It Starts With Our Households

I’ve had this thing brewing in my soul for the past few weeks (okay, maybe the last several years). But this recent stirring began to boil over as I stood at the back of the room on the final morning of an FCA Camp my daughter recently attended. During the morning session, there was an “open mic.” The campers were encouraged to stand up and talk about what God had done in their lives that weekend. Because these were middle schoolers, they only kind of listened to the instructions. What started out as praise for the events of the weekend quickly turned to these middle schoolers sharing about stuff they’ve been dealing with. To say the words coming out of their mouths were heartbreaking would be an understatement. My heart broke as these young pre-teens and teens shared about brokenness, death, disease, choices, abuse, and sin. Tears were shed, people prayed. There was something stirring in the spiritual atmosphere that morning.

I left with a heavy heart.

My heart has always been heavy when it comes to parents and the way they treat their children. Let me preface this by saying that I am in no way a perfect parent…not even close. I yell way too much, get frustrated very quickly, say things I probably shouldn’t to my children when I want some “me time,” and hold them a little more tightly than I should to protect them from all the bad in the world. It’s hard to call out parents when I know I am not perfect, but at the same time, my heart grieves for the children who find themselves with abusive, neglectful, harmful, and absent parents.
As I sat watching the new movie, I Can Only Imagine with my ten-year-old son on Monday afternoon, my heart was again, overwhelmed with grief. It was also flooded with thankfulness. As I watched the movie, I couldn’t help but think that this was the life my husband lived as a child in many ways. His story is not my story to tell, but it does provide me with gratefulness that he didn’t repeat the cycle and that he loves our children fiercely and well. I’ve also lived my own life of parental disappointment. My parents divorced when I was two years old, and I only saw my dad (that I can remember) for five days when I was twenty years old. From all accounts, he was an alcoholic. I am convinced his alcoholism stemmed from trauma and it completely wrecked his life. He passed away several years ago, and we never had the opportunity to make amends. When I met him at age twenty, I wasn’t right with Jesus, and I couldn’t get to a place where I forgave my dad or cared about him. It’s a regret I will carry for the rest of my life, and most likely a motivation that will keep me moving forward to help others with reconciliation.

No parent should ever abuse, neglect or be absent from their child. It’s never right. We have a lot of well-intentioned ministries and programs who mentor these children. This is the right thing to do. However, what I know from my own life, as well as what was confirmed for me as I watched I Can Only Imagine, complete healing for children often doesn't happen unless there is a change with the parent and complete reconciliation and restoration.

I get that we all make mistakes, but we should be people who own up to our mistakes. Jesus helps us with this process, and the Holy Spirit enables us to confess and change our ways.

Bart Millard said, “My dad was a monster. And I saw God transform him. If God could transform him, he can transform anybody.”

Those are strong words for a child to say about a parent. Who wants to be raised by a monster yet sadly, many children today are being raised by “monsters.” These parents are held down by strongholds of poverty, abuse, addiction, and sometimes greed. Abusive parents are not good but so are absent parents. Absent parents are those who don’t raise their children. They may provide for them, but they don’t nurture them. This kind of relationship can often be just as damaging as an abusive relationship.

My heart hurts when I see the pain in children’s eyes and hear it in their voices. It makes a person feel completely helpless not to be able to help. There are so many great people out there called to be teachers, coaches, Sunday School teachers, and mentors to children who can come alongside these children and show them Hope. But we also need people who will reach the parents (even if the children are now grown adults). Parents are our parents no matter our age, and if we don’t address the deep issues, relationships will be affected for as long as there is unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, resentment, sadness, and hatred.

If we want to heal our land, we’ve got to start first by healing our families.

As I’ve been teaching in the book of 1 Timothy, Paul draws a parallel between the church and a household. He did this because the people of the Greco-Roman culture would have understood the importance of healthy households. When the household was running correctly, and in its proper order, the culture would be stable. If an imbalance occurred, there would be unrest. I think we can all agree; we have unrest in our country because of the imbalance in our households.

I get often asked what the mission of Sandalfeet Ministries is. My primary objective has always been to help people fall (more) in love with Jesus and his Word and to live lives fully powered by the Holy Spirit. I’ve never targeted one age group or demographic specifically, but my reach has always crossed lines. I believe God has done this for me because households are represented by both men and women, and both men and women are parents. Parents can’t continue to run from their mistakes, their duties, or their responsibilities. Each one of us needs to spend some time spring cleaning our households, making sure they are in proper order (according to God’s order) asking ourselves these questions:

1)    Have I been abusive, neglectful or absent to my child(ren)?

2)    Have I surrendered my life completely to the Lord?

3)    Have I sought forgiveness from the Lord?

4)    Have I sought to seek forgiveness from my child(ren)?

5)    Has Jesus changed my life and my behavior? If so, have I shared this with the people in my family whom I have hurt?

6)    Have my family relationships been reconciled? If not, why?

7)    Am I helping my child(ren) not make the same mistakes I made or follow patterns I did? How?

Our world is broken, but Christians hold the tool to help repair the here and now. His name is Jesus. He wants to forgive, heal, and restore. This is not a message solely for the old or the young, but Jesus did have a message to those who tried to cause children to be kept from Him:

“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)

Jesus places value on all of God’s children (regardless of age). He wants us all to come to Him. Restoring families within our country (and around the world) will only come through the proper restoration of every person within God’s household. All our baggage can be laid at His feet. When we release our baggage to Him, he sets us free, and we become more like Him. Jesus never abuses anyone, neglects anyone or is absent from anyone. Quite the contrary. He is the One and only One we need to follow. If we do, wrongs can be righted. It may take time, but it can happen.

Join with me in praying for households to be restored in these days. A great awakening is on the horizon, and our families will be stronger if we are fighting together instead of against one another.

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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