Have you ever done what God asks but then everything seems to get worse? That’s one of those experiences that can really try one’s faith. I was reading in Exodus the other day and I realized that Moses is no stranger to this, but I have the vantage point of seeing the whole plan of God unfold, beyond that part where things really go south quick.
Remember when Moses had that amazingly faith-building talk with the the Holy One right before he and his brother Aaron went to the elders of Israel for the first time?
“Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the Lord had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped” (Exodus 5:29-31).
It had been a long time since any of them had heard from God, and now they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that He was about to do something to alleviate their misery. Moses and Aaron must have felt pretty empowered as only one can, when they’ve just had a word from God.
Has this happened to you? You will be reading along in His Word when all of a sudden, it is as if the words are only for you, speaking into your spirit for your life at this moment in time. It’s as if a portal between heaven and earth is opened and you are right there with The Holy One. Some people experience this through music worship and they know it is not merely that the music is stirring their soul – they know that they are meeting with God. If you have not experienced this kind of heaven on earth, where God speaks to you ‘face to face as a man speaks to a friend (Exodus 33:11), ask God now to come to you this way. And so He speaks and you obey.
Moses and Aaron know by personal experience that their God, the God above all others, is on their side. Or maybe it is that they realize that they are on God’s side. And now they go with God’s plan to speak to pharaoh – arguably the most important , feared, and influential man in the land, considered a god by the Egyptians – with an emboldened war cry: “Let God’s people Go”.
And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness (Exodus 5:1).
These are the mountaintop experiences are they not? The pinnacle moments of one’s faith. No one can touch me now, God is with me. I know I am on the right track. Nothing can stop me. The thing for which I have prayed has been answered and I am moving forward in real faith, not just that fake-it-’till-you’-make-it kind that, if we are honest, gets us squeaking by most of the time. It is time to act, and I do it. It was time for Moses and Aaron to act and they do it.
But then, after doing what God says to do, the unexpected happens. Nothing goes as it was assumed it would. And in fact, things get worse. Confusion sets in. Pharaoh gives a new order as a direct result of Moses and Aaron’s speech to him.
“You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota” (Exodus 5:7-8).
We can imagine how Moses must have felt in this moment and in the moments after the Israelite leaders blame him for their increased work load. We can imagine because we’ve been there ourselves, when what we do for God seems to backfire and make things worse.
Has God given you a promise, asked you to act upon it, but then things seem to be worse for having done it? I call that the storm before the calm. When what seems to me to be unanswered prayers because of how circumstances look, I keep asking – pestering, like the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 when she keeps hounding the unrighteous judge. But I wonder….at what point will I stop ‘asking that he will’ and start ‘thanking that He is’.
I think that’s where Moses and Aaron were. They had to make a decision whether they would trust God to the end, despite what they saw, despite the fear that looking at current circumstances would have brought. We know the end of the story in Exodus. We know the victory, the calm. But for that space of time they did not. It is, I believe, in those moments like that where we have to really solidify in our minds whether God is trustworthy or not. When things look worse is not the time to give up and it is not the time to keep praying for that which He has already said He will do. Maybe this is the time we thank Him for it. Even if we can’t see it coming to fruition. Maybe this is the time to recount the faithfulness of God to His other Promises. If you don’t have enough personal experiences where things get worse and then get better, maybe this is the time to mine the riches of the Word for all the other examples where He shows Himself faithful to that which He promised and we already have the evidence that He brought it to pass.
GOD IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL TO BRING ABOUT THAT WHICH HE PROMISED.
Hebrews 10: 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised
Have you ever considered how shepherds walk and guide their flock from behind, while the sheep move forward ahead? From the perspective of the sheep, the shepherd is ‘unseen’ and with the gentle movements of his staff, barely perceived by them. Have you ever had your faith derailed because you expect to walk WITH God, side by side, so you can ‘see’ and ‘feel’ Him, because you believe ‘feeling’ and ‘seeing’ is believing? I have! Isn’t it usually when we can’t ‘see’ or ‘feel’ Him that we accuse Him of not being there for us? Remember He is our shepherd! We can take a lesson from Jacob/Israel who knew God as: “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd for my whole life until today (Gen. 48:15).
