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DECEPTION, PERCEPTION AND GRACE

Communication is a two way street. The words we use and the body language we display does not always determine effective communication. It also matters how the other person perceives what you are saying as it is filtered through their past experiences and rejections.

 

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by Beau Brezina

 

For those of you who have met our son Nate, you know how much he loves to be with people. He frequently grabs my finger and asks with all the enthusiasm a two year old can muster, “Daddy, come play?”

 

It doesn’t really matter to him whether we are playing with trains, blocks, or puzzles. As long as my full attention is focused on what we are doing together, he is happy. He simply wants to be with me and know that I am genuinely interested in his world.

 

Not long ago, I was working on our computer when he walked up and started talking to me. He attempted to get my attention. I was engrossed in my work and did not acknowledge his presence. Several moments passed before I heard Patti’s voice in the distance say, “Beau, he is talking to you.”

 

I was deeply grieved when I realized what I had done. The unspoken message I delivered to him was that he was less important to me than my project, that I didn’t value him, and that I wasn’t concerned about what he had to say. Immediately, I bent down to his level, apologized, and assured him that he had my complete attention.

 

I did not mean to ignore Nate. I simply did not realize he was trying to get my attention. While this incident seems to be a minor blip on the radar screen of every day life, it has stuck in my memory these past few months. The reason it has remained there is because I vividly remember similar interactions with my Dad when I was not much older than Nate.

 

Dad and I possess a similar will to ignore anything other than the task that is at hand. When Dad is working on a project and someone speaks to him, frequently, he chooses not to hear that person. It seems all of his mental energy is focused on one thing.

 

Those who know him know that he is a loving father and passionate child of God. I know that he would never do anything to intentionally hurt me. However, when I was a child, there were times when I would say something to him, and he would neither recognize my presence nor hear what I had to say. He was physically present but relationally absent. As an adult, I now know that he was not intentionally rejecting me when he didn’t acknowledge me. He simply was trying to finish one of his projects.

 

Unfortunately, children cannot reason like mature adults. (See Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development) As a little boy, I was deceived by Satan and convinced that Dad’s lack of acknowledgement meant that what I had to say was not important. I came to believe that I had less value than Dad’s current task.

 

Every person has a need to feel worthwhile and valued. God created us with these needs, and He is the only One who is able to meet all of them. (Philippians 4:19) It was my earthly Dad’s responsibility to train me up to get my needs met from my heavenly Dad. (Ephesians 6:4) In this particular area, my earthly Dad failed me.

 

As I have reflected on my adult relationship with my Dad, these childhood memories and the attached deceptions explain a lot about why I struggled with anger and resentment towards him. As an adult, when I perceived that Dad was not truly hearing what I was trying to communicate, I would choose to get frustrated and angry. These emotional indicators signaled that even as an adult, I was continuing to look to my Dad to meet needs only God can truly meet. People are poor substitutes for God when it comes to meeting one’s deepest needs.

 

These childhood interactions with my dad also impacted my concept of God. Over the years, I subtly began to see God in the same distorted way that I saw my Dad. Intellectually I knew many Biblical truths about how near God was to me and how He actually lived within me. Deep down, however, I was not convinced that God truly heard the concerns of my heart. I felt invisible on God’s great cosmic radar screen. I bought into the lie that God was present with me, but other people’s issues and problems were more important to Him than my own.

 

By God’s grace, over the past few months, God has shone the light of His truth on the darkness of the lies that I had believed since childhood. He first led me to acknowledge the affect that those childhood interactions with Dad had upon my life. If I chose not to acknowledge their affect, I would have been living in denial and would have given Satan an opportunity to continue to deceive me about my relationship with God and my Dad.

 

Alone in the quietness of my office, I forgave Dad from my heart and chose to accept him unconditionally. What peace and freedom I experienced as a result of this act of obedience to God! I was now free to fully embrace the truth that my Heavenly Dad was sufficient to meet all my needs in the area that my earthly Dad did not meet so many years ago.

 

Several months have passed and my Heavenly Dad has been faithful to remind me that I ALWAYS have His undivided attention. As we talk, He corrects my distorted concept of Him. What was previously intellectual knowledge has become heart knowledge as I choose to believe and rest in the truth of His promises. My Heavenly Dad also reminds me that He is ALWAYS longing for me to communicate with Him.

 

When I set my mind on these truths, Satan’s lies do not trip me up. God is near to me and will never leave me. (Hebrews 13:5) He is intimately concerned with every aspect of my life. (Psalms 139) He delights in me. (Psalm 18:19) I am fully alive because I am filled up with and immersed in His Spirit. (John 14:18-20) I am seated with my heavenly Dad in His throne room. (Ephesians 2:4-6) He is fully attentive to me as He whispers “Beau, I have included you in my most important work.” (John 6:28-29)

 

In retrospect, God has been faithful to work even the lies I have believed and the hurts I have experienced together for my good. (Romans 8:28) Because of God’s grace, my relationship with my earthly Dad is healthier today than it has ever been.

 

God has now given me an important role to play in the life of my son Nate. (Ephesians 6:4) I know what I do and say will either directly or indirectly communicate messages to him about the nature of how life is to be lived, of who he is, and of who God is. As I abide in Christ, I will clearly communicate truth to him in my words and actions.(John 15:4)

 

There will be times when I do not abide in Christ and will make mistakes as a father. Nate will be tempted to doubt the source of his worth and value. However, God’s grace will be sufficient in Nate’s life as it has been in my earthly Dad’s and mine. I look forward with anticipation to how God will continue to graciously work in all three of our lives as He grows us in wisdom and stature.