For most of my adult life I’ve admired the way that good fathers have been able to care for their families — providing for them, paying attention to their needs, all while being firm and decisive, yet gentle. This in turn put a desire in me to be a good father, too. As God has grown me, He has shown me the particular areas of my life that needed to be healed, one being the relationship with my own father.
I have recently been studying childhood development and how my early experiences have affected my adult life. I’d like to say my childhood was generally good but there were many times I felt unsafe, rejected and emotionally abused. My father was emotionally distant, and I’ve seen him struggle with so many different issues. For years I struggled with overcoming my own sense of rejection.
When I first became a Christian, I thought, How can I tell other people about Jesus when I still have lingering feelings of doubt? I believed in the promise of new life but I couldn’t see how God was going to overcome the deeper conflicts in my life, the difficulties that I inherited from my own family history.
One of the things that God has resolved for me is forgiveness. So often in our culture we’ll hear the phrase “forgive and forget.” Maybe you’ve heard people elaborate on this idea by saying things like “Just move on,” or “They’re no good, you don’t need them in your life.” Even though we may push people out of our lives, there may still be the longing to reconcile with them and have peace. We’ve all faced rejection and abuse of some type and we desire to be better off in some capacity.
I’ve recently seen the 10 Commandments in a new light. Some may think of them as arbitrary rules but I’ve heard more noble minds consider them as blessings, and how when we become God’s children they help us resolve the ongoing complications of having a selfish heart.
Throughout God’s Word He asks us to remember His commands and how He has delivered us:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt,
and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”
“Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered.”
—1 Chronicles 16:12
“Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you; you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
“Remember the word that I said to you.”
God desires us to put His law in our minds so that it would become permanently fixed in our memory banks to constantly remind us who He is. Our brains are the most complicated, delicate piece of machinery ever conceived. They are finely tuned to record and categorize the information that we absorb through our five senses. As a defense mechanism our minds partition abusive memories and black them out that we might process them appropriately at another time. For years we may have been trying to push things out of our minds when that is the exact opposite of what they were created for.
James writes a powerful metaphor about the law and its power to reveal sin and abuse:
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
— James 1:22-25
The law is like a mirror that shows us the sin in our lives and helps us realize our need of the cleansing power of our Savior. The 10 Commandments, God’s love codified, reveals that we have suffered abuse. Rather than pushing it out of our minds and burying it, God longs to nudge our conscience into recognizing our need for His healing touch. For example, we read, “Honor your mother and father.” How can some individuals honor their parents when they may be so dishonorable? Some do not even know one or both parents! Not everyone has a great relationship with their family and that’s the point that God is trying to make. Jesus desires to bring peace and a sense of completion to our lives. Sin has separated us from each other but Christ can make our relationships whole.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
—2 Corinthians 5:18
The concept of salvation is more than just living with Jesus in an earth made new for eternity. It is about a better life here and now. It’s amazing that the Greek word for salvation also means healing — not just physical, but mental, emotional, social and spiritual. Reconciliation is what God gives us to be at peace with one another. Others may not be able to forgive us but we can know in our own hearts that we have been made whole.
So many in the Church are suffering because they are still stuck in the old way of thinking: if something is too painful, I’ll just ignore it. It has even caused some physical pain! God can overcome the hurt we’ve suffered. When we look at the course of our lives we may think that because we have so much baggage, how can God work this all out? As we let Christ into our lives and hearts, He promises us that when we constantly remember His ways and His laws, that He will work miracles. There are deep, dark things that are hidden in our minds that may never come to the surface on this side of eternity, but God says He’ll even heal those in time.
As Paul puts it:
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
—1 Corinthians 13:12
God desires to uncover all the abuse and rejection so that there may be no shadow of sin in our lives, that we may fully know ourselves as we are accepted in Christ. When Jesus returns, He will show us how He has healed every single doubt in our minds concerning the lie we once believed — that we were rejected and abandoned by Him, when in reality it was He who took our place that we might be set free.
“…He was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.”
Our minds will be totally healed from the stain of sin. The pain that the memories caused will be banished and overcome by the realization that Christ has gained the victory over the things that once caused us so much grief.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Now back to the beginning of my story. After ruminating on these things, it hit me: the reason I wanted to be a good father was not entirely from goodwill, but because I, out of frustration, wanted to show my dad how I could be a better father than he. I was angry and confused. God has shown me that if I had that attitude when raising children they wouldn’t turn out any better than I. God is the best father in the world and now with Him living in me, I don’t need to rely on my past experiences, ones of neglect and self-doubt. Now I can be the best that He longs for me to be because He has reconciled me to my father through Christ, and I can rely on His goodness and not my own. Now I can tell others about His grace and the healing power of the Gospel.
– Andrew Carroll
Scripture taken from the English Standard Version