Behavior modification is often the method sought out by well meaning mothers and fathers parenting children, whether the children come from hard places or not. See a behavior you don’t like? Let’s change it. There are a variety of methods available for behavior change, some more parent-child connecting than others, some actually harmful to the parent-child relationship. But what they all have in common is the belief that at the root of mankind’s problem are some behaviors we need to be altered by renovating or making over what is already there.
King David knew this is not the way toward lasting change. And he needed lasting change.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.Psalm 51:10-12
This is David’s prayer after becoming overwhelmed with the weight of his sin. He prays for something he doesn’t currently have – a heart clean from corruption that stems from sin. In Hebrew clean heart is lev tahor. Lev is heart and tahor is clean. To the ancients (the ones to whom the scriptures were written) heart didn’t mean that blood pumping organ, and it didn’t mean just where we ‘feel’ things; it meant the seat of the mind and will. We moderns might think of the brain to be the seat of these things, but to David it was in the heart that not only emotion lay, but also volition (the power of one’s will) and cognition (thinking).What made him him resided in the heart.
What David recognizes is that he needs something new, and a plain reading of this verse in English suggests that. But there is something wonderful that is hidden within the Hebrew language that is missed in English. Hebrew has two words that are translated as create: bara and yatsar. Of course David knows these two words and their significant differences.
David does not use the standard verb which means to do, to fashion, to make (yatsar), referring to shaping something from existing material. Instead, David, the man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22), uses the Creator verb, bara’. Bara’ is about bringing into being something that was not there before. “In the beginning God bara’ the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Bara’ is only used in the scriptures with God as the object. Only God can make something out of nothing.
David’s lev houses the essence of who he is and he knows that it is inadequate to be ‘re-built’ by anything already existing. In other words, he can not provide this building project himself – only God can bara’. David doesn’t need a renovation project, he needs a new house; he doesn’t need a makeover, he needs a new birth.
David teaches us that we can’t reform ourselves apart from God creating a new heart in the way that only He can. It is Creation week all over again.
May we look for only for that which brings lasting behavior change to your life and the lives of your children. Quick fixes through behavior modification only shape what is already there. Pray that God will bara – it is what He is so good at!
(Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Proverbs 127:1)
Do you ever feel powerless to effect change in the chaos of trauma in your son or daughter’s life? I know I sure have. Some days it was so bad that I questioned whether my sons were even better off in our family. Those were hard days, but they passed. Not because of anything I did, but just because of the natural ebb and flow of parenting children from trauma backgrounds. Some days are just harder. Then they get better.
Webster’s dictionary defines power as “the ability to act or produce an effect”. In my attempts to gain power over the chaos, I often turned to self help books on parenting traumatized kids – even in the early days I had a shelf of them. I’d try this method, then that. I was looking for a power source to battle their issues. I looked for power, out of love for them. And desperation. Knowledge is power, to quote Thomas Jefferson.
I would like to suggest that we be mindful of what power we are trying to harness in our pursuit of healing for our children. It may be that our best intentions will lead us down paths not meant for us. To whom or to what program are we looking for solutions? Psychology? Neuroscience? Evidenced-based practices that are trauma-based? At what point do allegiance to and reliance on these powers cause us to veer away from the only real solution?
I came across a shocking (to me) realization in the Word of God today. God doesn’t want us looking for any other power source except Him. Ok, sure, I have always thought that was a safe assumption. But perhaps it is not only an assumption, but rather a command that we need to adjust our lives around.
Exodus 20 tells us And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
First off, let’s be mindful that deliverance from slavery in Egypt parallels deliverance from anything that had us (or our children) in bondage, including traumatic past experiences. We are reminded that God brings people out of bondage. Then we are told how to partake of that truth.
Have no other gods.
At least, that is what I was taught is the plain meaning. And if I was being honest, I thought it a bit archaic to modern life, because, after all, our cultural doesn’t celebrate a plethora of gods does it? And for those of the Judeo-Christian beliefs, we’re mono-theistic anyway, so it seems unnecessary, or a ‘duh! moment’. Even when I read it (with the help of translators) in the Hebrew, it reads “you shall have no elohimbefore me.
