Andrew Freund: In the Arms of Jesus

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-aj-freund-crystal-lake-abuse-20190426-story.html

This story has been absolutely heartbreaking. I feel an actual physical pain when I think about him.

I want to take a moment and share my thoughts: my grief and my hope for this beautiful, sweet, precious little boy that I just wish I could hold and kiss and rock in my arms like I rock Judah to sleep every day.

We just celebrated Easter last weekend. I feel like this is where we are put to the test: do we actually believe in the resurrection that we celebrated?

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

I believe that the resurrection of Jesus is *real*… He truly was God in the flesh who came and defeated, sin, death, and the grave. Therefore, I believe that resurrection is real for my own daughter, and I believe it’s real for sweet Andrew. He is now experiencing the fullness of love that he never had in part on this earth. I picture him now in the arms of Jesus, held tightly and safely.

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” ~ Matthew 19:14

On Easter Sunday, we sang Phil Wickham’s song, “Living Hope” and I began to cry as I sang these words, thinking of Tirzah’s buried body rising to breathe for the very first time, the breath she didn’t get to take on earth… and now I think of Andrew too:

“Then came the morning that sealed the promise

Your buried body began to breathe

Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion

Declared the grave has no claim on me

Then came the morning that sealed the promise

Your buried body began to breathe

Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion

Declared the grave has no claim on me

Jesus, Yours is the victory!!”

Community Story: A Letter to a Sister on her Birthday

Dear Serena,

When my dear friend Catherine invited me to write you, I was struck with a combination of happiness that someone still wanted to know about you and also feeling afraid of what it would look like to make time to sit with the knowledge that you are not here.

On most days I let every day tasks overwhelm the opportunities to remember you. Although you died almost nine years ago, there are moments that the mere statement: “my sister has died,” will bring me to tears. Perhaps I haven’t mourned fully or perhaps the impact you have left on me is so deep and lasting that it will take a lifetime to enter.

Every so often there are reminders so obvious that no amount of noise can drown out the reality.  When I listen to a friend complain about his siblings I feel envious that he has someone to complain about. When I realize that you have never met my dog Keiko (she is laying on me right now) I think about how much you would enjoy her. When I realize that I am alone teasing Mooma there is a sharp pang. There are countless moments where I look longingly at my phone and wish I could share a witty thought, seek comfort from you or just talk about nothing important, thoughts that only a sister would really understand.

Today is your birthday. You would have been 28 today.

I loved your birthdays. Mostly I loved finding the perfect gift and listening to the “wow” factor in your voice when you opened it. I loved being able to surprise you. Choosing a gift is a combination of knowing someone deeply and keeping an eye out for an opportunity. I used to pride myself in finding the “ah-ha presents”. I haven’t enjoyed giving gifts the same way since your passing.

I tell people that much of who I am is because I was your older sister. You were my favorite person and the person I trusted the most. The hardships of life were much more bearable because we were together and because I had someone to laugh with. Much of our childhood consisted of me running forward, seeing what was to come and guiding you through it. You came to me to learn how to use makeup, how to shave, how to deal with mom and dad, homework, friends. I was older, wiser and had faced the issues before you and I loved being able to teach you what I knew.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles, so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  Throughout the past nine years, I’ve gradually allowed the Lord to enter in to the places of loneliness. I sense Him holding me as I ask Him, “Why?” Why He would take away the person that was supposed to be there for my whole life- even after our parents died and if I never get married and have children?  I have felt Him telling me: “You will need to wait. This time Serena will have more experience and will teach you.”

Here I am, Serena, waiting to join you in Eternity. While I wait on earth, my prayer is that the pain of your passing would gradually open my heart to be able to accept comfort from the Lord, so that I can in turn, comfort others in their pain and sorrow.

I love you and I miss you.

Your big sister,

Larissa

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Happy 3rd Birthday Tirzah!

Dear Tirzah,

We now celebrate your 3rd birthday! (August 20th)

It’s been a gift to celebrate you and remember you… You were our little perfect Gift! and still are.

With the school year starting and Jeremiah entering Kindergarten, I’ve been thinking that you would be going into preschool… what would it have been like for you to be buddies with Jeremiah and him showing you around CHA?

I can picture it clearly in my mind… but then I think, “No! no, you’re just where you’re supposed to be… with Jesus… held in His arms… walking with Him in the heavenly gardens.”

I remember the words in my speech just 2 1/2 months after your birth:

( https://delightofmylife.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/119/

“The Lord convicted me that I needed to submit to Him so FULLY that I could honestly say before God and men that I would not change the story, if given the chance… I needed this unshakable faith and trust in the goodness of God… such that I would not rewrite Tirzah’s life on this earth. These questions: “Would I rewrite the story? Would I write it differently?”  … there is still the temptation… but still the same conclusion.

