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Mable celebrated her forty-seventh birthday today. Birthdays, like anniversaries, tend to stir up the “way back machine,” and so it did for Mable as she spent most of her morning reflecting on her life.
While there were many highlights and bright spots, there was also this low-grade sadness as Mable thought about where she came from and how she had gotten to where she is today.
She could not help but think about the number of years ahead of her while shrugging off the temptation of depression as she did the math in her head: forty-seven, plus forty-seven, equals ninety-four.
According to her accounting, her life was more than half over, and she wondered if the remaining years would be like the preceding ones. She had dreamed a dream of how her life would be different. Then she awoke, realizing it was only a dream.
She is like a lot of women that I interact with in counseling. Mable has been affected by the three most important men in her life, all of whom have shaped her to varying degrees.
The combination of these three men has affected her to the point of bitterness and unforgiveness. They have also hindered her from finding the fourth man—the only one who can make her complete.
The goal for every person is to find completion in Christ. This perspective is the teaching in Colossians 1:28, where you could read the word “mature” as “complete.”
Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature (complete) in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
The graphic below illustrates our incompleteness at birth. We are born in Adam as broken, incomplete people in need of restoration that comes through regeneration by the power of God (John 3:7).
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12).
Mable came into the world incomplete, broken, and needy. She was born as a living, breathing deficit, an empty love cup. There was something wrong with her that only God could fix.
A wise parent understands their child’s incompleteness. They realize how their most important job as parents is to cooperate with the Lord by leading the child to Christ (John 14:6). Providing food, clothing, and shelter is essential, but they are subordinate to their primary job (Matthew 6:33).
The father is the leader in this excellent parenting adventure. Though only Christ can redeem, the dad is the primary shaping influence in a child’s life. It is his job to set this kind of Godward orientation in the home, which brings us to a few questions to consider.
As you can see in the graphic, Mable’s circle regressed rather than progressed. The word regression can mean heading toward a less developed state of being. Mable came into the world incomplete, and after eighteen years with her parents, she was worse off than when she came into their family.
Ultimately, her parents did not help her to Jesus. They became a liability to her instead of an asset. They obstructed her path with poor parenting practices. Just like Adam, they chose to do their thing rather than cooperate with God in the salvation and sanctification of their daughter (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6).
By the time Mable transitioned to her teenage years, she had checked out as she counted the days until she could leave her home. Disappointed by Adam and disappointed by her parents, she was looking for someone else to give her what she craved.
Whenever you widen a person’s Adamic tendencies like Mable’s were, the chances of them desiring God or thinking about God as the right solution for their problems becomes more difficult to accept.
If her parents had a desire to know and love God most of all (Matthew 22:36-40), which would have been evidenced by their authentic modeling of the life of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), the chances would have been higher for Mable to look to Jesus first, rather than choosing other fallen solutions.
Because she was worse off as a teenager than when she came into the world, the compass of her heart pointed in the wrong direction. Specifically, she was looking for boys to fill the void in her life, to rescue her.
Mable first began to notice boys when she was fourteen. It would be better to say that they took notice of her because she was an attractive teenager. Not knowing and understanding the love of God, while being unwittingly pushed away from God by the poor example of her parents, finding love through boys made sense to her.
Her “parental problem” also made her easy prey (2 Timothy 2:22). Adam disappointed her. Strike one. Dad disappointed her. Strike two. Mable was desperate not to strike out in the game of life. The solution was for her to find the right guy.
She met Biff in college. He seemed to be different from all the other men that she had met, especially her dad. No doubt, Biff’s job was made easy by Mable’s father. Being Christianized did not change her blindness from Adamic and parental influences.
She was also blinded by her selfish desire to be loved by someone. Anyone. Within six months of meeting Biff, they were having sex. She rationalized the fornication as someone finally loving and wanting her.
It never crossed her mind that if a man would crawl over God’s Word to get a woman in the sack and defraud her that he had character flaws. Mable’s thoughts were a mess as her desires ran wild. The fires of lust were raging with no chance of abating (Song of Solomon 2:7).