Elohimand the shortened form El are universally recognized as a name of God, and also translated as god with a lowercase g. So far we still have the same translation: have no gods before me. Ok, we are back to a command toward monotheism. Or are we? What if el and elohim are not just a name of God, or reference to false gods.
Take a look at this verse from Genesis 31 (especially notice the Hebrew words in bold).
It is in my power (EL) to do you harm, but the God (Elohim) of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.’ Genesis 31:29 NASB
This is Laban speaking to Jacob. The word ‘power’ is the Hebrew word el, shortened for elohim! No one translates this verse as “It is in my god to do you harm”. Context tells us that Laban uses el as “power,” not “god.” Now let’s take another look at the second commandment:
“You shall not have any other elohim before Me.” Now we know that sometimes el or elohim can just as easily signify any force believed to be powerful, even if it is not divine.
Are we actually being told to not have allegiance to other “powers” besides God? Does that change the commandment for you? It does for me. And this includes what kinds of power sources to choose from in the fight against the chaos of traumatic early life experiences. What are YOU looking to to deliver you?
******thank you to the following source: David Fohrman, The Exodus You Almost Passed Over
“Fidelity to the program” was something greatly emphasized by the organizations that trained me in trauma-informed care, as part of the education I received to do the work with adoptive families that I do. Fidelity means “the extent to which delivery of an intervention adheres to the protocol or program model originally developed”. For example, the ones who created Circle of Security Parenting and Trust-Based Relational Intervention did not want me attaching their name to the work I do in their name if I was going to deviate from their protocols. Therefore, I had to sign my name to documents attesting that I would stay true to their message, or not use their name for some hybrid method I came up with myself but said I was practicing their methods.
Fidelity to the program clauses are written to keep the integrity of the organization’s message the way it was originally intended by those who created it. It keeps from diluting the message, and preserves the name (or character) of the organization.
God has a fidelity clause for those who will take on His Name and His Covenant too, and I came across it today. It shows up here:
Deuteronomy 4: 2 You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.
Deuteronomy 12: 32 “[a]Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.
May it be sobering to realize that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is judged by the world based on what the world sees in us – based upon our actions as His ambassadors! He is ‘unseen’, we are very visible to the world. What we do ‘in His name’ carries weight for how the world views Him. It carries weight for those in our family and other spheres of influence. When we ‘sign on’ to come under His protection and jurisdiction as our King, He expects us to be faithful witnesses of His holy standards, which are His commandments.
But are we? Or do we listen to those who have changed His message, tweaked it to suit themselves/ourselves? Are we muddying His character broadcast into the world by the ways we have deviated from His original message/commandments? Do we bring His Name honor or do we bring His name shame when we do not have fidelity to His program?
I pray that we all will spend more time seeking what it is that we are called to do when we say we follow Him. Seek what the Word says that His ‘program’ is. And do it, just as He said to do, adding nothing and taking away nothing that He has not authorized to be changed. Fidelity is the mark of the good and faithful servant (Matthew 5:23)
I am a work in progress in this area.
What our children need most to hear from us and experience in their very core is that there is a God Who is strong enough to take them away from the places of darkness and loss and bring them to a high ground of safety and stability. Our children need to experientially witness the greatness of God to rescue and restore. We’re not the heroes because we adopted. God is the hero of their story. And mine. And yours.
One of the things I talk about with the families I serve is the attachment cycle, that built-in mechanism through which all infants learn about their world and their worth as a human being. Attachment is very important to proper human development. The cycle goes like this: (1) a baby has a need, (2) their body is alerted that something is not right in their world and they express this distress. (3) A caregiver comes to meet the need. (4) Trust develops. Baby learns that someone comes to help them.
Attachment relates to answering questions of identity such as ‘who am I?’ ‘Am I precious?’ ‘What is my place in this world?’ This cycle also sets the early stage for us humans to understand the world around us. “Is this a safe place?” Here is a graphic showing this cycle in infants, but keep in mind that this attachment cycle does not go away as the baby matures. All humans move through this cycle throughout our development. When a baby’s needs are met, attachment grows. In fact, this is the mechanism through which attachment grows.
