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Our son got a huge splinter stuck in his big toe when he was a kid. I tried to get it out. I failed. It was too deep. I texted our small group compadre, who happened to be a doctor. I asked him to bring some of his “cutting equipment” to the group meeting the following night. Our son said he would be okay and could wait until then. Lucia and I went on a date.
We were no more than ten minutes down the road when my friend phoned, saying he was standing on our front porch, but no one would come to the door. We have fantastic kid-sitters! We called our sitter to let her know that letting him into the house was okay. When we got home later in the evening, we did our usual debrief. The sitter said she got a bit woozy when my friend sliced our son’s toe to get the splinter out.
But she knew there was no other way. She said our son screamed at the top of his lungs. I hurt for him, too, when I heard the story. Even as I write these words, it brings up memories of the splinter ordeal. But the irony is that he was okay soon after the pain, and the splinter ordeal was losing focus as it became more of a distant memory. The temptation is to prolong the agony because of the immediate pain of doing something.
The real irony of the story is that our friend honored our son by administering temporary pain that brought a long-term solution. There was no way to get that splinter out of his toe without slicing into it. And it would not serve our son to allow him to continue in the state he was in because it could lead to an infection.
When long-term detrimental adverse consequences are the consequence of immediate, short-term inaction, those who know to do good are not loving well. Our friend went above and beyond the “call of duty” to love our son well. Our son, ultimately, understood that our friend loves him. He also knew that there was no other way to get the splinter out of his big toe.
The following day, he grabbed his big toe and said, “Hey, Dad, look at this. It’s gone, and it does not hurt anymore.” As he was pulling on his big toe, he was standing like a crane at the beach; he held it up to me so I could see his “war wound.”
Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19-21).
When the disciples told Jesus that His mother and His brother were standing outside and could not get into the house, Christ made a very odd statement about who were His true brothers and mother. I have counseled many adult Christian children who have a hard time putting into practice the words of Jesus. They still succumb to the temptation of their manipulative parents, in-laws, or friends, who take advantage of their “past authority over them.” The result is that the parents cloud the thinking of the adult children.
You could say the children give the former authority figures power over them. Either way, typically, these independent children interpret the commandment to “honor your father and your mother” as doing whatever their fathers, mothers, and in-laws ask of them. There are at least two objections to this kind of “blank check” thinking:
The vital question the new “autonomous empire” has to answer is, “How can I best make God’s name great through my new, reprioritized relationship with my spouse, regardless of how it impacts my immediate family, in-laws, Christian friends, or pagan relationships?” Jesus set the standard by implying that being a “blood relative” does not give you the “gold card” to hold authoritative sway over any individual.
For example, if your relatives were not Christians, they would take a backseat to your Christian relationships. The most special privileges belong to those who are part of the eternal family, not a temporal, earthly family. Secondly, there are times when the best way you can honor someone is by disappointing them. For example, my friend’s “expression of honor” to our son meant short-term, personal disappointment and pain for him.
The question you have to work through is how you can make God’s name remarkable in your relationships. Not, how can you make sure this person will always like you? One of my professors captured this idea when he said,
You can like me now and hate me later, or you can hate me now and love me later. – Wayne Mack
His meaning is that there will be times in your relationships when you will have to say or do hard things to people, especially those close to you. Wayne added that you might succumb to the temptation not to say the hard stuff in those moments because of the potential of losing that friendship. Ironically, if you lose the friendship, you never had it, or you had a superficial form of a relationship.
Wayne appealed to us to ensure our primary approval comes from God rather than people. If you live in this gospel truth of the Lord as your preliminary and final authority, you will be in the best possible place to serve others, even if helping them means disappointing them. Though our son would not say it this way, he could have said, “I didn’t like that man cutting into my foot, but I like him a lot now.”
If you are manipulatable by those you love the most, you have to determine what they have that you want so much that you’re willing to let them run all over you so you can ascertain that thing you want. It’s a long way of saying, “The thing you believe you need will be the thing that controls you.” Let me say it plainly: I’m talking about idolatry. Though I recognize that many shaping influences can mold us into this kind of person, the goal is to be set free by a higher and more loving authority.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).