One of the most crucial assignments my counselor gave me last fall and winter was to write a truth script. That is, as it was discovered what lies I had come to believe, I wrote them down, and then had to work, with the help of others as needed, to answer each specific lie with the truth.
Before that truth script is copied and pasted here on The Blessing of Verity, it may be helpful to read the following:
During the toughest months with Tommy, I allowed myself to be mentally and emotionally bullied by those who unkindly voiced their opinion to us that our other children should not have to make sacrifices or be given additional responsibilities due to his presence in our family.
When the mountain fell on us, mostly on me, with Tommy’s needs growing out-of-control during the long months of government delays with his paperwork, desperately trying to access any available help or support while living with less than no margin caring for a child who needed full time nursing care without any outside help, I was in an exceedingly vulnerable emotional position. During this time, I was swayed by the wrong-headed thinking of those who themselves would begrudge making similar sacrifices in order to take on the time-consuming and sometimes unpleasant care Tommy required.
For me, the trouble was complicated by the fact that Tommy was adopted and that we were a somewhat public family. As my counselor has sagely noted, the internet world magnifies everything. I felt inhuman levels of inward and outward pressure to make it all succeed, to show that I was competent to do the job I had said I was competent do even though the situation was turning out to be far different than anyone could have predicted based on all the best facts available beforehand. I was highly aware of the scorn of our enemies, engaging in constant negative self-talk (that I now readily recognize in many other conscientious moms), struggling terribly with wondering why it seemed like God had withdrawn His help from us, harshly judging myself to be responsible for every perceived failure.
I viewed our family through the lens of those who hate us, and I saw failure in every direction I looked.
This unhealthy perspective and my subsequent poor decisions had many ill effects on our family.
For instance, in order to avoid the negative judgments of others, I stayed home from church for many months rather than ask our older children or our church family to help us make Sundays work. By doing this, I effectively stole the opportunity from others to receive the blessing of helping by convincing myself that we would become a resented burden to them.
I sucked up as much of the extra workload and responsibility onto myself as was humanly possible to avoid letting it fall on anyone else, so much so that everyone else in the family would be done for the night at 8 pm at the latest, while I regularly stayed up until 2 or 2:30 am, working to ensure everything was ready for the next day, which for me typically began full force around 5:30 am. In order to make hospital appointment days or any other special occasions work, I had to rise after one or two hours’ sleep. This meant that for months I was working an impossibly physically and emotionally demanding job, driving my exhausted body along mostly on stress and coffee, similar to a single mom taking night classes who also has to work two jobs to make ends meet.
I even turned down the much-needed help Grace Kauk offered us primarily because I foolishly let myself be bullied by the strongly-worded opinion that if we accepted Grace’s offer, we would be immorally perpetuating her supposed patriarchal notions that women were just made for serving, when we should be urging her to pursue a real life. Apparently Grace wouldn’t be offering to help us unless there was something dangerously wrong with her upbringing, her worldview and maybe her psyche, too. Unfortunately, the advice I was given fits neatly with our innate human self-centeredness and our culture’s prevailing view of a real life, which is based on a lie, and not on God’s perspective.
All these decisions and more flowed from my emotional reactions to the wrong-headed perspectives of others both inside and outside the church.
After Tommy died, it took the hard work of many months with the help of a remarkably clear-headed and skilled counselor to unravel the lies I had absorbed and bring clarity to my thinking.
One of the reasons those lies are not true is that they fly in the face of how God designed human beings and families to thrive. By giving our children responsibilities integral to the success of the family and appropriate to their ability levels, Joe and I are not living in the dark ages, expecting our older children to raise our younger children, stealing our kids’ childhoods, neglecting their needs, or keeping them from their best chance at a fulfilling life. God made us to be a family, and a stable, loving family who meets challenges together is the best environment for nurturing healthy future adults who can contribute great good to the world they live in.
During the whole time that I was reacting to the judgments of others against our family for supposedly depriving our other children of a normal childhood and unfairly loading them with adult responsibilities, in reality, Joe and I were providing our children with all the key ingredients of the healthy, happy childhood that would best prepare them for successful adult life: an affectionate and cohesive family unit, a solid education, many opportunities for fun and healthy social interactions, a generous amount of free, unstructured play time with access to plenty of fresh, outdoor country space, great books, and creative materials, and required chores appropriate to their level of development, among other benefits.
God designed people to thrive and succeed best not when they are encouraged to think first of themselves and their own agendas, having their feelings consulted and indulged at every turn, receiving their favorite everything (preferably without delay), of course making sure it all looks good for social media, but when from an early age they are given ability-appropriate responsibilities that benefit their entire families. Even our self-absorbed culture is beginning to catch on that it is detrimental to the futures of children to rear them with the Disney princess belief that life is all about themselves and their own achievements: Wall Street Journal: Why Children Need Chores
In addition, the truth is that God has designed the specific circumstances of this family to help form the character of each of our children and to prepare them for the future He has for each of them. If He calls parents into an unusual calling, such as the foreign mission field, adopting children with special challenges, or any other ministry, He will use every experience to accomplish His purposes in each of their children as well.
Our children’s responses to the difficulties God will allow into their lives are ultimately between them and God. If they choose bitterness, yes, they might join the ranks of those who blame their parents for every difficulty in their lives and publicly blast them on social media or join hater groups that promote online bullying. We can not and must not make our parental decisions based on fear of the possibility of our culture’s present scorn or our children’s potential future scorn. We have all known kindhearted, delightful, joyful, empathetic people with harsh and loveless upbringings who focus on how blessed they are, and bitter, angry, cruel, hardhearted people with normal, stable upbringings who focus on what they think they deserved and didn’t get.
We would never deliberately lead our family into certain disaster, but we know full well that even if we would attempt to keep out all potentially unpleasant challenges by placing barriers of NO around our lives, God could choose difficulties for our family that we would never choose for ourselves. I think of a close friend who, along with her family, has lived for years with the limiting effects of her crippling arthritis. If we could design what we considered to be the best possible upbringing for our children, would we include a mother with crippling arthritis? Would we ever include serious illnesses, accidents, disabilities, tragic losses, financial straits, or any situation that appears to be less-than-ideal? And yet, is it not possible that without these challenges, our children would not be prepared for the unique future that God has for each of them?
Is it possible that God’s plan for us and our children will be radically different than our culture’s ideal?
Whose vision for our lives are we committed to living out everyday?
Who is ultimately in control?
Does God know what He’s doing?
Can we rest in His goodness and sovereignty and embrace the path He lays out before us and our children, challenges and all?
God knew exactly what He was doing when He brought Tommy into our family.
More telling-it-like-it-is in the next post in this series, Lies and the Truth: Part One