When needs are met with a caring adult, the cycle comes to a beautiful closure where the baby is satisfied. Then, when a new need arises, the infant knows that their expression of a new need (crying) will be satisfied by a caring person. And the cycle continues, getting stronger.
But when there exists no caring adult, this attachment cycle is broken. In the graphic below, arousal refers to the feelings and body sensations that occur due to the need. It is in the arousal stage that the infant expresses a need (#2 above).
If a caregiver does not meet the infant’s need, this leads to emotional and physical distress and the cycle of attachment is broken. Infants who have had this cycle broken too many times will simply stop asking for help. In an infant, it may be that they just stop crying. But internally, they are still very much distressed and it will come out in other ways. As the infant develops physically, gowing into a child, then adolescent, then adult, this broken cycle from infancy still registers deep within them. They have come to believe that people are not trustworthy. This is broken attachment. They do not ask for help with words, but they may ‘act out’ due to unmet needs.
I use TBRI to support families with children who have come from a hard place – whose children have had this cycle of attachment broken too many times. Basically what I am doing is helping adoptive and foster parents support a new and healthy attachment between themselves and their child. There is always hope!
Let’s go back to the first picture I posted.
Do YOU have this kind of attachment with your Heavenly Father? Admittedly, I am working on this, myself. Have you considered your attachment to God in this way? Do you have trouble ‘expressing a need’ because you don’t think He will meet your need? The psalmist knows the truth.
If you would like to learn more about how you can create a new and healthy attachment with your child, please let me know through the Get In Touch button.
You are of a chosen generation. You are feeling that in-between space which consists of where you once were and where you are going In Him. Look to God’s creation for inspiration here. Is it any wonder that the caterpillar builds a cocoon to hide away from the world during its transformation? The hermit crab buries itself in sand as it molts. But the difference is that they do not stay in the in-between, they press on to NEWNESS as they hear the voice of their Creator calling unto them to TRANSFORM. And so they obey. Is it instinct? Is it more than instinct? What I know is that you are not meant to permanently dwell in this in-between stage you find yourself in; you are not meant to live here. But it is ok that you find yourself there at this moment in time.
SH’ma. Listen for when it is time to arise.
Sh’ma is Hebrew for ‘listen and adjust your life to the Words you hear.’ Listen and allow yourself to BECOME that which He calls you to become. When it is time, Arise! In an act of love and devotion and faith in the One Who gives you His NEWNESS, arise. THIS is your identity; just as much as it is in the Before and in the In-between. Your identity is ‘the one who moves toward his/her God’.
Even if you have turned away from SO MUCH…now it is time to move on with the Lover of your soul. It is in the moving on WITH God, that you find your TRUE IDENTITY, the one He has had for you all along. Hebrit in the Hebrew language is ‘Hebrew’. One who crosses over. You are a Hebrew. And you are loved. And He died for you so that you could BE with Him. That is your identity. Don’t despise the journey, yours may look different from anyone else’s. The prize is in moving closer to God.
People who are over-scheduled, over-worked and over-stressed are lethargic and not able to reach for much beyond the daily grind. I know this by watching people and by experiencing it myself at times. In the West, we’ve taken this to an art form and even consider it a badge of honor to be so busy in life. I wonder where this came from? It is not from God. He regularly scheduled breaks for us, with weekly sabbaths, monthly observances of the new moon, and cyclical feast and observance days in His calendar. By and large Christians are not taking advantage of His Days and so they slumber on, dreaming they are awake. Ok, I’m being dramatic, but I want to set the stage. Christians are a tired, overworked people with a solution right in front of us that we don’t see.
The solution is to stop striving for identity in the things that we do. Instead we can look at our identity as the people of God, based on His choosing us, not anything we did. Identity is about membership in a group and is essentially social. We are who we are in community. We are the children of God, not a collective of individuals. 1 Corinthians 12 talks about how each of us has a vital part to play in the collective Body of Messiah. Fierce independence is a western ideal, not a hebraic one. And really, we are poorer for not taking advantage of the collective identity we have. God’s Word is meant to be lived out in community. So are His holy days marking our son (and daughter)ship.
