Another component of being in the office of personhood is being protected by your parents.
This normally begins with the womb being a sanctuary for the fragile baby. After birth the baby is physically protected in various ways through the vagaries of infancy and toddlerhood. Protection ranges from the passive yellow signs in the car window saying “Baby on Board” to mom very aggressively holding Joey’s hand to keep him from running into traffic.
Less well defined are the issues of emotional and spiritual protection, yet these are part of wise parenting too.
I remember how my dad carefully gave my older sister driving lessons without tell me. He knew she was going to be quite challenged in that area and would need some extra time and effort to master the old Jeep, so he wisely did it in private.
Only it wasn’t as private as it should have been, because one of my friends found out and informed me what a wild ride she produced. Since I had some very well developed predator skills at that time, I promptly made her world very emotionally unsafe!
Aside from that blooper, we kids all knew that our parents were very intentional about protecting us. Dad censored Time magazine before he let us read it, since he didn’t want us exploring lewd pictures from the radical new play “Hair,” or seeing raw footage from the Vietnam war, or reading about Betty Friedan or George Wallace.
We were home schooled more for our protection than because of excellence of education. There was a boarding school for missionary kids, but it was in the city, far from home.
We were trained to avoid diseases that were transmitted by touch and knew to never eat raw foods on the street — only things that had been properly washed at home.
We were taught to be proactive about anticipating the whereabouts of scorpions, tarantulas, snakes and sting rays in Brazil as well as avoiding perverts and liberals when we were in the US.
Spiritual protection was a bit skimpier because back in that day all demons were confined to the gospels and Hollywood.
It is odd looking back at 100,000 little parenting moment to see which two popped up today.
I was nine years old when we returned from Brazil for a year of furlough. My sister was eleven. I remember Mom being quite concerned about our emotional wellbeing as we hit this new and wacky culture. 1963 was Jim Crow laws, civil rights marches, hippies on Haight Ashbury, Beatles, sit ins and “Puff the Magic Dragon.”
The plan was for the family to fly into Miami, stop in Fort Lauderdale for Dad to have some urgently needed surgery, then to drive across the country in about three months, visiting sundry churches and shirt tail relatives.
In the months prior to our grand adventure, Mom sat Linda and me down time and again to explain different aspects of the culture and what the proper responses were so we could navigate our way through the shoals and not embarrass ourselves (or our parents) too badly.
I remember that very fondly as an over the top parenting season, and I was very grateful.
Dad was not nearly so detailed as Mom, but he assured us with vague generalities that America had become worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, and we were personally and individually in great danger of backsliding during our year there and becoming one of those lukewarm, carnal Christians that God despised.
We were to be on our guard at all times against lowering the high moral standard we had been raised with. Television and all secular music (AKA the Beatles) was to be feared and avoided with a holy passion lest we partake in the brimstone.
But for all of Dad and Mom’s efforts to protect us from emotional trauma, they fell short.
Early in the trip we were at the home of one of the much-to-be-fear “Board Members” (spoken with appropriate reverence).
We kids were appropriately awed and were on our very best behavior (i.e. doing nothing at all but sitting quietly in the den, because children were to be seen, not heard). Dad and Mom were in the living room within earshot of the quiet-as-a-mouse group, when it happened.
The hostess came through and asked each person what they wanted to drink and with our own ears, we heard our holy Dad, the defender of righteousness, missionary extraordinaire, order a Root Beer.
To say we were traumatized was an understatement. If our own father could fall into such abject carnality, in the home of a Board Member, within a month of our arriving in the States, there was simply no hope that we kids would make it through the year, surrounded by American debauchery, and return to the safety of the mission field with our sanctity unscathed.
It was years later before we found out that Root Beer was actually soda pop!
By all standards, protection was quite high for me as a child.
So what does the healing journey look like for someone who grew up in a violent home or in a home where there was simply no concern about their well being?
There are basically two paths back: one is where another person champions you and the other is where God does it.
Let’s look at the human champion first.
