Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"The Rod" as an instrument of protection

I was thinking about the reason I even ever began to question the rightness of "spanking". I had been asked by a friend with 3 or 5 kids…or 3 kids with 2 on the way…what I thought about "spanking". I had a 21-yr old at the time and a total of 8 children so I oughta' know, right?

I'd been taught in Sunday School class the "who, what, when, where, and why" of spanking. I knew all about it. So, as I sat at my computer to begin explaining to her "who, what, when, where, and why" she should hit her kids…I first thought to do some searches on some websites to have, you know, some sites to send her on the subject. I had even requested the Sunday School materials from my former church in order to further my help of my friend.

Well, I found something in my searching that I was not expecting. Something…that stopped me dead in my tracks. As tho' all of the wheels in my head came to a loud…screeching…halt.

I found a website that explained that the ancient shepherds…carried a rod…and a staff. Two things. And, that the rod…was a short stick with spiked on the ends. It explained that modern shepherds now carried guns instead of rods.

The "rod"…was a weapon.

It was an ancient "gun".


This meant…It was not for the sheep at all…but for predators. It was for protecting the sheep from predators. (Now, do you hear my foot on the brakes as I screech to a halt?)

That was in January of 2008. It's been 3 1/2 yrs now since the last time I spanked a kid. (Sound like Spankers Anonymous)

What I experienced was that for the first year or so…was pure misery. I found that I could not handle any stressful situations with my kids without threatening them with a spanking or spanking them. I felt totally lost.

What a change I had to go thru!

So, over these years I have read a lot of books then, met a lot of people, and read a lot of articles online about "spanking". Remarkably, you never find any scientific or psychological studies done which show that spanking is "good for people". Always it's bad news. Brain damage. Lessened IQ's. More violent behavior. Depression. Anxiety. Sexual dysfunction. The list goes on...

The only proponents of "spanking" seem to be those who currently do it and feel that it is "God's idea." The only "evidence" for the goodness of spanking is a few verses in the Bible.

Well, as I thought about the ancient shepherd's rod as a weapon against predators and not for use on the sheep and how if this object were used to literally strike the sheep that it would harm, cripple, or weaken the sheep to such a degree as to actually make them more vulnerable to predators…I thought that, "Well, spanking proponents could say that the rod is a spiritual weapon against evil that when used on their deters them from evil…and the Bible says to resist the devil and he'll flee from you."

(This only works if you believe children are sinful...and have evil "in" them...which I do not believe...but for the sake of argument I'll go with it here)

So, try to imagine…a child who has been trained well to obey. Obedience to whatever command the parent gives. Imagine a very good kid. You know, the bumpersticker, "Question Authority" is of the devil, right? So, we don't want kids to ever question the parents. (Because that is disrespectful) We could call this "blind obedience" because the children are not supposed to know "why" they are doing something, only if the parent says, "Jump!" The child is to ask, "How high!" If the child asks, "Why?" then they have entered into a rebellious realm and we tell them, "Because I said so."

I was given the example of the need for this back when I was learning about spanking…
I was told of a boy (not a real boy I don't think)…who was so obedient to his dad…that one day…his dad yelled out a command. He told him to, "Drop to the ground and crawl to me now!" and the boy did it without question. Then, the boy, safely at his father's side now, was able to look back and see that there was a snake dangling from the tree above where he had been standing.

That's a compelling story, isn't it?

But, I wonder…what would a child trained to so blindly obey…do in another type of situation?

What if this boy were at camp or somewhere that a pedophile could get him alone…and tell him as an adult…in an authoritative tone…to do something very bad…or else he'd be spanked and he'd tell his mom that he was a very bad boy…

Then what?

Then what of this blind obedience to authority that the child has been instilled with? 

Would the boy be well-equipped to know how to discern "right" from "wrong" commands?

Would he be well-equipped to know how to decide for himself whether or not he should follow a command from an adult telling him to do something he feels is wrong?

Would he be well-equipped to be able to "question" that authority and know he was right to "rebel" against that adults authority?

Or, would he have been well-equipped...many times...after many ignore his own discomfort with a grown-ups command...and obey "Mister Bob"(whoever) with a submissive, "yes sir."

In a case like this...and there would actually be many literal real-life cases like this...has the "rod" which has been used to strike "the sheep" proved to be a rod of protection?
Or, has the rod, when used on "the sheep", proven to be a means of crippling and harm and of making the child more vulnerable to "predators" because that child learned to never...question...authority?

Romans 1 says…"that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

If in the literal world…hitting a sheep with a spiked club would make it more vulnerable to predators…it's pretty clear that that means that striking your children physically with "the rod" will do the same…it does not "beat the devil out of them"…it opens them to him.

