Boundaries And Choices
A critical dimension of our sexuality and sexual development are boundaries and choices. If those aren’t well established, we are at the mercy of our feelings, desires, and peer pressure. To live within boundaries requires us to step back, recognize the difference that results from living within these, and thankful for their protection. Ironically, it is these boundaries that give us freedom.
When I graduated from seminary and began my life as a Licensed Professional Counselor. I was a single twenty-five-year-old male in a female dominated field. Ninety-nine percent of my clients were women and most of my friends were female. I was terrified. I had an ETHOS drilled into me from my family and my training regarding the importance of boundaries. I also knew of a few cases where one accusation of wrongdoing had sunk a person’s reputation and career. I set up incredibly strict boundaries. These were for my freedom. Within these boundaries, I had less to worry about. Later, I was working at a college and was told I needed to loosen my boundaries if I was going to work with college students. I was surprised. I was also quite confused by the suggestion and wondered if I should loosen up. I quickly realized though that I had more freedom by using these boundaries and I added more — like never eating alone with a woman who was not my wife.
Boundaries are entrenched into your ETHOS at an early age as we learn from our families and absorb their energy and culture. As we begin to play that out in our lives, we free ourselves, adopting some of the constraints put on us by our families and dispensing with others. We — and our children — have the freedom to choose. Our culture speaks out of both sides of its mouth. On one hand we are told to be free and choose for ourselves whatever we want. But, on the other hand, if someone chooses to act with reservation, wisdom or within a biblical sexual ethic, they are ridiculed as if they made the “wrong” choice. Find freedom in boundaries, your choices, and in saying, “NO.”
How To Say “No”
Learning to say, “NO,” is a crucial skill. We are always saying, “NO.” In effect, every time we say, “Yes,” to something — we are, in turn, saying, “NO,” to something else.
Teach your children to say, “NO.”
Teach them to have the vocal and internal ability to stand up for themselves and have boundaries. Most of us are familiar with the concept of fight or flight. If we get into a sticky situation, we have a release of adrenaline and we are, in a sense, forced to expend that energy by fighting, or fleeing. However, there is another response — freezing — that has serious consequences since the energy built up by adrenaline and angst rarely gets resolved.
When men and women that have been abused or violated tell their story, they usually regret not having spoken up, fought, or run away. Instead, they froze. However, despite — or maybe because of — freezing, they survived. They made it through. Now many remain stuck because the energy that was built up needs a place to go. It needs to be released. From this experience, they quickly learned to remain small and silent. Their ability to say, “NO,” diminishes.
Lisaand Bretthave invested in their children with a vision for their children’s future success. They started young, teaching and training their children in a biblical sexual ethic. As they went into each year of life with their children they also knew that part of the bargain was trusting God in the raising of their children. Hope in things unseen. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Your faith must be in God and His work in the lives of you and your children.
Hope breeds a peace that passes all understanding. Hope expects great things as well.
Hope for the best things for each of your children.
I want you to be able to place the most important thing at the top of your goals in the raising of your children.
What is this most important goal?
Dr. George Barnaspeaks of this goal in his bookRevolutionary Parenting.
What is your primary goal? With the primary goal Dr. Barna’s research found all the other priorities we may have for our children will work themselves out.
Hope for great things! Expect much!
Be intentional at preparing them well. May your children become adults that are “Champions for Christ.” — this ought to be our top goal.
 Barna, George. Revolutionary Parenting.U.S.A.: BarnaBooks, 2007.
Managing Hurts, Failures And
As parents, we can do everything we are supposed to do and bad things can still happen.
Paulis a twenty-two-year-old that was taught a biblical sexual ethic, but chose to take his own path. He decided he had to try everything out for himself. Learning the hard way is a reality for many people. We grieve their choices. We love them. We pursue them. But we must also remember that these are their choices.
Juliannais eighteen and a survivor. She grew up in a great home with a loving, single mom that talked with her early, used micro-conversationsoften, and built into her daughter a solid sense of identity, strength, and a passion to live by a biblical sexual ethic. Her ETHOS was unshakeable. That is, it was unshakeable until her first boyfriend. She met a young man in college, and they began dating. By the end of their first year together she was a different person. He seemed to be sweet and caring, and said and did all the right things. He slowly nibbled away at her soul though with demeaning comments that she was not quite good enough. He would criticize her appearance, weight, intelligence, and decisions. Eventually, she had no resolve left and when he pushed on her boundaries physically, she had no fight left in her. She surrendered to his desires without a fight or a care. She did not realize what had been happening until it was too late.
I have heard this story numerous times from young women. The behavior of these “men” is disgusting and heartbreaking. This is grooming, leading to rape, even though there was no fight and no one said, “NO.”