To me, one of the most subtle, yet powerful statements a friend can make about your personhood is to overtly include you in their space. This can be someone saving a prime seat for you in church or coming to look for you so you can go through the line together with them at the pot luck, or overtly maneuvering to sit next to you in a crowded car situation.
That simple act of wanting you in their space says a lot to someone who has been an “other” all of their life.
One friend recently moved into the office of personhood and was surprised to have a man call her, out of the blue, to warn her about a potential problem in the neighborhood. That is another expression of protecting physical personhood which is especially important to a woman.
On the emotional side is the general area of inclusion. When you are verbally given a heads up about a party you are invited to, before the general e-mail goes out, that is a large statement of your value as a person.
On a more basic level, I extended significance to a lady last weekend. We were in a group after I had spoken at an event and other people were firing questions at me and having a good time. When they ran down, eventually, I turned to the silent one and asked if she had anything to ask.
She could not yet formulate the question that was in her mind, but the fact that I created a safe place for her to ask a question matter to her. She had felt like someone on a bicycle trying to merge onto a fast moving freeway. I created a slower-paced spot for her to join if she wanted.
The area of spiritual protection is an interesting picture. There are the obvious areas of giving someone a heads up when there is spiritual commotion going on. But there is a more fundamental issue of treating the other person’s spirit with care.
I have watched some people who are not in the office of personhood be prayed for, and so often the prayer minister or deliverance person has a hard edge to them when dealing with such a person. By contrast, I remember a comment made by a friend regarding my pastor praying for her. She said, “It is the first time I have received prayer and have not felt assaulted.”
I am honored that my pastor brought that level of sensitivity to the task but saddened that healers are often pulled into the deficit in someone’s life and treat their spirit as though it were a potato that needed to be scrubbed clean, rather than a hurting unit that needed care with compassion.
Obviously we have a Catch 22 situation here. When someone is not in the office of personhood, most people tend to treat them poorly or ignore them, so their relationships tend to exacerbate the problem, not solve it.
At the end of the day, He has the most experience healing people from their past and restoring offices.
There are at least six times I can still remember when God clearly, supernaturally saved my life. I listen as other people tell their stories from the point of view of the devil’s hatred of them. While I am aware that I am not his favorite, I see the story from a very different perspective.
Clearly, clearly, God really wants me alive. He has gone out of His way to protect me from all sorts of traps the enemy has set (plus the ones I don’t know about) and that to me is a rather emphatic statement of my value to Him as a person.
On the soul side, there are two common scenarios. One is where He protects me from a bad situation by giving me inside information. I love that. Other times, I get bumped but there is some special soul gift that lifts me up quickly after a debacle.
Yesterday was one of those. Due to some odd circumstances, I was in a pretty poor place emotionally all day. A friend of mine sent me this link about a bird of prey. I enjoyed it mildly, but since I was so down, I could not really do it justice.
But I knew that Megan is a falconer in her dreams and would enjoy this at such a very different level than I did. So I forwarded the link to her, leaned back, put my feet on my desk and enjoyed watching her ENJOY the video clip at a much deeper level than I could.
I love giving gifts, and enjoy surprises most of all. So having God do all the heavy lifting so I could give someone a gift that was a total surprise and that lifted my emotions, is the kind of thing God does for me frequently. Many of my best gifts to people were acquired by Him, for me, and designed to cheer me up because I find great joy in giving exquisitely timed gifts.
Most of all, though, I treasure spiritual protection. There was a time when I did not have that as I traveled. I have sat in many an airplane seat, next to someone whose defilement invaded my space for hours and I either had to fight back the whole time or be slimed.
It matters a lot to me that my airplane seats seem to be meticulously deloused from whoever had been there before me, and the people next to me are either cleaned up or contained. Time and again, my flight time is a sanctuary experience as God creates a holy place where He meets with my spirit.
I can’t point to a specific transition in my life where I saw God begin to intervene on my behalf with overt protection of spirit, soul and body. But I do know that He does it consistently, and He keeps me well rooted in my sense of personhood.
Copyright October 2011 by Arthur Burk
From the Quarterdeck, in Anaheim