Him to help me love Him, then the Spirit directed me to 1 John 4:19: “We love, because He first loved us.” The more I assimilate His love, the more I love Him, which is the first and great commandment.

At the same time that I was marinating in this newfound knowledge of God’s steadfast love and affection, He also began revealing my baggage. Baggage is my stuff, my wounds and hurts, the personal trauma that I had experienced. My baggage not only was hindering my capacity for receiving and comprehending God’s love, it had also been damaging my family, the very people I was desperately wanting to love and nurture.

During this season, my wife and sons courageously spoke into my life and revealed many of my blindspots. They lovingly related how I had wounded them. They took a risk in doing so. At this point in my journey I did not receive correction well and I took what was said personally and as a criticism of my very person. I was also devastated to learn that I was a source of pain to my family. I had aspired to provide a safe home for my wife and children. I was assured that in many ways I had, but I had also wounded them.

I had shared much of this struggle while I was speaking, and during the final session, several questions were asked. The one which I pondered that day and in the ensuing weeks was, “What I could have done to prevent the crisis our family endured in 2012.” For even though it was a difficult year for me, it was also a very difficult year for all of us. For as Scripture teaches, “If one member suffers, all suffer together.” (1 Corinthians 12:26) I believe there several things I could have done, as the husband and head of our home.

1. I could have been more teachable, and valued and explored Sandi’s entreaties when she had the courage to bring them up. She knew I needed help and spoke to me directly several times, but I did not see what she saw. I observed then, that a psychiatrist can give you expensive answers that your wife can give you for free. Her discernment of my spiritual condition was accurate and yet she paid an emotional price for sharing her insights with me. I was not in a good place to receive it.

2. I could have enlisted the help of others as I sought to address my needs. Instead of trying to figure myself out and make the needed changes myself. My condition is similar to the U.S. during the early part of World War II. All the signs were there for Japan to attack the U.S. but until the bombs began falling, we as a nation did not do anything. Some call this the Pearl Harbor complex. I did not make significant and lasting changes until the bombs began falling in our family.

3. I have often joked, when speaking to homeschoolers, that we are similar to the people who settled Alaska, “Where the men are truly men, and so are half the women.” My biggest regret is that because I did not take the initiative to get help, my wife, the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7), had to confront me and draw a line in the sand as she fought for our family. She is not designed to be the stronger vessel. I am the one who has been given authority for building up my wife and children.

4. At the end of that difficult year, I looked my brave wife in the eye and thanked her for being strong and not coming back home until she felt safe (we were separated for a season as I was not in a good place). I know that may be hard for some to process, but it is my conviction that if she had returned sooner, I would not have made the long term, lasting changes in my own life. If she had given in to my entreaties to return sooner, I would not be the man I am today. Kudos to her for her courage.

5. I wish I had some kind of quiz to discern my own condition and the impact it was having on my family. However as I mentioned when we were together, I was not approachable. I took all criticism personally, did not receive input well, reacted badly, and wounded others in the process. My family saw my need, but it was a blindspot to me, and dangerous territory for them. However we do have the word of God which is living and active, and can discern our hearts. “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.” (Matthew 12:20, Isaiah 42:3) I have since learned that I had crushed their spirits, which I deeply regret.

6. I was not aware of the extent of how my words, tone, and person could easily hurt my family. Paul certainly knew the potential which fathers have to wound which is why I believe he explicitly warns fathers not to exasperate, provoke to anger, or discourage, these precious people living in our home. Peter also tells us our prayers will not be answered if we do not dwell with our wives in an understanding way. Blowing up and then asking forgiveness is not enough. Explosions leave scars. An apology is a beginning, but steps need to be taken to ensure they are not a regular occurrence. 

7. I did not know that I could be spiritual, i.e. know the Scriptures, be a man of prayer, teach and preach in a local church, share my faith, and serve God in a myriad of ways, while not being emotionally healthy, i.e. meek and lowly in heart, like Jesus Who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Thankfully 2012 was also the best year of my life, for God made me know, that because of what Jesus has done for me, and each of His adopted children, I am loved and liked for who I am and not based on what I do. I am now rooted in the knowledge that I am an adopted, loved, pleasing child of God, and assured that God knows me, loves me, will never leave me, is praying for me, and has my back. 

The fruit of this knowledge is that I can respond thoughtfully instead of reacting emotionally. In this new posture I can listen to feedback and be open to reason. “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. … The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:13, 17)

Two books I have read which have helped me deal with anger and becoming healthy are, The Other Side of Love, by Gary Chapman and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, by Peter Scazzero. Recently I read this poignant quote, “An environment that is not safe to disagree in is not an environment focused on growth – it’s an environment focused on control.” – Wendi Jade. I wish I had been more rooted and grounded in love. I wish I had been safer. I wish I had been kinder, and more tenderhearted, and had served my family with “all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2, 32)

Three Upcoming Events
1. March 14-16, South Carolina Homeschool Conference
2. March 21-23, St. Louis, Homeschool Conference
3. April 4-6, Cincinnati Homeschool Conference

Bible Reading Schedules
If you are considering a schedule to follow and keep you on track for 2024 and beyond, consider these three schedules, one for the New Testament and Psalms, one for the Old Testament, and another simplified Old Testament. I have used these since 1989 and described them in Podcast 387, “By Every Word” a phrase taken from Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

These are posted weekly here and on Facebook

390    By Every Word, #4, Walking the light of His Word.
391    By Every Word, #5, The Word of God is living and active.
392    By Every Word, #6, All Scripture Points to Jesus
393    By Every Word, #7, Be a Berean
394    By Every Word, #8, Discern the Heart and finding My Wife

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)