Dearest Tirzah, my most beautiful and precious little princess, you are our perfect gift just the way you were… still, silent, yet carrying a loud message of LIFE.

You brought us the gift of LIFE in so many ways:  Faith, Hope, and Love in new depths, new vibrancy…  and a farther reaching spectrum of emotions- more tears and steadfast joy (for now we cling to Eternity… a part of our hearts are already in Heaven with you, Tirzah.  Hope in Heaven is the only true Hope, and the only true joy has eyes toward Jesus and Eternity) These tears and this joy are a little closer to the heart of God (who weeps with deep mourning and rejoices in the heights of Heaven).

You opened our hearts to deep grief, such as we had never known before, and pain that we didn’t know was possible. But yet, we have seen the Lord’s faithfulness, felt His presence, and heard His voice with an intensity and reality that matched the depth of our brokenness. Job says in 5:18: “For he wounds, but he binds up;
he shatters, but his hands heal.”

Tirzah, your life is still bringing us the gift of healing. We can only be healed so far as we are broken. Dan Allender once said that “trauma begets trauma”… and oh! did we find that to be true!

I have a theory: that all grief, pain and trauma have the same biochemical outcome in our brains… therefore, one traumatic event can actually trigger all past trauma and bring it to the surface again.

The last three years have been tumultuous for your dad and I, as not only the trauma of loosing you on this earth was felt, but all past traumas of our lives were also brought forth.  This brokenness in our hearts was there before you, just buried beneath the surface. Now you have brought us the gift of healing and the gift of being “wounded healers”, by the grace of God.

My good friend Rose shared this verse with me often:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  ~ 2 Corinthians 1:4-5

This is where we are now, Tirzah. Because of you we have the gift of a new calling on our lives. And when I say “we” I include Jeremiah and Judah!

Ever since you were born, Tirzah, Jeremiah has a sense of empathy that is stunning for a small child. He was about 2 1/2 at that time. As a result of our grief over you, Jeremiah became keenly aware of emotions. When we read him stories after your birth, he would point to every character on the page and want to know how they were feeling. Every single day (this is no joke), multiple times a day, Jeremiah would hand me a train and say, “Percy is sad because there are no beetles, lets just listen to how he feels.”  One day we were at a park with a sandbox (of course another mom with a similar age boy was sitting right next to me), and Jeremiah (about age 3) handed me a shovel and said, “This shovel is sad because he can’t dig, let’s just listen to how he feels.”  I was a little tongue-tied… but beaming with pride.

God has joined your story with ours, Tirzah, and He is beginning to work in Jeremiah his own life verse:  “He defended the cause of the poor and needy and so all went well…”  (Jeremiah 22:16)

Tirzah, you’ve given him eyes of empathy… to see pain in the eyes of another.

Just a couple weeks ago, (at age 5) he prayed in the evening, “Dear God, I pray that Mommy wouldn’t feel guilty…”  My mouth dropped open: for him to understand that emotion, to recognize it in me, and to have the compassion to pray for me was simply stunning… and I believe Spirit-given.

I believe we will see God use you, Tirzah, in Judah’s life as well. Judah’s life verse comes from Ezekiel 37: verses 4-5, 10.

“Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, “Oh dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live“… So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceeding great army.

Your little brother’s first birthday is now just a few days away! I wrote this in Judah’s newborn album:

“The Knight family is now a family of five. Judah is our third child: his older brother Jeremiah, and older sister Tirzah. We want Judah to know all about his sister. Our desire is the same for both Tirzah and Judah: That they would both carry a message of LIFE.

“The verse that Tirzah carries in her still and silent way, for it is engraved on her headstone, is one that Judah will carry with a strong and loud voice:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? ~ John 11:25-26

 

 

The truth about triangulation

“The Story of Joseph is YOUR story.” ~ DA

 

There is always a staggering toll initially for telling the truth, especially about family

Every parent needs to be studied. Every marriage must be truthfully pondered. One’s role among siblings needs to be comprehended. This is not being critical; it is studying the landscape to make one’s way through the dark woods of past harm. We are formed in the midst of the crucible of attachment and the tensions of our family of origin. We can’t even begin to understand our character until we better understand the role we played in relationship to every member of our immediate family.

This will unquestionably bring up stories of harm…

The goal is not to tell our stories to get over them, or even to gain insight. Instead, we must enter the stories for the sake of grief, anger and forgiveness. Grief opens the heart to receive comfort. Anger moves the heart to stand against injustice. Forgiveness frees the heart from resentment and the accusations of evil.” ~ Healing the Wounded Heart, pg 224 DA

This is the first blog in a series about how children can be harmed within families. This blog is about the concept of triangulation within a family- what it is and the harm it does.

God designed marriage to be an exclusive relationship, of highest priority and loyalty between a husband and wife, secondary only to their relationship with Him. In fact, the marriage relationship is meant to be an allegory, a living picture, of our relationship with God (see Ephesians 5, Song of Solomon, Hosea, Ezekiel 16, among more!).

