The more I’ve worked with addicts and dealt with my own sins, the more I’ve realized that most churches are falling short in a very important area–freedom from sin. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Most churches teach freedom from sin. Most command freedom from sin. But very few are helping people become free from sin. Most of them simply tell people to quit sinning and then slap them on the wrist when they catch them sinning again or belittle and shame them for doing so. What can we do about this?
1. Don’t Feel.
We’ll talk about the others over the next few weeks; today the first one is on my mind. I have been tested on this two times in as many days.
Over the weekend, Ryan cut his upper lip. It formed an unattractive scab underneath his nose. In fact, to be honest, it kind of stood out like a sore thumb. On Monday morning, I walked into his room and he had put a band-aid on. But he was also covering his mouth and saying, “I don’t want to go to school today.” The whole reason is he was embarrassed by the bandage and the cut. For an instant, my old sin enslaved self started to rear up. I reached for the band-aid to yank it off and harshly rebuke him saying, “You don’t need that stupid band-aid, take it off.” Fortunately, none of that happened. I caught myself and I stopped myself. Instead, I hugged him. Told him it was okay to be embarrassed but that he couldn’t stay home from school just because he had a cut lip. He was going to have to work through it. I also told him I didn’t think he needed the band-aid, but he was having none of that.
I was proud of him when just before he left to go wait on the driveway for the bus, I noticed the band-aid was off and he was happy.
Last night, the weather report was that we were going to get snow. Ethan is only 9. He assumed the weather report had to be true. He wanted to stay up since he wasn’t going to school today. I had to explain to him the weather is wrong sometimes and we needed to go ahead and act like school was on schedule. Sadly, when Ethan’s alarm went off this morning. He looked outside and there was no snow.
As I was getting ready, I thought I heard some strange noises coming from the boys’ bedroom. I walked in and Ethan was lying face down on the bed crying. The old sin-enslaved me started to rear up again. For an instant, I wanted to say, “Quit your whining and acting like a cry baby. We don’t always get what we want. Now buck up and finish getting ready for school.” Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, I called him to me and gave him a hug. I let him know it was okay to be sad because he didn’t get the snow he wanted. However, even though he was sad, the next right thing was to get ready for school. Of course, I explained that we don’t always get what we want and it’s okay to be sad about that. However, we still have to keep our responsibilities. He laid back down for a few minutes and then finished getting ready.
Sadly, because the feelings of our children are often inconvenient (trust me, I don’t pass this test every time), we often act like their feelings are inappropriate or invalid. Even more sadly, when we do this, the message our kids get is not, “Buck up and move on,” but rather, “You are not valid.” Certainly, I know we should not be governed strictly by our feelings and emotions. However, we should be free to feel them.
Consider Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin…” First, you need to know the phrase “be angry” is passive. That is, it is not talking about someone who is just angry. Rather, it is talking about someone who has been caused to be angry. But the anger is not wrong. They are allowed to feel the anger. Of course, when they are angered, they still have responsibilities. They cannot allow their anger to lead them to sin. But, they are allowed to feel the anger.
This is a guide for me for all emotions. My kids are allowed to be angry. They are allowed to be happy. They are allowed to be sad. They are allowed to be embarrassed. They are allowed to feel lonely, guilty, ashamed or afraid. They are allowed to feel frustrated. My job is not to squelch or strike these emotions out of their life. My job is to help them deal with them in a healthy way. My job is to help them avoid sin when they are feeling these emotions.
Why the Title About Drugs?
I didn’t just put the title in to pique your interest. What we are discussing here is actually the heart of addictions–whether substance or process addictions. You see, the number one cause for addiction is not simply experimentation (though I don’t advise experimentation). The number one cause for addiction is having to deal with feelings I have become convinced are not valid. The anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, etc. will be there even if we try to beat it out of our kids (You know, “Stop crying or I’ll give you a reason…”).
If we allow our kids to feel and use those as opportunities to teach them how to respond appropriately to feelings, they’ll be healthy. On the other hand, if we don’t let them feel, they’ll need to start doing something with those feelings. They’ll need to medicate them. Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, television, internet, video games, food, they can all become addictive.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no fail proof way to keep your kids from any of those things. But the number one key to give them a leg up and a push in the right direction is don’t give them a reason to medicate their feelings. Let them feel, affirm them in their feelings, guide them in their feelings, teach them how to deal with those feelings.
Of course, you cant’ give what you don’t have. If you’re constantly medicating your own feelings, get help or you’ll just perpetuate the cycle with your kids.