A great way to integrate your adopted child into your family and bring them identity is through your becoming more identified with God’s family through His holy days. Celebrating these days with others just like you around the globe is a great way to demonstrate belonging. We are in the season of the fall biblical holy days so this is a great time to build traditions in your family that set you apart as family and God’s family. As your child awakens to their identity as your son or daughter and no longer an orphan, take this time to also awaken to your own identity as a child of God and no longer a spiritual orphan. Use God’s identifiers. Be the Body of Messiah.
The Fall Biblical Days
The first of the fall biblical days is addressed in the following scriptures:
Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘In the seventh month on the first of the month, you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall not do any laborious work, but you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD'” (Leviticus 23:23-25).
“And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work, For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.” (Numbers 29:1)
The set apart day occurs in the seventh month of the Biblical calendar (Not July on our western calendars) so it parallels the Sabbath (7th day of the week) as a special and holy time to seek God. It is as if we have divine permission to set aside the things that distract us from seeking God deeply.
Day of Trumpet Blowing
Interestingly, this holiday has no name given in the scriptures. It’s referred to by several names, one of them being Yom Teruah (the day of the sounding of the shofar or rams horn), so it became known as the Feast of Trumpets.
Scripture reveals the prophetic meaning of the Feast of Trumpets with its sounding of the trumpet/horn. This holy day points forward to a time when God’s people will be gathered back to the land (Isaiah 27:13). Gathering implies first identifying. Many of God’s people are already awakening to their identity in Him. Also, this day points to the time when Messiah will return (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). Other rabbinical traditions teach the blowing of trumpets is a reminder of the ram’s horns blown by Joshua and the Israelites at Jericho (Joshua 6); and also a reminder of the ram that Abraham sacrificed in place of his son Isaac (Gen. 22), pointing to Yeshua/Jesus.
This season asks, ‘will you hear and heed the call of the shofar? Reflection, repentance, and renewing our heart toward God, self, and man are all deep aspects of this day. It’s as if we are being called to awaken from a spiritual sleep by the sound of the shofar.
I think sometimes when we parent hurt children, we get so caught up in what isn’t that we forget the Who Is and we forget that as parents we have His authority to speak health and healing into our child. We can speak God’s life into our children, we can recognize His life in our own being. We are the ones God entrusted our children to raise. This is part of your identity.
For many of us parents of children from hard places, we get overwhelmed with our child’s needs and can only think in the here and now, like changing behavior and avoiding more problems. Who can blame us? Being in the trenches creates understandable desire for easy and immediate outcomes, doable in the now, for weary bodies and souls. “I just want this to stop right now.“
When we have a breather from today’s chaos, then we’ll think about long term goals for our children’s futures, right? I totally get that. The problem is, we might not get that breather unless we intentionally take a pause in the middle of the chaos, and reassess what our goals are and what they can be to offer the greatest healing for our child. Can we even look long term in the middle of today’s struggles and not be afraid of the future? I think this is a problem common to humanity.
Perhaps a starting place is acknowledging that God’s Kingdom life is one with no anxiety about ‘tomorrow’, rather, it involves being focused on the settled work of Jesus. He overcame. We can overcome. We can help our child overcome. End of story.
As we seek God’s perspective, we find that worry and anxiety fall away. We begin to focus more on the things that are important to Him and less on the things we think are important but are not. Our long term plans for our children will be most effective when we do not let fear determine our steps. But walking in this is not easy is it? Looking long term with fear and worry is not the answer because it leads to parenting choices in the short turn that can actually work against the security and connection we are trying to create in our homes for our children.
Short term parenting can lead to reactive parenting, which negatively affects our children for the future. Click the link here to read more about long term vs short term parenting, from a blogger back in 2012, which I think gives a good view on this subject. No guilt trip is intended, but rather a hope to get you thinking about long term, even in the midst of short term needs.
God is a God of connection and relationship and He created this need in us. When we have this view in mind, even when correcting our child’s behaviors, we are close to the heart of the Father, Who corrects us in love while desiring closeness.