Wednesday, June 29, 2011


"To topple the 'stronghold of our experiences' we must 'let God be found true, though every man be found a liar' (Romans 3:4). The only One who has a right to shape our lives is Jesus Christ. We must determine to allow nothing and no one to shape us, not even our personal experiences, unless they are consistent with the promises of God. In truth, who is ruling our lives, God or our experiences?"
Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlefields 

Who is this child?
I heard once that personhood can be defined in three parts: (1) Identity, (2) Acceptance, (3) Approval. This intrigued me, as I have become increasingly convinced that our precious adopted children's wholeness and healing directly correlates with their understanding and belief in who they are. Do you remember what God the Father said about Jesus when He was baptized? "This is (1) My Son, (2) My Beloved, (3) In Whom I Delight!" (Matthew 3:17) Jesus received this public affirmation from His Father--his identity as a son of his Father, his acceptance as one who is loved, and the approving delight of his Father. When we ask the question, "Who is this child?" as parents, we have the opportunity to partner with the Holy Spirit to see God's eternal purposes manifested in his or her life, going way past the surface issues of behavior into the depth of their identity in Christ.

What is God Seeing? What is God Saying?
My favorite example of this is found in the story of Gideon (Judges 6)-- I love this story! There is Gideon threshing wheat in secret, hiding in a wine press so that the Midianite enemy can't steal it from him. And then the Angel of the Lord shows up and says, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor." Notice, Gideon is not even wearing armor, he has no sword, he is hiding in justified fear--there is nothing about him that would indicate that he is indeed a "might man of valor." What in the world was God thinking?! More importantly, what was God seeing?

Facts or Truth?
Do you see the huge gap between the Word of the Lord and the facts at hand?!  There is a disturbing and direct opposition between God's words and what can be seen at the present moment. In this situation it is key to recognize the difference between facts and truth. Facts are simply an accurate description of a circumstance. Facts change, but Truth--God's Word-- remains.

How often do we look at our children and see only a repeated negative behavior or character trait. We must look to who they are in the Spirit. Notice, God did not say, "You will be a mighty man of valor once I finish my work in you." I don't know about you, but to me it almost feels like God made a mistake here. But rather, I think what is going on is that God saw something in Gideon in the Spirit, something that had not yet manifested but was, nevertheless, TRUE. Also, let's take note that God did not attack him with words like, "Gideon, you are a gutless wimp. Shape up here." As with Jesus, God spoke out loud into Gideon his identity in the very midst of the facts that spoke as loud as any words, "Fearful, not Mighty."

Calling Forth the Treasure
Part of our role as fathers and mothers is to speak WORDS OF LIFE and TRUTH
into our children--into, over, and in the midst of their brokenness, their pain and their sinful behavior. As I mentioned in my last post, Parenting in Grace: Identity,
you may find this "Parenting Forward" as counter intuitive as we have. It feels at times, especially in the heat of the moment when you are so disappointed, angry or worn-down, as if you are lying. But I think what is actually going on is that in that awesome moment of opportunity (that looks suspiciously like another behavior issue that you need to get control of!) you and I are actually "speaking those things that are not as though they were." (Romans 4:17) You are calling forth by declaration, or what my good friend Michelle calls "calling forth the treasure."

Words that Shape Identity
Stephen and I have discovered a wonderful benefit from doing this over the years. As we have declared Truth in the midst of opposing facts we have equipped our children with language for them to use when they think about who they are. Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so he is."  You and I have the awesome opportunity, given by God Himself, to speak words that shape how our children think of themselves and in doing so over and over throughout the years, we are actually shaping who they are--partnering with God to transform them from orphans into sons and daughters! Now that is something worth doing regardless of the cost!

A Real Life Example
Now, before I close, I'd like to give you an example from our experience. And please know that this is not how we always do things. We have tried to make it a part of the culture of our family, but we have missed the mark often--and still we see God be faithful. I thank Him for that daily. But let me tell you one story.  (Excuse my incorrect grammar as I strive to honor my children.)

One of our children came to us with an amazingly honed coping skill; this child could lie with the best! I am talking impressive here. At first we thought time would take care of this problem. Surely love and security would replace the need to lie regularly. As I fixated on the problem (never helpful--lesson learned!) I became anxious and fearful of where this behavior would lead our child. One thing I knew-- I needed prayer, for myself -- and for my child. As a group of trusted friends prayed, one felt strongly that God was saying that this child was actually a person of integrity and that they would in fact have a reputation for integrity. Now, at that point the facts were directly opposing this word and I had no vision for it, but by faith I made a choice to believe. It seems like a no-brainer now, but at that point it was a real leap! 

I vividly remember one day when something had been taken and our child looked me in the face and denied responsibility. I knew this was a lie. But how kind was God to remind me right then of that word--this is a person of integrity. So, with everything in me wanting to say, "You are a lier. Again you have lied. What is wrong with you?!" (I know that is ugly, but my fear for the future caused me to have such a strong reaction,) -- instead I declared out loud the Truth of this precious child's identity, calling that thing that was not as though it were. "You, my child, are a person of integrity. What you are saying is a lie, but you are not a lier. This is not who you are." And from that point on, over the years and to this day, we are very careful to publicly and privately celebrate this truth when we see it, and declare it as truth when we don't.  

I do want to clarify that there were still consequences to the lying; we aren't talking about sweeping things under the proverbial rug. I am thrilled and humbled to say that years later this amazing young person sat in an office at school and when asked what their strengths were, these were the words that came forth (the way our child thinks when asked about who they are), "People know they can trust me and rely on me." And it is absolutely true--this is the reputation of this young person. How thankful to God we are-- for it is clear to us that this is His hand at work. 

What are some of the "push backs" of this approach to parenting? What do we do when our child says, "No I'm not!" at our declarations? Any thoughts?

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