No Hang-Ups Allowed

If you have any question about the utility of decorative wall hooks, just ask my son. His recent discovery that a small, three-pronged coatrack is sufficient to hold an entire wardrobe has brought slight vexation to his mother’s soul. Fortunately, my irritation has been tempered by the knowledge that male pragmatism in these domestic matters is genetically encoded. I was first introduced to this fact when it dawned on me that my brothers’ yearnings for hunting trophies were motivated by something The Stratton Familygreater than sustenance and bragging rights. Who needs a closet when you have a ten-point set of antlers on the wall? Years later as a newlywed, my instruction was advanced when my husband attempted to convince me that a four-poster bed was designed to double as a suit valet.

Even if we disagree on the proper use of coatracks, bedposts, and antlers, there is a category of “hang-ups” that should bring consensus; one that involves the unbiblical draping of excuses for sin on hooks installed on the walls of the heart. Graceless hooks that lodge rudeness and unkindness with no demands of love, selfish hooks that harbor pride and judgment with no expectations of humility, and carnal hooks that house impurity and fleshliness with no expectations of holiness. Although these hooks look extremely unattractive, they are unfortunately, never inconvenient.

In His divine providence, the Lord delivered our two children to my husband and me through adoption. It is difficult to imagine any other experience, including the painful struggles with infertility, more acutely awakening our senses to the greatness of God’s amazing grace. Everything surrounding the entire process has offered us nothing less than a rich opportunity to boast of the glories of our Sovereign God!

Not only has adoption more keenly awakened our senses to God’s grace, but also it has awakened us to a special awareness of the shameless promotions of the Enemy that war for the unbiblical excusing of sin. Our children will only need to spend a few minutes at the library, on the Internet, or in a bookstore to read that their adoptive status makes them deserving of frustration, anger, and rebellion. A short perusal of bestselling adoption books such as Nancy Verrier’s Primal Wound will inform them that they suffer from irreversible pain of abandonment that will inescapably fill their lives with discontentment, and they will read that any claims they make of personal satisfaction are simply evidences of denial.

In her article “In the Defense of the Primal Wound,” Marcy Wineman Axness, a nationally recognized writer and lecturer on adoption, expresses the following thoughts:

You see I believe that the adoptee has a deep–yes, primal–knowledge that Mother isn’t this woman who’s holding and feeding and cooing at him. And throughout our childhood, although this deep knowing prods us down deep, telling us that the emperor is naked, we come to embrace out of our existential survival instinct the position that the emperor is fully clothed, because that’s what everyone else is saying, everyone upon whom we depend. We gradually become alienated from our own inner knowing, which leads to a hollowness inside, a hollowness that can’t be filled by the noisy details of our lives going on, our school plays, our swim meets, our slumber parties, and 20 years later, our kids’ soccer games, our promotions, our exciting plans for the new house, our baby on the way. The hollowness just feels more hollow when none of these can seem to fill us up.

Regardless of what we think about the suffering of infants at the hands of nurturing pseudo mothers, we must grant that this woman has beautifully articulated the cry of every heart that seeks to find satisfaction with anything other than Christ. Should it surprise us that parched souls desperately seek a home to hang their unquenchable thirst, even if that home’s design appears bizarre? The wiles of the devil are tricky indeed, for what better way for God’s glory to be robbed than through the installation of Christless hooks that house the ownership of spiritual needs? Sadly, the comments and questions I’m hearing about adoption are demonstrating to me that Christians are being deceived into accepting the legitimacy of these venues, and it is obvious their thinking is being subtly driven down graceless paths. Most adoption books authored by Christians are as disturbing as their secular counterparts. If the messages we consume are finding us chewing on darkened thoughts of adoption, we can be certain we are listening to the wrong messengers!

The process of adoption is just one example where the installation of unbiblical hooks can lead us to “hang out” in dishonorable places. If we are not soberly and righteously allowing the message of the Gospel to permeate every aspect of our thinking, we will be deceived into entertaining the idea that there is legitimacy in matters that run contrary to God’s Word and His message of grace. Our walk of faith must be marked by great circumspection and gravity if we desire for it to be marked by great peace and joy.

A lack of sobriety that has us failing to appropriate the Gospel message of God’s love and grace will also lead us to install hooks of excuse for the indwelling sin that will inevitably haunt us. We will blame institutions that are too legalistic, too licensed, too difficult, too easy, and rulebooks that are too strict, too lenient, too detailed, too vague. We will point fingers at parents who are too controlling, too permissive, too stingy, too generous, and spouses who are too demanding, too lazy, too harsh, too soft. And very sadly, as we develop patterns of excuse in our own hearts, we will inevitably start installing them within the hearts of others. For an educator, one of the most disheartening experiences is to witness parents offering their children an excuse for sin. Parents who not only install the hook for the excuse, but also who help their children hang up the sin.

We don’t have the capability of keeping our children away from Christless messages, and we don’t have the power to control what they will ultimately do with those messages. At some time, my own two children will likely hear how they bear primal wounds that can find no healing; and just as they’ve done with the many other worldly messages, they will make a choice where they will place that.

We do, however, have the power to faithfully demonstrate to our children the vast beauty of God’s grace as we humbly refuse to allow even the tiniest hooks of excuse for sin to lodge in our own hearts. We have the power to demonstrate to them how the spackling of God’s mercy and forgiveness can smooth the wall of a heart so that His glory and majesty can be flawlessly revealed, bringing us incredible peace and joy. And when we observe our children excusing their own sin, we can use the power of the Word to compassionately and diligently direct them to the foot of the Cross, where hopefully they will find their parents abiding.

Holly Stratton, mother of two, is wife of Dr. Dick Stratton, president of Clearwater Christian College (Clearwater, FL). She earned a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics Education from Bob Jones University (BJU) and a master’s degree in Child and Family Development from the University of Georgia. She taught family and personal management courses at BJU for 18 years as well as a Christian womanhood series for the Homesat network. Besides teaching at Clearwater Christian College, Holly is a frequent speaker at ladies’ retreats.

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