There is to be a “leaving” of all others, not just in a sense of location- changing residence, but leaving emotionally, spiritually, and in the sense of loyalty. And then a “cleaving” to the spouse above all others in these same areas.

This reality of mutual giving and receiving of love can be weighed in the question- How much delight does the wife have for her husband? and he for her? Do their eyes light up for each other, and something deep in their soul says “Yes!!” for the other? And secondarily, how much honor is there between husband and wife?

The negative form of assessment might be, instead of this lighting up for the other is there a groan, a rolling of your eyes for the other?

John Gottman, phD studied couples and marriages and found rolling eyes highly predictive of divorce, *because* it is a sign of contempt for the other. (The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman)

This assessment is important, because it is here, in this breakdown of love- of honor and delight- there forms a fissure in a marriage.

Whenever there is a fissure in a marriage there will be triangulation with the children in the family. The unmet needs of each parent to delight in another and receive delight don’t just disappear. When those needs are not being met by the spouse, there is a vacuum that MUST and WILL be filled. The desires of the heart will inevitably be redirected, often towards a “chosen” child, resulting in an emotional affair. We use language that makes it palatable and call this the “favorite” child syndrome.

Reread the story of Joseph- see the fissure in his parent’s marriage, how Joseph was the “chosen” of his brothers, the envy, and sabotage… the suffering Joseph endured. And when he said, (Genesis 50:20) “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…” He’s talking about FAMILY, not some outside source of evil, but his own family meant him harm!

Here’s the typical triangulation scenario in our day: For whatever reason, distance comes into a marriage between husband and wife. They may still keep proper appearances, but all desire, delight, and true heart to heart intimacy is gone.

The shift of the woman’s heart can be seen in her eyes. While there is an eye-roll or a groan toward the father, the mother’s eyes light up for her son and she has a smile for him that she has never had for her husband. Her husband is not oblivious to this, he knows that her heart has been given to this child in a way that she has not given it to him. What then is human nature? The husband will be filled with envy toward the son. We may call his harsh treatment, cynicism, criticism, and mockery toward the boy “tough love” or laugh it off as “all in good fun”, but in reality it is sabotage and revenge toward his rival- the “surrogate husband” of his wife.

Of course it goes both ways… the husband chooses his “favored” child as well. (either sex, but often a daughter). The same scenario plays out: sabotage from the envious mother, often in the most subtle of ways… a comment about the daughter’s weight, or clothing that “is only meant to help” of course… or can manifest in emotional neglect- lack of protection or guidance that an adolescent girl would need.

Then as well, the son will feel that his sister has a special relationship with the father while at the same time he feels the father’s disdain. Human nature would incite jealousy in his heart toward his sister. And what does he do? Well, he also knows the envy in his mom’s heart- they share this in common. He colludes with her in sabotage of the daughter. He is delighted in handing over his sister to his mother on a silver plater. What does this mean? Anything that will increase the daughter’s shame, alienation, and contempt from the mother.

In his podcast, Dan has said, “When you engage triangulation, you are engaging the Kingdom of Darkness. When you begin to name these dynamics, and stand against it, all Hell will break loose- literally.”

Most families have at least two triangles. It’s so common that we consider it normal. A daughter is described as a “Daddy’s Girl” or a son “Momma’s Boy”… there’s the jokes (and realities) about intrusive mother in laws. Why is that a cultural expectation? Because *often* a mother will turn to her son to meet her emotional needs when her husband is emotionally avoidant or physically absent (workaholic or divorce for example). And then what happens when her son grows up and marries? The new woman isn’t simply her son’s new wife… she is her rival.

And what is the damage done to the “chosen” child?

To be the chosen one is to be the object of a parent’s delight; it is also to feel the shame of arousal, desire, fear, and disgustnone of which can be felt for long without revealing the truth, so it must be wedged into a crack of consciousness and then covered over. The animosity in the family needs to be ignored or explained, so the real issue is obscured and fault is felt as some flaw in the self. Needless to say, the more subtle, crazy-making, shame-inducing, blame-avoiding the harm, the more free Evil is to sow seeds that are actually more difficult to address, at times, than overt abuse.” ~ Healing the Wounded Heart, DA

The damage done can be legion and varied just as the triangulation will be unique in how it plays out in each family culture. The harm can be strictly emotional, but can also involve direct or covert physical and sexual abuse. Even though emotional abuse may seem lesser, each can have a trail of physical effects on a person’s life: chronic depression, anxiety issues and disorders, sexual promiscuity or involvement with abusive partners, self-harm in various addictions or chronic physical ailments such as fibromyalgia. (see book “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk)

For more information, see Dan Allender’s new book, Healing the Wounded Heart. There is a chapter called, “The Damage of Covert Abuse.” He outlines 4 types of triangulation and describes the aftereffects:

There are four forms of interaction that are most common for generating emotional incest: critical and/or demeaning, dependent and/or fragile, sensual and/or sexualizing, and infantilizing and/or hyperprotection.”

on forgiveness: Part 1

This two minute video on forgiveness is profound… I hope you will watch it.