Jillgrew up with a dad that loved her and she was a strong confident twenty-five-year-old even though her mom had left them years ago. Her dad was proactive, engaging, funny, and raised his little girl the best he knew how. She had a strong biblical sexual ethic — an ETHOS — and was excelling in all areas of her life as a teenager. She went to a party though and had something to drink that had been tampered with. She woke up the next morning in a lot of pain and bleeding. She had been “roughed up,” and was unaware of what had truly happened at the party the night before. Now, at age twenty-five, she has grown in strength and resolve to help other girls never find themselves in a situation like that. She has a passion and calling that, when combined with her story, has propelled her to make a difference in a unique way that only someone in her shoes could do.
Freedom From Shame
Shame steals everything — life, joy, desire, and a future. For many of us, our default setting is to stay here — to let it take up residence and settle. My hope and desire for you as a parent is that you can find freedom from shame in your own personal story. I want you to be able to see that when shame enters the story, it is only there to steal, kill, and destroy. Sound familiar? The marvelous truth is that God is a redeemer. Rest in this. Believe this. Live this out. Face that shame. Recognize that it only sucks you into a spiral of self-hatred and hatred of others. Realize that it only steals your joy and any desire you might have left.
Dr. Dan Allenderexplains in his speaking and writing how shame can be overcome. The unlikely source of joy is found in being broken. To feel sorrow and grieve your loss allows you to then find yourself in a place of gratitude with no room for contempt or hatred. You can now dance for joy. What does this dance look like? This freedom? This joy?
It is being truly broken and then, as Proverbs 31:25 says:
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” (NIV).
What a beautiful picture of strength, grace, peace, and fearlessness that can laugh at the devil’s schemes as you rest in God’s perfect plan for your life.
So, what is the task for us?
First, we must address our story as parents.
What are you holding on to? Where are you all tied up by the enemy?
This can usually be found as you review your story.
I would dare say that we all have places in our story that need attention, care, and honesty.
Paulhad to try everything. He made his way. One of his biggest hurdles in finding freedom for himself will be forgiving himself for the pain he caused his family and others.
Juliannadid nothing wrong. She knows that in her head, but doesn’t feel it in her heart. She will need to forgive herself for trusting him, even though there was no way she could have known. She faces the insurmountable hurdle of forgiving her ex-boyfriend.
Jillbeats herself up for going to that party and touching that drink. She has found forgiveness for the guys that raped her even in the vagueness of some of the memories.
Forgiveness is never saying it was okay. Forgiveness is loving someone in the way that God does — not giving them what they deserve for their actions or hearts. Truthfully, we all deserve one thing — and that is hell. By the grace of God, we are offered free, eternal life. Forgiveness is not something we do once we feel like it. It is a conscious choice of our own personal freedom. It is cutting the ties with someone that harmed us and still has a hold on us. This is so difficult for our emotions to grasp, which, if we are not careful, keep us captive.
Forgiveness is freedom. Be free!
Growth And Your Joy
What comes from relieving ourselves of the burden of shame and resting in God’s forgiveness?
We grow. We truly experience joy. We find freedom. We are who God created us to be — worshipers.
Let’s look at this from another angle. Your son or daughter needs to learn about this process. They need to understand about the real world. They don’t need us only for shelter. They need us to prepare them. They need us to prepare them for the hurts and disappointments that will inevitably come. They need us to teach them to stand up for themselves and for others. I was driving home from a movie recently with my oldest son and talking to him about the difficulty of going against the grain with friends — standing up for someone that is being picked on, or calling out dirty jokes and conversations that are disrespectful of women or others different from themselves as unacceptable. It starts with one. He can be that one.
Lead your children into parts of your story — your successes and your failures. This should be done carefully, taking into consideration their age, maturity, and discretion — meaning their understanding that some things that are shared within the family aren’t to be shared publicly. They will learn more from your failures if you will be honest and real about how these affected you, hurt you, and even hurt others.
Face YOUR shame over past actions.
Face YOUR fears of being found out and being unloved.
Model for them how to live FREE.
Share YOUR story.
Enable them to speak up, to say, “NO,” to flee when necessary, and to change the world around them.
You are the most influential person in their life from birth to about age ten. Around the age of eleven, everything changes. Remember, the teenage years do not have to be the nightmare that so many parents have with their children. They need to take more risks. They MUST learn how to fail gracefully.Let them learn this while they are under your watch so that you can show them how to get back up and try again.
This is a beautiful part of our calling as parents that began on the day of conception.
Prepare them to fail. Show them how to get back up.
Prepare them to face disappointment with a faith in God that brings them back to life, but know that this doesn’t always happen overnight.
Prepare them to face heartache with a trust in their God that He even has all those details worked out for their good. He is a gracious God.
Rest in that as a parent. Pass that peace that passes all understanding on to your children early (Philippians 4:7, NKJV) — the earlier the better.
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