Pic of a shepherd's rod...

I guess if you still wanna "use the rod" on your kid, you should at least abandon the wooden spoon/spatula type because they are not Biblical...and get yourself a real rod and use that on your child...because THIS is what the Bible was referring to...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cleaving to Our Parents...

I have a friend who on many occasions has expressed sentiments to me such as, "I always feel like I have to do more and be better and still I'll never be good enough." and she laments often of feeling worthless. I hate this. I want to be able to fix this for her. But, it's not even just her…it's like…so many woman feel this same way…Why do we feel this way?

For me...I can see it going way back...My parents never approved of "me" as I was. Sort of like the kid on "How to Train Your Dragon". My parents were constantly pushing me to be "better". They were constantly pushing me to be what they thought "I could be if I just tried hard enough". They believed I could be a straight A student if I just applied myself. So, if I brought home my report card and I had an A- in one class, they weren't like, "Great grades" they were like, "Why isn't this an A?"

Then...when I got pregnant at age 17...they were simply so disgusted with this situation that they saw nothing good in it. Nothing good in "me". When I paused and struggled over "what to do about it"...paused to think about if I should keep the baby or not...I felt like the fact that I actually stopped and thought, "Hmm...this was my mistake...if someone should lose their life over probably should be me..." that that was something noble in me...something selfless that deserved recognition in the midst of the big pile of manure I'd just shoveled onto the floor, but no. Nothing I did had any virtue in their eyes if I wasn't doing exactly what they thought I should. I was their worst case scenario for a child. My heart mattered nothing...ever...only my actions and if they didn't measure up...neither did I.

And, so, here I am today. I've been out of my parents' house since I was 17. And, that's more than half my life ago...24 years have gone since then. And, yet still today...I feel inadequate in every sense. I don't cook good-enough food. I don't homeschool good-enough. I don't spend enough time with the kids. I don't look good-enough. I'm worthless and good-for-nothing and can't understand why anyone talks to me at all. Every time the credit card machine judges me and flashed, "Approved" on the screen it makes me feel weird. I have like 800 "friends" on facebook and you know I've like requested maybe 100 of them. So, I've had 700 people request a connection with me, yet, I feel like everyone finds me stupid and annoying. I feel certain that every time I "share" something that it's an irritation. I feel mostly comfortable with clicking "like" buttons because at least no one can really fault me for reading an article and clicking "like" and so fb posts itself...that's not so irritating, is it?

<heavy sigh> How can someone my age... be so far removed from the days when I was treated that way and STILL feel this way? It's wired into us...literally...biologically...

So, I sat the other night trying to write a letter to my friend to encourage her, and I was thinking about all this and suddenly something struck me.

The Bible says we are to "LEAVE our parents and CLEAVE to our spouse."

I don't think this is talking about moving out of our parents' house. I don't think this is just merely talking about looking from our parents to our spouse for counsel and decision making either. I think it's more...

Well…(for we ladies) let's try to imagine how the men we are married to felt when they were getting to know us. Well, first let's imagine them meeting someone they felt was annoying, worthless, ugly, good-for-nothing, stupid, etc. When our men met women like that...did they...pursue them and try to marry them? When women like that approached them and tried to hook up with them did they jump for joy and go for it? Or, did they run far far away from them?

I asked my husband if while he was single if any women he'd identify as the aforementioned ever approached him and was he all excited and did he want to go out with them and marry them? He was like, "no…"

So, when our men 1st were getting to know us...they thought things like,
"Wow...I really like her."
"She's pretty"
"She's funny"
"She's smart"
"She would make a good mom for my children"
"She's awesome"
"I like being around her".

When they 1st met us they couldn't wait to see us again when we'd end a date and go our separate ways. We would be on their minds all day long till they got to see us again. When they'd see on their caller ID that it was us calling they felt an instant surge of adrenaline 'cause they were excited it was us. They laid in bed at night and anticipated someday when they'd get to sleep with us. They thought...we...were...AWESOME!


SO…if the man and woman are to be "one flesh"…one mind…united IN Christ...if I insist on believing that I am anything other than what my spouse sees me as...if I am clinging to these beliefs about myself which clearly came from my parents...if I'm clinging to these beliefs and allowing them to affect me "now"...I have not left my parents. I am still "cleaving" to my parents.

