Countless families are living in abuse: verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, and yes spiritual. The deepest root of abuse is that there is something wrong, broken, in the abuser, and their response to this has been to abuse others while being in denial, through deflection, or self-pity. A hyper-spiritual holds everyone else to the elusive and astronomically high standard they themselves fail to reach, and they treat everyone with the contempt they have for their own spiritual failure. The sexually abusive person is seeking one’s own pleasure, validation, and salvation in sexually abusing others. The physically abusive person needs to feel powerful, because they are afraid of being seen as weak. The verbally abusive person uses their words as weapons instead of their body, for the same reasons as the other abuses listed. All of these end in emotional abuse, the systematic manipulation and denigration of another to prop up one’s self in one’s own eyes or the eyes of others.
Growing up I was abusive to my brother Phillip. When we were growing up, my brother Phillip and I were born to a very conservative Christian family. We were forbidden from fighting. So, when we began to ride the school bus, we were picked on. This was very hurtful to me, and so I began to sit with the cool kids, and not my brother. Not allowed to fight, I began to keep silent when we were picked on. After a while I began to join in the mocking of my brother so that I wouldn't be picked on. I was hurt, and my defense to this hurt and shame was to deflect attention from myself by joining in the aggression toward Phillip. Now, it hurts me to even think I acted so cowardly. I add this video to illustrate a problem:
Iyanla is confronting Ms. Brenda with her practice of calling her daughters foul names. Ms. Brenda first denies it, saying that her and her daughters had a great relationship. Then Ms. Brenda deflects, saying that one daughter is a drama queen. Finally Ms. Brenda must face the reality: she responded to a hurtful situation in her past by being hurtful in her present.
Why are we so quick to blame others for our problems? Why do we love to deny, or deflect, rather than experience the deliverance that comes from truth? Iyanla’s confrontation revealed the heart of Ms. Brenda, and I think the heart of many others (including myself): we have a hard time accepting the fact that we are loved, despite flaws, foibles, and failures. We hide, blame and lie, because we don’t want to lose love, and yet we hurt the very ones we love in the process of protecting ourselves. We live to point out the flaws in everybody else’s life, because we are too ashamed and afraid to reveal our own flawed guiltiness. We live by facts, by feelings, not by faith. We are children of Adam.
Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
God has completely addressed the sin problem, from the snake down to man. Man has listened as the promise of the Conquering Seed, his distant Son, would come through woman to make war with and destroy the serpent. The serpent, as lord, was addressed with a declaration of war. The woman, having been deceived, was promised assistance in childbearing, and that she would be the mother of the righteous. Man, as the lowest on the totem pole of the fallen, is relegated to the fielded work, and even then nature fights against him. He who was co-ruler of the planet with woman, is now made to see that in this new hierarchy he is nothing more than a serf.
On top of all this, he was confronted with the description of his, and all his male progeny’s, future interactions with woman: men would rule, dominate women. He balked at the thought of how he had distanced himself from his wife immediately after they had sinned, and he cringed realizing that he had blamed her for his known, deliberate, and willful rebellion.
Theirs had been the perfect relationship; until now they had only known relationally intimate bliss with each other. The Bible described them as inseparable, even in the presence of the serpent (Genesis 3:6, “…gave to her husband with her…”). After they sinned, they hid themselves, from God (Genesis 3:8, among the trees) and each other (Genesis 3:7, they covered themselves in fig leaves). Then Adam added to this separation the accusation that Eve was the reason for his sin. With all of this separation now in their relationship, there is no way they are in a relational place to fulfill the command to be fruitful from Genesis 1, or the promise of the Seed to come in chapter 3.
What was man to do? What he knows about Eve is that she is a sinner, a rebel, and dying. Thus all that come from her are literally going to die, and yet God had made a promise of reconciliation, through woman, to Himself. Will man continue to separate himself from woman, physically, emotionally, spiritually? There is no need now. The judgments and graces have been pronounced. The reason for his separation, to escape judgment, has been negated. Man could simply wallow in his misery alone, forever separated from woman, his one flesh. But no, Adam does not do this! Adam is spurned to hope by the promise of the Seed! Adam is moved to hope realizing that this Seed comes through his wife, who will have more children who will follow God! Adam is driven to hope by the reality that the Seed to come will be a male, and defeat the serpent on Adam’s behalf! Because of the promise of God, woman, though birthing her children into sin, will be the mother of all those who live on after the head of the serpent is crushed. The serpent, and his seed, will together be crushed.
Adam decided to live his life based on hope! He chooses to relate to his wife based on the hope that God promised through her! And so he calls his wife Eve, the mother of the living! This is significant because in reality woman is the mother of the dying, since she sinned. Adam chose to relate to his wife by faith in the promises of God, and not based on the facts of her weaknesses and failures he had participated in, or his feelings on the matter. It was Adam’s accusation which finalized their separation; it was Adam’s faith statement which allowed their relational healing to begin. This healing was so complete we see them intimate and producing children in the very first verses of chapter 4.
Interestingly, Woman gets a first name: Eve. She is designated mother of all living. However, she doesn’t cease to be woman, the deceived rebel. Man, on the other hand, does not receive the honor of a name based in faith. His identity is kept simple: man, the deliberate rebel. It is as if the he must bear the basic shame of his willful rebellion, and yet refuses to let his wife bear that guilt with him. He knows she was deceived, and that his deliberate sin, not his gender, is what set the fall in motion, and so his faith relationship to her gives her cause to hold her head up. Man’s faith statement restores the relationship his sin caused when he 1) didn’t stop her from eating, 2) joined her in eating, with full knowledge of the rebellion they were committing, 3) blamed her for his sin.
Point: There is always a point to complain about with a spouse. There are always things that are glaringly wrong. We are to relate to our spouses in faith based on who it is God has saved them to be, and not based on who we know them to be in the flesh.
It was only after this relationship was restored by the person who had caused division, that god covered his people with the first sacrifice.
Point: It is extra futile to expect God to bless anything in my family if I am not in the habit of continually restoring the relationship between me and my family. If I constantly choose to interact with them based on what I know them to be as sinners, I can count on the family not receiving the covering, provision, and protection from God promised. This is because the promised of God are sure, and if there is division among those to whom the promise is made, the very ones God wants to work through to produce the promise will never attain the promise. The attainment of grace is often times dependent upon the faith of those graced.