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THOU SHALT BUILD A FUNCTIONAL FAMILY
For years I have stated my belief that America's number one problem is the breakdown of the family. Whenever I say that, inevitably some offer a different nomination for America's most pressing dilemma. It doesn't take them long, however, to see that at the foundational root of the problem they name is the family meltdown.
In recent years the plight of our families has been described by a relatively new term: dysfunctional. With that in mind, let me state again for the record: I believe America's number one problem is the dysfunctional family. And since society's top problem is dysfunctional families, our highest priority must be to build functional families.
Building healthy, functioning families ought to be the consuming passion of any people and their culture-not the national defense or the national economy, not foreign affairs or tax reform. The government can't build functional families. In fact, its policies sometimes stand in the way of developing healthy homes.
People build functional families by following the absolute principles God lays out in His Word. That's why this book is called The 10 Commandments of Parenting. We will range the Scripture, exploring God's absolutes for building wholesome, happy, functional families. We'll see that William Bennett is right when he calls the family "the fundamental unit of civilization."
FROM OZZIE AND HARRIET TO OZZY OSBOURNE
Since the advent of television, there have been widely varying depictions of the family. We've had Ozzie and Harriet, Lucy and Ricky, Beaver Cleaver and his household, Andy, Opie, and Aunt Bee, the Brady Bunch, Sanford and Son, the Huxtables, and many others.
Most of these families focused on functionality and treated today's dysfunctional lifestyles as exceptions. But in recent times, family dysfunction is actually celebrated. The popularity of "The Osbournes" indicates the new twist in pop culture. The hit cable TV program features the family of Ozzy Osbourne, who is described by one writer as "an aging, tattooed, drug-battered monster of rock morph." At one time it was alleged that Ozzy was a devil worshiper. Twelve cameras stationed throughout the Osbourne home catch the daily routine of a family that is anything but routine.
As bizarre as life may seem in Ozzy's household, Los Angeles family therapist Jessica Simmonds found, in some ways, the Osbournes "live a very normal life in this upper-middle-class environment, mixed with a really strange mentality and dysfunction." Simmonds sees a home with a "domineering mother" and a "feeble father." Such are major factors in the equation of dysfunction, and so, says Simmonds, "it's not all funny.... There's a lot of sadness here." As there is in dysfunctional families everywhere.
DYSFUNCTION IS DANGEROUS
A while back I asked someone what "dysfunctional" meant. "It means non functioning," the person replied. That would seem the obvious meaning, hut it's not the precise definition. The prefix dys actually means "dangerous." A dysfunctional family, then, by definition, is one functioning "dangerously." Dangerous for whom?
Dangerous for the Children
One study found that children of divorced parents have behavior problems, find it more difficult to adjust, and make lower grades. They also have a higher dropout rate from school and a higher rate of pregnancy out of wedlock.
Columnist Vox Day told of watching MTV videos while working out at his exercise club. There were two different rock bands whose music focused on the impact broken families had on children. Decades ago such songs would not have found such "resonance in the culture," Day wrote. But now, "the terrible costs of divorce linger on, not only in the lives of the divorcing parties but also the lives of the children and the lives of those with whom the children become emotionally involved." Day noted a 1993 study in the Journal of Family Psychology, which found a 260 to 340 percent greater likelihood of kids from broken families needing psychological help than those from healthy families.
Dangerous for Husbands and Wives
As family dysfunction has increased, so has domestic violence. Many police officers attend our church. Without exception, the ones I've spoken with will verify that the most frightening, complex, and challenging assignments they have are those involving family fights. Passions run high, fuses are short, and triggers are easily pulled. But it doesn't stop there. Family dysfunction is dangerous for the mental and emotional health of the men and women involved.
Tracy was a beautiful woman in her early forties when she sought help. She was a committed Christian who had been divorced for several years and was raising two children alone. She described her wonderful childhood in a positive, nurturing home. When she grew up she married her "dream husband." But a year into the marriage, her dream husband had become her worst nightmare. He was abusing her physically and emotionally, while having numerous affairs.
