Growing up imperfect in a perfect family

Lou was born into a big family.  The father named him “His name should be Lou, because he's a bright little fellow.”

You would think Lou would seem rather ordinary among a house full of perfect children, but the rest of the family was thrilled and they all celebrated.  Lou was a handsome fellow but didn’t know it at first.

The family was one of those once-in-a-lifetime models.  It was the oldest family on the block, and rather well to-do.  Yet, in spite of this great wealth the entire family lived a life of easy simplicity. Evidence suggests that they were from the northeast. The Patriarch of the house (Lou's father) was well respected.  It's kind of different here in America.  We visit our old folk after the dog is fed, the pool is swum, the TV is watched, and the calendar is empty.  But this family wasn't that way.  Everybody loved the old patriarch.  He had a way of making you feel good about yourself.  Sure he was old, in fact nobody really knew just how old he was, but he looked a lot younger and was great to have around.

It might surprise you to know that this family was headed for trouble.  They were all very happy, and their property was the finest anywhere, and everybody loved each other, but Lou ended up in a lot of trouble. When I first heard the account, I was too slow to realize the potential trauma, though modern psychiatrists could have spotted it a mile away!  Many of them still do. Lou was set up for a fall and here’s why.

  • In the first place, everybody else in the family was exquisitely behaved.  Nobody ever did anything wrong.  The pressure of perfection became an almost unbearable burden, because as everybody knows, it can be difficult to measure up to family standards.  Lou was trapped by perfectionists.
  • Secondly, Lou's father was the ultimate. He had a way of always knowing where Lou was. There was no hiding from him!  He always seemed to know just where Lou was and what he was thinking!  Now I'm sure that Lou's father loved him, in fact I know he did.  But hey, everybody needs a little solitude once in a while.  It's unnerving to feel like you're being watched all the time. I had that feeling out in the woods once, and I didn't care much for it. Living in your parent’s shadow can cause deep feelings of insecurity.
  • Also, as experts have recently pointed out, Lou's father displayed numerous symptoms of workaholism.  Think about it!  He had only one day off per week.  And when he should have been relaxing on his day off, there he was, helping others.  In fact Dad's day off was usually his busiest day!  I mean, it's great to help folks once in a while but.....  Parental preoccupation always has a negative effect on children, according to the experts. Lou was no exception.
  • In addition, Lou’s father was the strongest fellow who had ever lived.  He could pick up burdens no one else could dare to lift.  There was a sense of majestic power about him that must have inspired Lou as he grew up.  Many boys look forward to the day when their strength exceeds their father’s.  But for Lou the day would never come.  Dad was out of reach.  Though Lou’s brothers never noticed, Lou began to chafe at the prospect of a second-fiddle future.  However, you have to admit, Lou was determined.  He never quit trying to outdo his dad. Strong-minded parents exercise subconscious intimidation upon their children.
  • The whole family was firmly fundamentalist.  It all started with Lou's dad.  He was a judge by trade, and he wasn't willing to bend when it came to right and wrong.  I'll admit, I respect a person like that, but fundamentalist families all too often push children into codependent compulsivity, as the experts have pointed out. This austere environment had a shattering effect on Lou's self-esteem. He was headed for a fall.
  • To top it all off, Lou came from a single-parent home.  He had no mother. Of course his father loved him completely, but is that really enough?  Growing up without a mother produced a serious loss of identity and self-worth in Lou. The experts all agree on this. Single-parent families damage the creativity of children.
  • Last but not least, Lou was a middle child.  His elder brother Josh was a tough act to follow. In fact, he was so much like Dad it was amazing.  Now there's no denying it,  Josh was a great individual!  He always had just the right advice, or a listening ear when you needed it. He was kind, loving, intelligent, and creative.  Dad didn’t play favorites, but he and Joshua were often together, building things. Lou had lots of ideas that he was willing to share, but Dad and Josh had no use for them. Naturally this made Lou resentful, because he was very brilliant. Like every middle child, Lou would always be in big brother's shadow without any real independence of his own. Relational rejection is an unmediated cause of emotional disturbance. He was headed for a fall.  

It happened gradually.  Lou began to feel extremely uncomfortable around Josh. And he still does to this very day. Chronic resentment is a normal reaction of children exposed to this type of family model.

Right before everything came to a head, Lou got some counseling. Dad was the first to notice the change in Lou, and He and Josh both tried to reason with their beloved family member. Tragically the advice was a bit old fashioned. Even the best counselor can’t do much with outmoded counsel. Listen to this! “Don't spend so much time on yourself Lou” was the counsel. Think about others. Be more like me.” This only energized Lou further in his quest for self-esteem. He was determined to exonerate himself, by breaking out of his family captivity. Good for you, Lou!  As the song said "I did it MY way."

Against the backdrop of our modern wisdom we can clearly see the weakness of Dad’s counsel. Everyone knows that we must focus on our self if we're ever to overcome our hang-ups. Burn-out and loss of identity are often the result of too much care for others. Low self-esteem can derail us if we are not careful. Trapped inside a family like Lou was, is it any surprise that he turned out to be a troubled person? He eventually fell.

 Ok.  You've guessed it haven’t you?   Lou is none other than............Lucifer!  The Morning Star.  The Anointed Cherub.  The perfect son gone bad!

I am genuinely baffled by the attempts of secular counseling to blame our problems on past or present circumstances. Like contemporary Adams we often point a finger at the Eves of our past.  “The past Thou gavest me, Father. It was too much for me...  The parents You gave me.....  The neighbors.....The geographical location...the live & onions I had to eat as a child... That’s what made me this way...” (I can almost concur on the liver & onions, but let's move along here).

In spite of all the labels and syndromes, one fact stands clear. Lucifer did not come from a dysfunctional family!  The wrong use of the gift of his power-of-choice is what made him guilty. That, and taking too long a look in the mirror. (His was the original selfie.)

I cannot overstate the devastating effects of Lucifer's rebellion. It introduced sin for the first time into God's perfect creation, and is therefore an event of the utmost significance to any understanding of the problem of evil. “I will...I will......I will.....”  This was the awful birth of self into the universe. Its devilish offspring, self-image, self-esteem, self-love, self-acceptance, self-assertion, self-whatever are the epidemics of today’s world and have sometimes been invited into the church.

“The service and exultation of self, foreign to the Creator's plan, awakened forebodings of evil in minds to whom God's glory was supreme”  (DA. 494).

Inasmuch as Lucifer's fall marked the origin of evil in the universe, it must also provide the pattern by which all evil is understood.   Like him, we are not robots forced by circumstances to react in a specific way. Temptations and traumas may be rationalized as excuses for reacting angrily, vengefully, destructively or irrationally—but they do not justify one's behavior.  It is the choosing heart, not circumstances — no matter how traumatic — that determines our actions. Fortunately, God is far more concerned about our future than our past (Isaiah 43:18,19; Micah 7:18,19).

It is true that unresolved issues from the past will mess up our present life if we don’t resolve them. A Biblical counselor will help you look back only long enough to identify an origin point, and then resolve it in Jesus. We can’t go forward if we are hanging on to the past. But we can choose to go to Jesus for healing. Then we can go forward in joy. This is the work of God in our hearts (Luke 4:18).

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