With all the reading I've done about child development…I don't believe it is too easy to stop clinging to these beliefs we're "trained" to have. When a baby girl is brought home and dropped off in a crib and left to cry alone in the darkness till she figures out that she's not worth coming to soothe and she learns that the only one who is always there for her is "herself". We "train" babies to conform to our schedules because we don't want them interfering with our lives. And, in this way we teach them that they are not worthy. Even the common belief that it is OK to hit children (spanking) teaches us that when we make mistakes we deserve to suffer and makes us frustrated when we see others doing wrong and not suffering for it.

Then for those of us with parents who always pushed and pushed us to "be better"…how are we ever to look in the mirror and be satisfied? How are we ever to look at our own lives, our own decisions, and feel good about ourselves? How are we ever to see ourselves as anything but someone who is in the way of others' pleasure, a nuisance, and someone who will never be good enough? Even though our parents didn't intend this, these lessons we are taught from day 1 actually wire our brains and makes it almost unnatural to begin to believe now as adults that we ARE worthy and we ARE loved. It's like trying to unlearn being able to read or ride a bike. Once you've learned something, it's in there.

But...that's why we're transformed by the renewing of our minds...and why we can do ALL THINGS thru Him who strengthens us.

Partly I have no hope for people trained this way. Partly I have no hope that I'll ever be able to shake the feeling of worthlessness and inadequacy. But, if we can do all things thru Christ…then somehow this must be possible…for me…and for you.

And, when I can't see the whole path ahead of me, I can at least do what Bob on "What About Bob" learned…and take baby steps. And, last night…as I thought to write a letter to my friend who feels this way who also told me, "I find it strange to feel encouraged by my dad", that we can at least start by identifying and calling what our parents did with us what it actually was. We don't have to stop loving or appreciating our parents. You actually love them more if you love them even tho' you see them for who and what they really are…fallible. If we insist on protecting our parents' reputations in our minds by insisting they did good with us…when we are adults who can't even love ourselves…we are lying…and no matter how bad a job our parents have done with us pretty much all of our parents have at least taught us not to lie.

So, I believe that the Biblical command is where we need to start…and if we do that everything will eventually work out and fall into place where it should. We need to, as women, we need to separate ourselves from our parents. Separate…not estrange. Separate. And, when we do that we need to identify how our parents made us feel. Identify what they did. Call it what it is. Allow ourselves to feel the hurt and the anger we felt being abandoned to our cribs to cry alone while mom and dad slept contentedly together. We need to allow ourselves to feel the anger and even rage we were not allowed to feel when we were struck by our parents and were not allowed to react in anger or we got hit again…allow ourselves the time to be angry about it and then to forgive…and then cleave to the one who pursued us because he thought we were awesome…pretty…smart…and then begin to see ourselves thru his eyes…

It's at least a start...

But, what do you do if your marriage is so old and messed up that your husband only sees you now as a b-word...well...I guess this isn't a very encouraging blog posting...'cause I know our lives are never as simple as a blog posting...but...for the ideal...for the a very good start...and I would have to wonder that for those of us who have relationships which are no longer so ideal...could it be that if we do not begin to see each other the way the OTHER sees us if they instead begin to see us as we see ourselves? Humans...are so complex...

That's me as a baby... 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How to "teach your child a lesson!" when they've been bad

We went to see, "The Lion King" in 3D on Friday. It's a really cool movie. (But, it wasn't made to be in 3D so that part wasn't that much of a thrill…so…really…you can skip the theater)
In the movie, if you've never seen it, King Mufasa has a son, Simba. They're both lions if you hadn't guessed. Simba is an energetic and curious little guy with an uncle who hates him. His uncle, Scar, hates him because until Simba came along, if something had happened to Mufasa then Scar was next in line to become king. Now, Simba was. So, Scar is plotting to get rid of Simba…and the king if he can.

One morning Mufasa takes Simba up onto a ridge and shows him all that will someday be his. He tells him that everything the light touches is their kingdom. Simba looks off in the distance and asks, "What about that dark shadowy place?" Mufasa explains that that is beyond their borders and that he is never to go there.

So, later that same day Simba bounces over to see his uncle. He tells the truth to Simba about what that "shadowy place is" in a tricksey way to get Simba to go there. He manages to lure Simba out away from the protection of the kingdom of his father into a dark area where Scar can get his minions (hyenas) to kill him.

Fortunately, disaster is averted and Mufasa is alerted before the hyenas can kill Simba. Now, the king is angry. He'd specifically told Simba not to go there and he did. And, he took his play buddy, Nala, with him. As the two cubs walk behind the angry back home they both walk with heads bent low. Mufasa sends Nala home and says that he's "going to teach his son a lesson."

At that, Simba gulps. The makers of the movie are familiar with that cultural situation. They are familiar with that "phrase" and what it means to most American children.