She divorced him and later married another man. This one was an alcoholic and drug addict. Desperate to protect her children, she left him. By the time Tracy sought help, the woman who had entered her first marriage with such confidence and joyful anticipation was a trembling human being who doubted her own self-worth and who bore scars in her body evidencing the dangerous places and people with whom she had lived.
Dangerous for Society
Dysfunction is also dangerous for society as a whole. Almost half the people arrested in America in 1999 were under age twenty-five. Between 1965 and 1998, as families imploded, the nation's juvenile crime rate soared at a 175 percent rate. If the family is indeed civilization's fundamental unit, then each time a family falls into dysfunction there is a threat to a nation's well-being.
"FORMULA" FOR A FUNCTIONAL FAMILY
In western nations especially, there seems to be a simple formula for building functional families: N + E + P = FF. The assumption is that when physical and material needs (N) are met from cradle to grave, and people have a good education (E) along with ample opportunities for basic pleasures (P) such as travel, recreation, and entertainment, the result will be a functional family (FF). But the record of affluent society proves that this formula doesn't compute.
The real equation for a functional family is ITLITL + BP - CU = FF. That is, Christ (C) plus biblical principles (BP) minus the curse (CU) produces a functional family (FF).
So let's do the "math." In the following chapters we'll go into detail about the importance of Christ and biblical principles in building healthy homes. But first we will look at the beginning in the Garden of Eden-God's perfect plan with the world's first family, Adam and Eve, and the appearance of the deadly problem of ... the curse.
GOD'S PERFECT PLAN
The book of Genesis is foundational. To understand the family, we have to begin with the first family. Prior to their disobedience and the resulting fall of humanity into sin, the Eden family formed a perfect triangle of fellowship among God, Adam, and Eve. Children would have followed naturally in the perfect world because multiplying and scattering were in God's original plan for the beings He had created in His image (see Genesis 1:27-28).
In the Garden of Eden, the first family functioned in four beautiful unities: (1) the unity between God and Adam and Eve, which led to (2) personal unity of each individual with his or her own personality, (3) unity between the two human beings, and (4) unity between people and nature. The unity with God was foundational for all the other unities. The result of all this was positive, wholesome behavior; peace; and joy through God's Spirit.
THE "ALIEN" ENTERS
One day a being alien to this happy family entered Eden. "Do you want to be like God?" the Evil One asked. The two human beings fell for his con. They decided to trade dependence and fellowship with God for the enthronement of self. Adam and Eve moved from dependence on God to self-control and self-rule. The unity with God was broken, evil came in, and the ingredients of dysfunction penetrated the world. The curse began.
In 2002, many Americans were stunned when a drifter broke into the blissful home of a Utah family and snatched Ed and Lois Smart's older daughter. For nine months, the family and surrounding community searched for Elizabeth Smart. Finally, and thankfully, she was found and her kidnappers arrested. The vagrant who broke into the Smart home was an alien-a stranger who had no business there.
The suspect had worked one time for the Smart family as a handyman. Later, people were shocked to learn the child had probably been brainwashed to the extent she seemed at times to go along with her kidnappers.
This contemporary episode illustrates what happened in Eden. The Evil One was an intruder in the garden who shattered his way into the hearts of Adam and Eve, stealing them from the One who was the basis for their family relationship, and bringing them into a willful choice of the curse.
FAMILY DYSFUNCTION FROM BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS
A Broken Relationship with God
The curse continues to impact families today, having many negative effects. First, as fellowship with God is broken, people try to hide from Him. Adam and Eve had once yearned for time with God, just like loving family members who will do almost anything, pay any price, go any distance to be together. But when the curse came, Adam and Eve ran and hid from the One for whose presence they had previously hungered.
Today, we still see human beings trying to hide from God. I've heard all sorts of excuses from people as to why they don't attend church. One man actually told a friend of mine he couldn't join him at church because Sunday was the only day he had to go to his property out in the country and visit his pigs. Now, I've never spent a day visiting pigs. Maybe it's more fun than it sounds. That's only one of the hundreds of excuses I've heard through the years. But actually, the biggest reason people stay away from church is they are just like Adam and Eve-hiding from God. They don't want to know God and they don't want Him to know them. Why? Because they don't want to surrender control of their lives to God.
