Hand-Me-Down Baggage

Hand-Me-Down Baggage

Many children grow into adulthood carrying baggage they picked up during childhood. Dysfunctional behaviors and belief systems which they learned from their parents are often carried into their adult relationships.

Father vacuum. One of the roles the father plays in the home, whether he knows it or not, is that of modeling our heavenly Father. Many children have grown into adulthood with a distorted view of God our Father because they could not trust their earthly father. When you say "father" to some children, they think of a father who may have been abusive, neglectful, or not there when they needed him. Robert S. McGee in his work, Father Hunger, states, "When the average person in the pew thinks in terms of a father who was unexpressive, absent, workaholic, alcoholic, or even, abusive, what is he or she likely to think of God as a heavenly Father?" (19).

Of course, no father can compare with our heavenly Father because no earthly father is perfect. A study of the names of God is a good place to begin for the person who is suffering from a father vacuum or for the man who wants to be a better father. The heavenly Father is the model for the earthly father as provider, healer of hurts, and example of righteousness. Children should see holy living in action through their father. The father should carry the banner of God's love, be the shepherd of the family, and be a presence of peace. One of the names of God that brings assurance and should be practiced by all fathers is being present-Jehovah-shammah "THE LORD IS THERE" (Ezekiel 48:35). Those who have a father vacuum can be assured that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

Guilt-Ridden Parents
One of the most difficult issues for a parent to work through is realizing late in the parenting process that he or she has been a failure as a parent. A father who was helping me one day at our home said, "My son has run away from home and has been gone over a year. We continue to check with the police, but they have no clue as to his whereabouts." Then he said with a broken voice, "I have been a terrible role model. I am now serving the Lord; however, during my son's important years, I was not there for him. My home was the bars."

People who have tremendous guilt due to feelings of failure as a parent often give into inappropriate behavior by their children. A mother who had a 21-year-old son living in her home told my wife and me that sometimes she permitted her son to abuse her verbally and physically. He was also allowed to drink alcohol in the home, and this was against her values. I asked her why she permitted her son to abuse her and drink in her home, and she said, "He had a difficult time during my divorce, and I don't want to hurt him anymore!"

This mother had not been the best of mothers as I later learned. She had committed her life to Christ and was now involved in ministry; however, her past haunted her, and she felt guilty as a parent and would not uphold her newly established value system. It was apparent that the son had lost respect for his mother.

How should this mother respond to her son? I encouraged her to do four things: (1) Have a talk with her son and apologize for her past mistakes as a mother, (2) tell him she loves him too much to permit him to continue his disrespectful attitude and unconcern for her standards in the home, (3) tell him she will always love and pray for him, and (4) tell him she is going to hold him responsible for his actions as God holds her responsible. Along with this information, I encouraged her to be consistent and do all she could to keep the lines of communication open even if he left home.

Some mothers prepare their teenage daughters for premarital sexual activities by helping them with birth control plans. They may feel guilty asking their teenage daughter to abstain from sex outside of marriage especially if they did not. By their own drinking habits, some fathers prepare their sons for their first drink; or by making sexually explicit materials available, they prepare them for premarital sexual encounters. Whether working from guilt or not, this line of thinking contributes to an addictive society. Just because parents have broken the rules does not mean that children must follow in the same pattern. Stand firm, holding them accountable for their actions as long as you are supporting them whether they are living in your home, in a dorm room, or in an apartment.

Fifty-Year-Old Boys

An addictive society is the perfect environment for a life of irresponsibility (all play and very little work). Add to this environment many people who have come from a home where there were irresponsible or absent parents, and you find many who choose to pursue pleasure as their chief goal instead of facing the challenge of life. The consequences of such pleasure seeking are 50-year-old males who are still boys. Michael Horton in his work, The Law of Perfect Freedom, explains the mind-set that is centered on self. "In our self-centered, individualistic, now-oriented culture, we can leave our debts from the past in a nursing home and our debts for the future to our children. But for now, it's Miller Time" (134).

While traveling on a busy freeway in Los Angeles, I heard a preacher on the radio describe the difference between a man and a boy. "Boys play house-men build homes. Boys make babies-men raise families. Boys demand their rights-men assume responsibility. Boys look for ways to get out of work-men look for work." The Apostle Paul says, "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childless ways behind me" (1 Corinthians 13:11).

The breakdown of the family and its effect on young men have become a social sore that is festering. Over 30 years ago, United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who was then the Assistant Secretary of Labor, discussed this issue.

From the wild Irish slums of the 19th century Eastern seaboard to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future-that community asks for and gets chaos . . . [In such a society] crime, violence, unrest, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure-these are not only to be expected, they are very nearly inevitable (Bennett, 53).

If you are dealing with hand-me-down baggage, please go back to the story of Josiah found in 2 Chronicles 33-35 and prayerfully study this passage. Also, look again at the 1 Peter 1:17-25 and focus on this passage. Ask the Lord to help you start a new model of living that will glorify Him.

Material from Understanding the Times and Knowing What to Do
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