And then the first year of marriage officially extinguished the fire, and Mable was left looking at the charred remains of her poor decision-making. Biff was not what she had made herself believe him to be.
He was just like Adam and her dad–a big disappointment. The three primary men in her life pushed her farther from the Lord. The natural regression of Mable was complete. Rather than finding wholeness in life, the void in her soul could not have been more extensive.
This juncture is where you must be careful. The temptation could be to make Mable a full-fledged victim in our story. Mable is not unique. She is representative of every person who has ever been born in Adam.
She is a victim like we all are victims of the fall. But she is a culpable victim or a sinning victim. This tension is where Mable must guard her heart if she wants to pull out of this lousy life pattern that was born out of self-serving and angry decisions.
Her sourness toward life could exacerbate her problems. If she chooses to play the victim card, she will continue her entanglements in the same sinful choices that Adam, dad, and Biff have made.
No matter how far you are from God or how you got there, the process of finding God is the same for all of us. If she lets unforgiveness, bitterness, self-pity, anger, self-righteousness, or self-reliance rule her heart, her disappointment will continue.
At any point in her life, she could have chosen Christ over selfishness. Rather than changing her life course, she pursued self-fulfillment through ungodly means.
How she thinks about and reacts to her current situation could further enslave her, or it could be the impetus that slings her back around and toward the Lord. The only way for this to happen is if she will give up her pursuit of trying to self-satisfy her Adamic cravings.
Mable cannot trust Adam. She will not trust her dad. She does not want to trust Biff. But she is still tempted to trust herself, not realizing that she is no different from them. Thinking we are different from the other fallen people in our lives is a common mistake people make.
We are all cut from the same Adamic cloth. The mistakes of Adam, dad, and Biff are no different, in essence, from the ones Mable has made. All four of them have chosen an anti-God path.
Yes, she is a victim. And yes, she is culpable. Now it is up to her as to whether she wants to do something different from her three leading men.
She is being called to do what they would not do for her. She is in a place where she can break away from them by choosing a different path–a better man than them (Hebrews 3:1-6).
The good news is that she has the prerogative to choose Christ. There is no excuse not to accept Jesus (Romans 1:20-21). She cannot plead ignorance. Her temptation will be to play the victim card–a mask individuals wear to justify why they do not choose to follow the Lord.
The real question is whether we believe our past and present circumstances are more significant than the empowering grace of God that He holds out to anyone who will call on Him for help.
It is hard for some people to understand and apply this truth. The reality of being fallen while living among fallen people can be challenging to practicalize. You can gauge how well you are accepting this truth by how you talk about what has happened to you. Either your problems rule your thoughts, or Christ does.
The men in Mable’s life have been more significant than Christ. As you pull back the curtain of her heart, you begin to see why this is so: sinful desires have captured her. There are things she wants, and she is determined not to be happy until she gets them.
She feels justified to crave a particular kind of life. Her temptation is to keep changing her contexts and relationships until she lands on her version of utopia (a place that does not exist).
True happiness comes through Christ alone rather than the “mirages of happiness” that we see in our world. It is our sense of entitlement that keeps us fixated on those things and we see people as our most significant hindrances to giving us what we want.
The counterintuitive message of the gospel cuts against the grain of proud hearts. Nobody can keep you from Christ if you want Christ. The deep dark secret in Mable’s heart is she does not desire Christ more than she wants her idea of happiness.
This issue keeps her ensconced in a victim’s mindset, a card she knows how to play well. She does not understand how what she has done to Christ transcends anything others did to her. The crazy part is how Christ is willing to love her anyway–in spite of her sins against Him (Romans 5:8).
The liberated person is acutely more aware of what he/she did to Christ, and they are stunned by His incomprehensible love to them. This biblical truth brings you to the right place for self-reflection.
Without question, individuals have hurt you.
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24).
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).