Recently, my wife and I attended a parenting conference specifically for foster and adoptive parents. This is the second year and, just like last year, the time was well spent.
Just like last year, the keynote speakers brought a subject that was new and very relevant – attachment. For those who may be scratching your heads, attachment refers to the way in which a child bonds to their parents from day 1. It is developed by a very basic and foundational cycle of stress and soothing. It goes like this:
The baby cries because they are hungry (stress; adrenaline; cortisol; heart racing; muscles tensed)
The parent soothes and provides food (calm; serotonin; relaxation)
Researchers estimate that this cycle is repeated 10,000 times in the first few years of life and if the stress cycle is allowed to occur for short periods, attachment is securely established and cognitive and emotional health is much more likely.
How we perceive the world around us is based on our beliefs and if you’ve read anything by Stephen Covey, you know that beliefs drive behavior that produce results that either reinforce or challenge beliefs.
Ponder that for a minute…
Go ahead…I’ll wait.
Truth is like data – meaningless without context. It just sits there – still true – but isolated, waiting for experience to validate.
The context of our lives (summation of our experiences) provides the vehicle of acceptance and internalization of truth. The good times and (especially) the valleys we go through give us something to test the truth – to see if it holds up under the weight of reality. If it does, then a new belief is formed and another dies.
Back to perception. If we hear a truth, even one that cognitively makes sense, and don’t have the contextual experience to validate it, we typically reject or at least table our opinion of it. Our perception is based on belief and belief on experience.
But what about Truth – God’s Truth?
I suggest the same logic holds. When we call Jesus’ name (as a response to Him calling ours) and are saved, that crisis of belief about ourselves and the world around us, cement basic Truth into new beliefs. And from that point forward, the world is trying to kill them.
And most often it works.
We are hounded by achievement-based worth and shaped by shame and condemnation. We strive to be accepted and question everything through stressed and anxiety-ridden days. Asking, “Am I worthy of love? Am I good enough? What if they really knew me – would they accept me?” – scary stuff.
Luckily, God has the vision capable of creating experiences that resurrect, bit by bit those initial Truths until one day, we wake up and feel free and accepted and humbled by His great gift of Grace. That the Creator of the universe loved and loves me – at my worst – and has accepted me just as I am.
No performance needed. No striving. No hamster wheel.
Just love. Period.
And everything seems new and different – like a veil has been lifted or you step out of the shadows and into the warm sun.
MercyMe has a song called, “Flawless” that sums all of this up in just 4 minutes. I hope you’ll ponder the Truths that saved you and step into the sun.
Over time, I have come to gain an in-depth understanding of how I’m wired. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know ALL there is as I still struggle to grasp my reactions to certain stimuli. What understanding I do have has come from a myriad of sources from formal assessments (recommendations at the end of this post) to just good ole time on the planet. And what’s amazing is that with greater understand comes greater confidence.
My friends over at dictionary.com define confidence as: full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing.
Confidence to me is being able to walk into a given situation and believe you will succeed ahead of time. Confidence puts a swagger in your step and it allows you to hold your head up high. It also helps to calm nerves and allows for clearer thought and action.
My friend Matt and I, from time to time, engage in friendly chatter regarding the core truths of the Christian faith. I love it because he is very grounded in his faith and seems to be able to filter out the noise pretty well. Also, he’s pretty much the only one who will actively comment on anything I say online, which wins him an extra cookie in my book.
The last go around was between two topics and it was a very short serve and volley:
THE SERVE [Matt]
Justification = just as if we never sinned & just as if we had always obeyed
Read it again because you might miss the profundity in the brevity. Now read it one more time. Isn’t that wonderful and so absolutely true!
Whenever I see the term “Justification,” I immediately hear the word “Sanctification” in my mind. It’s like when I hear the name “Marsha”, I hear, “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha…” from the Brady Bunch. So, I replied with:
THE VOLLEY [Me]
Sanctification = Proof positive that there’s always room for improvement
Now I sometimes say things to gauge the reaction of someone – especially in church circles these days, but this isn’t one of them. I truly believe that our justified lives are one big work in progress that has no ending point this side of heaven.
The point is that everyone around you is some sort of work in progress. And your Christian friends are being worked by the Creator of the Universe, who can be trusted to finish that work. May the Grace and Love of Jesus abound in how we engage those around us.
I desire a fundamental and wholesale change in approach to how we care for the needy. When we ask the question, “How are you caring for the needy?”, it is being interpreted by most people to be, “Give me your list of activities so I can determine whether or not you measure up.” It’s a loaded question because of how the church reacts when people don’t have an answer. So, I will make sure I can rattle off 3-5 ways that I’m caring for others just so I won’t be judged by the people I want to impress. Do you see the dysfunction in all of that?
That’s not love and that’s not what Scripture teaches us that Christ wants from us. Instead, let’s start digging into and teaching people about how to love God, which begins with a deep understanding of how God loves us and goes all the way back to Genesis 1 and the chasm that Jesus bridged to bring us back into a right relationship with our Heavenly Father.
It’s harder and takes much longer, but the sustainability for real-world impact is far greater than maintaining a list of activities that can be recited at the drop of a hat.
Hear me on this – I absolutely believe that caring for our neighbor is the best and most effective form of expressing the love of Christ, but if we do it in order to check a box on some list rather than out of love, we have become noisy gongs and our efforts honor nobody. If we are going to hold people accountable to something, let it be love.