So, Mufasa teaches his son a lesson for his disobedience. He sits with him and shares with him how angry he is BECAUSE of how afraid he was that he was going to lose Simba. He shares his heart with Simba and in the end…Simba "gets it". Simba understands why what he did was so wrong. And, then…Mufasa touches Simba in a loving, playful way and they romp around a little and laugh together.

What "lesson" did Mufasa want to teach his son? He wanted to teach him to "never do that again!" Right?

What did he actually teach his son?

He taught him that…

His disobedience puts him in danger.
His disobedience puts others in danger.
His disobedience hurts his father.
His disobedience makes his father angry.
That even when he disobeys, that his father loves and accepts him and is the most important thing in his life.

Do you think that Simba will be likely to do it again?
Do you think that Simba now loves his dad more or less?
Do you think that Simba now fears or feels safer with his dad?

It's just a cartoon and obviously Simba feels nothing. :P But, you know, right there it is on the screen so easy for us to see "the truth" about what it should mean to "teach our son a lesson".

Sadly, what happens when a real-life human parent gets into the same situation with their child, what they teach their child is something very different. Normally, we all know what it means for a child who has done something very naughty and their parent takes them off privately to "teach them a lesson". It means they're gonna get their butt beat. Sometimes in Jesus' name, right?

Let's go back to Mufasa and Simba…what if that's what Mufasa would have done? What if Mufasa would have turned around and bitten and slapped around (the way a lion would "spank") little Simba and really "put a hurtin' on him"? What if Mufasa woulda' tanned his hide? What would Simba have learned?

He would have learned that when he's naughty he'd better not let dad find out 'cause dad will hurt him. He'd have learned that when he messes up that dad turns on him and hurts him. And, he'd have learned to fear his dad.

And, just picturing seeing the noble Mufasa whompin' his tiny ignorant son's butt makes me lose respect for Mufasa. That scene in the movie would have definitely stripped Mufasa of his nobility.

It's so easy to see it. It really is.

When our children are naughty…they obviously need to be "taught a lesson". They need to be taught why their naughtiness is unacceptable and who is hurts. They need to be taught how their actions have made us feel and why. And, they need to be taught that no matter what they do, that we're there for them. They hurt us when they're naughty because they matter so much to us and that will never change. They need to be taught that when they mess up that we'll be there to help them clean up that mess and to move on from there.

But, that is not what real-life human kids learn in the US, is it?

Real-life human children are not focused on "others" and the "effects" of their actions. Real-life human children, when they mess up, are focused on one thing: themselves. They're focused on the fact that they're gonna get their butt beat. They're focused on the fact that that hurts and they want to find any escape route they can to get out of being beat.

The "lessons" that human parents teach their kids is only that "when you do wrong you're gonna get hurt by me." And, that lesson makes it all but impossible to get the children to focus on what they've done and who they may have hurt. How can they? When all they can think of is how much they're about to get hurt, how can they focus on anything else?

Think about it…

A person who commits a "hit and run" with their car…do you think their parents "taught them a lesson" when they messed up the way Mufasa taught or the way traditional human parents do? I have never read studies, but, I bet there would not be a single person who commits a hit-and-run who had a dad like Mufasa. I'd bet that they all had parents who "taught them a lesson" according to the badness level of their deeds, and hitting someone with your car would be one extremely bad deed which would trigger in the driver the highest level of fear and self-preservation. Forget the guy who I just hit and if he needs and ambulance…gotta save yourself from getting caught for this one!

On every level of error and bad behavior, to whatever degree of "badness", your child knows the process. When they err…is their understanding, enlightenment, healing, acceptance and restoration? Or is their condemnation, judgment, rejection and pain?

Simba could have sung Psalm 23…
"Even tho' I walk thru the dark shadowy place where the hyenas wanna eat me, I won't be afraid, because your rod and staff they comfort me…"

Mufasa's rod was just like the ancient shepherd's rod: a weapon to be used against predators.
Mufasa's staff was just like God's: he taught and guided Simba away from that danger in a way Simba would understand and not fear.

And, Mufasa taught Simba that...
"When we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness…" (James)

The rebellious spirit in Simba that led him to defy Mufasa's orders was dealt with when Mufasa spent time with Simba and showed Simba his heart. When Mufasa spent time talking with and explaining to Simba what was really happening, Simba was forgiven and cleansed.

How about your kids? What do you teach them when you "teach them a lesson?" Not what do you think you're teaching them…put yourselves in their place and imagine being them…facing you…and what have they really learned to expect when they are naughty?

It's never too late to change your own naughty ways and start doing things differently...

The Lion King Clip:

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