Here is a summary of the process Dan describes:

First, let me define “forgiveness” in 2 parts. The first part of forgiveness is canceling the debt some owes you for harm done to you. This is what God’s forgiveness is for us- The cost of our sin to God’s holiness and purity is infinite, therefore, we in turn owe a debt that is that is immeasurable and infinite. This debt demands an eternal, infinite payment… And this is grace: Jesus, being God in the flesh, took our debt upon himself and paid the debt for us. That is the *gift* He offers to us. Freedom from debt. And not only does he remove our punishment, but he *blesses us* with adoption- we are welcomed into God’s family as *sons and daughters*. That is the second part of forgiveness: a desire for goodness to come to the other, and an active movement to bless (Dan’s words).

Forgiveness may seem more clear, when simply defined in the above 2 parts. However the *process* is not simply, or easy, or completed in a moment with mere words, “I forgive you.” (Is that what we teach our children, and we ourselves have believed? One kid pushes another on the playground. An adult steps in, instructs the offending child to say, “I’m sorry” and the offended to say, “I forgive you.” And it’s neat and clean and DONE… then go off to play as before. And then in adulthood, when it doesn’t happen this way, do we question what is wrong with us? Why can’t we forgive, especially when God has forgiven us, instructs us to forgive others, and promises the power of the Spirit to guide us.

I think in the breakdown of the process of forgiveness as DA describes, we’ll see that we often road block at the very first step, and abandon the task altogether, often resorting to a *socially acceptable* form of contempt- *avoidance*. In refusing the painful process of forgiveness, all thoughts of harm are swept under the rug, and as DA says, “Your enemy becomes one you don’t see, and literally you cast them away from your eyes.”

The steps are: 1) Name the Wound; 2) Remember God’s forgiveness toward you; 3) Step into the War. (I will discuss each step in one blog post at a time. Here is part one:

1. Step 1: Name the Wound

The first step in forgiveness may very well be the hardest and most painful. When we’ve been harmed by another, we need to *name the wound*, face the heartache, and understand the particularities of the cost it’s been to us- our bodies, our being, our relationships.

However, we tend to minimize it, over-look it, “sweep it under the rug”, as I described above, and “move on”. This is a not true forgiveness. Can I pose the question- is much of what we consider “forgiveness” merely a counterfeit of what God truly desires from our hearts?

“You cannot forgive what you have not faced. The harm is almost always deeper than you have allowed yourself to name. Will you face the consequences of harm done to you?” (DA)

This happens over time.

I recently read a letter that C.S Lewis wrote in 1963, near the end of his life, about the difficulty of forgiveness: “Do you know, only a few weeks ago I realized suddenly that I at last had forgiven the cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my childhood. I’d been trying to do it for years: and like you, each time I thought I’d done it, I found, after a week or so it all had to be attempted over again.”

Sometimes forgiveness is a journey that takes a life time.

If forgiveness, by definition is canceling the debt owed to you… and to forgive you must understand what the debt is, this means you must *enter your own heartache for the wound that was caused you… and you must enter into the anger for this wound… THEN you can cancel the debt in truth. Again, this is not done easily. Clearly, this requires a high degree of felt pain… and this is why it may be a slow journey.

The question may arise- how exactly do we enter into the heartache and pain of the wound? Especially, given that we instinctively, unwittingly shield ourselves from such pain. I personally found that processing in a safe group with other people (specifically at the first group session of the Allender Center counseling certificate in Seattle) was essential.

Sharing our stories of harm in a group setting is helpful because it reveals where our hearts have turned against ourselves with accusations of being “dumb” or “overreacting” or “foolish” or whatever it is we tell ourselves as a reason that the harm is not significant. We can never see our own face, we automatically bring so much judgement… We need other people to see our face… to see the pain, and reflect the truth of the pain back to us. In my own experience, it was revelatory to see the faces of other people in reaction to my own story, and to see their compassion. At first, I could borrow from them that compassion for myself, then make it my own.

It was powerful for people to say, “the cost of the harm done to you has been *high*“... It was in the presence of others that God showed me areas of my heart that held contempt for myself, and then opened my heart in compassion and grief. And finally, I understood, in greater totality, the debt I am called to cancel. As Dan says, this is a high privilege, and in no other arena are we closer to the heart of God.

{if you were intrigued by the first 2 minute video, here is a 14 minute interview discussing forgiveness that fleshes out more of the ideas: “Forgiveness: Unpacking the Confusion }