The foundation of a functional family is a relationship with God, through which He controls the home. When that core relationship is broken, dysfunction can enter.
A Broken Relationship with Ourselves
Another effect of the curse contributing to family dysfunction is the change it brings in our relationship to ourselves. Let's look at a couple of psychological terms. Psychotics are people who see others as the problem; neurotics are those who see themselves as the problem. Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve had a healthy self-perception. After the Fall, however, we see Adam as both psychotic and neurotic. His psychosis is revealed in his attempt to blame Eve, and his neurosis is revealed in his personal shame.
So many of our families are made up of people who are either psychotic or neurotic, or both. Now we all know how to play the blame game, which in turn sparks family feuds, fusses, and fights. Or we try to hide by filling our personal lives with all sorts of distractions. But none of this covers the pain and emptiness we feel inside. We realize we are living in rebellion against God, and that brings shame and feelings of guilt.
Take the case of Carrie. She and her husband, Jack, a wealthy business owner, had a rebellious son. One day Carrie began to understand how some of her own ungodly behaviors and attitudes were being imitated by her son. (Sometimes, guilt is real and not a neurotic fantasy.) But rather than dealing with her sin and her son, Carrie ran-not in a literal sense but certainly in a practical one. She gave all her time and energy to becoming her community's greatest teacher of arts and crafts. She conducted seminars and enjoyed the acclaim of women who sat at her feet and learned the hobby she had mastered. She was never home, so her relationship with her son and husband began to crumble. But Carrie wasn't running from her husband and son. Because of the shame she felt, she was running from God ... until one horrible day when Carrie came home to find her son had committed suicide.
A Broken Relationship with Others
A third effect of the curse on families today is the breaking of our relationships with others. Initially, Adam and Eve enjoyed a harmonious relationship. But after the Fall, the first thing we see is the psychotic behavior of blame. When God confronted Adam, he blamed Eve. When God turned to Eve, she blamed the serpent. And both of them had the audacity to try to blame God.
Much of the dysfunction in Jack and Carrie's home was in blaming one another for their son's behavior. Later, it became evident he killed himself partly because he blamed himself for the inability of his mother and father to get along. Yes, the curse disrupts our relationship with others.
A GALAXY OF DYSFUNCTION
None of this is new. Survey the constellation of Old Testament patriarchs, from Abraham to Jacob, and you find an array of dysfunctional families. The patriarchs and their progeny show that the curse expresses itself in different ways in different families, and is passed on from generation to generation. In some families, the curse showed up as physical abuse; in others, emotional torment; in yet others, alcoholism and drug addiction. The curse recycled in the children until one generation finally rose up and cried, "Enough!" That generation repented and turned to God, and the curse was broken from the family line, unless a subsequent generation rebelled against the Lord.
This is the point of what God showed Moses in Exodus 34. God spoke to Moses in a vision: "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth" (verse 6). It was sweet music on Moses' ears to know the core nature of God is compassion, grace, slowness to get angry, and overflowing love and kindness. Who wouldn't want a God like that?
In the vision, God continued by revealing He "keeps lovingkindness for thousands.... forgives iniquity, transgression and sin" (verse 7).
Excerpted from THE 10 COMMANDMENTS OF parenting by ED YOUNG Copyright © 2004 by Ed Young. Excerpted by permission.
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Preface: Parenting-An Overwhelming "Calling" / 9
Acknowledgments / 11
Introduction / 13
1. Thou Shalt Build a Functional Family / 19
2. Thou Shalt Love Thy Children / 39
3. Thou Shalt Model Godliness / 57
4. Thou Shalt Teach Thy Children / 75
5. Thou Shalt Spend Time with Thy Children / 93
6. Thou Shalt Discipline Thy Children / 111
7. Thou Shalt Encourage Thy Children / 135
8. Thou Shalt Provide Stability and Security for Thy Children / 155
9. Thou Shalt Have the Sex Talk with Thy Children / 173
10. Thou Shalt Not Be a Passive Parent / 193
A Final Word: A Parent's Proudest Moment / 209
Notes / 211