Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Power of Words Not Spoken

This week I have the privilege of being a part of the ministry team for Fatherheart Ministries A School in Jacksonville, FL.  This is significant for me because of my own personal journey in finding Father. While Trevor Galpin was sharing on God, our real Father, I was having my own little time of revelation and reflection with Father God. Trevor read (NASB) Genesis 3:10, " He said, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself."" 

I immediately began to dissect the scripture along with Trevor.  Four key points: 1) Adam says to God, "I heard you." 2) He admits to being afraid. 3) He acknowledges that he was naked. 4) He makes a decision to hide based on the truth, as he perceived it. I found myself asking the question, "When God comes into your garden, do you recognize Him as Father or do you hide from His voice in fear?"

Fear causes us to hide our real self. When you're afraid, what do you cover yourself with? Anger, Rage, Victim, Passiveness, Over Explaining, Blame Shifting? What would it look like to not need to defend yourself? What would it be like to live in perfect love without fear? 

As I began to reflect on my past, I realized that I grew up in churches where I never once heard the preacher, Sunday school teacher or anyone say, "You have a Father in heaven and He loves you." I mean, sure we sang Jesus loves me. But, we were never told that Father God loves you. In fact, all we were ever really told was what we shouldn't do, couldn't do or what would happen if we did. There was a lot of emphasis on how to behave to assuage God's temper. 

Reflecting further, I realize that I transferred this same model of behavior modification into my parenting paradigm.  In my early years of parenting, I struggled with showing love and affection to my kids. I felt like 'well, they know I love them'. I need to tell them what to do and what not to do.  So, I focused on teaching them how to behave, what to say, good manners, etc. I even had an IF…THEN chart that told them what would happen if they did. Then one day, I began to wonder how my kids would behave when I wasn't around to enforce all of the rules we had set in place to keep their behavior in check.

I started thinking once again about my experience in the church and the number of teenage girls, including the pastor's daughter and myself that got pregnant out of wedlock. I started thinking about the number of people who professed to be believers but were sleeping around or doing other things from our list of don't do, shouldn't do, and if you do do, bad things will happen to you and I realized there was an unfortunate parallel happening between my parenting paradigm and my pastoring paradigm under which I had been shepherded.

In the absence of love, the emphasis for how to do life is based on rules, on behavior. With rules, at least for me, I'm only motivated by your ability to punish me when I'm in your presence. So if the enforcer is not present, I don't keep the rules. I'm sad or disappointed when I'm caught, but not enough to not break the rules. 

In my former church culture, you saw this often with a cycle of repentance. People would sin. They would feel guilty or get caught. They would flood the altar to repent and then they would repeat the process all over again, week after week; sometimes month after month. There was no power to sustain a victorious lifestyle.

In parenting, we would work with our kids on an issue. We would punish or chastise them to 'teach them a lesson.' They would continue to repeat the offense over and over again. Always repentant, always remorseful, definitely sorry to have gotten caught; they didn't like the consequences of their actions, but for some reason, it wasn't enough to keep them from making the same foolish choice time after time.

What was missing in both of these scenarios? Love. In both cases, love was never expressed, never shown. I can know in my head that you love me, but that head knowledge isn't enough to help me make good decisions. Love has to be expressed, felt. Love is to be experienced with your heart.  I'm not convinced in my head, I'm convinced in my heart. And it is out of our heart the issues of life flow.

I began to wonder, "What would it be like to have someone believe in you? To affirm you? To actually look you in the eye and say I love you?"  I wonder what would happen, if we would stop for the one and say, "Sweetheart, you're way too amazing to be doing that. I love you. I believe in you."

All of my life, I believed myself to be a failure because I couldn't stop doing all the things I shouldn't being doing. Thus, I lived in constant fear and regret; fear of disappointing people I very much wanted to be proud of me. I lived in regret because I kept disappointing those very people I didn't want to disappoint over and over again. To date, I've never had the pleasure of hearing my earthly dad say I love you. Growing up, I never had the pleasure of hearing a minister or church leader say, “Your Father in heaven loves you.”

I often wonder would I have made different choices if I had.  I can’t go back and change the past. I’m grateful that my past has led me to this place of finding God, my real Father. And while I can’t change the past, Father has graced me with the amazing privilege of being able to speak love, affirmation and blessings into the lives of four wonderful children.

In our home, day after day, I get to see our children make decisions and choices as they manage their part of our relationship. I get to see them direct their love towards their father and I in a way that honors us. I get to see the freedom and the strength in their character as love is expressed.  I get to observe them finding  security in who they are because of our expressed, felt love for them.

Don’t assume that people know you love them.  Tell them.  Don’t for a second give the evil one the power of words not spoken.  How are the words we are not saying impacting the lives of those who matter most to us?

What would hearing I love you do for you? What would I love you do for those around you? What could you accomplish if you knew someone believed in you? What could those around you accomplish if they knew you believed in them? What would you stop hiding if you knew that even your failures were safe with the people that surround you? Are the people around you safe with you even when they fail or make mistakes? Can you keep your love turned on even when someone is displaying their worst and look at them with acceptance and love despite their poor choices? Could your decision to love and to say I love you be the very thing that draws someone from the pit and bring them to the Father who loves them?

How will we know, if we never say the words?

©2012  Felicia Murrell