by Connie Jakab
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At the young age of eight, our oldest son became suicidal. Two years prior he had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Depression for him didn’t show up as sadness. It manifested as severe aggression where he would scream, hit, or even threaten his life or ours. When we took him to the hospital, the psychologist brought me aside and asked, “What do you do when your son throws fits of rage?” I told her we would send him to his room, and when he was ready to behave he could come out and join the family. This is the way I was raised. She paused, then replied, “Oh no, you never send the hurting away from you, you bring them closer.”
The psychologist went on to explain to us that we were breaking connection with him – the one thing that could bring healing to his troubled mind. When we brought our son home three weeks later I thought our life was going to improve with my son now on medication and having a counsellor.
When his first fit of rage happened, great despair filled my heart. But I remembered the psychologists words, “Bring him closer”. I didn’t know what that looked like. All I knew to do was to keep him in the same room, remove the sharp objects, and try to hold him. He pushed me away numerous times hurling insults at me, still seeking to thrash whatever he could find. All I could do was say to him, “Son, we love you. You belong in our family. Nothing you say or do will break our love for you.” And then out came these words that surprised me, “I’m not trying to change your behaviour”. I almost swallowed my tongue in shock of what I said. The truth is, I wanted to change his behaviour. I wanted the chaos to stop, I wanted him to feel whole, and I wanted our home to have peace. Where did these words come from?
I showed up in my son’s life the same way consistently not for a week, not for a month or even six months, but for a year. During these times of sitting beside my son in his brokenness, God was healing my heart. So much of my own rage and brokenness came to the surface. I felt naked and exposed. Could this be what my son was feeling as well? Unlovable in the mess? The reality of “being known” by God became real to me through this. God doesn’t send us “to our rooms” to get it together. He holds us right there in our mess; when we’re hurling profanities, kicking and screaming. He will never break connection with us, and just as my arms would soften my son’s rage, His arms break the ground of our hardened heart. The warmth of His arms allows us to be brave to sink in and surrender to his embrace once again.
Allowing ourselves to be seen by God may be the bravest thing we will ever do. It means coming to the light and allowing Him to peer into every crevice of our soul that has attempted to look good, as well as the parts we have not yet tried to redeem, or the parts we have chosen to ignore. Standing before Him in our nakedness, allowing Him to gaze right into our eyes whether we feel we’ve had time to fix ourselves up for Him. Coming to Him just as we are; imperfect, incomplete, broken, hurt, angry, confused, addicted, bitter and inviting Him into all of it.
When we connect to God’s love, our children can as well. We cannot give what we have not experienced ourselves. When we allow ourselves to be seen by God and loved by Him, we can bring that same love to our children. When we experience God’s love that isn’t seeking to change our behaviour but to transform us from the inside, we learn a whole new way of parenting that goes beyond behaviour modification.
My son is now 13 years old and you would never guess anxiety, depression, suicidal attempts, and rage was his reality. Allowing myself to be seen and known by God brought my son out of his own mental prison. I had to go first. As parents we lead the way in letting Isaiah 61 be true in our own lives. Allowing God to bind our broken heart, set our captive mind free, and hearing him say, “You were once a prisoner but now you go free, I am rebuilding you, restoring you, and giving you a new name.”
Connie Jakab is the author of the book, Bring Them Closer, a book about how she took her son from anxiety, depression, and suicidal attempts to wholeness.
You can find Connie @conniejakab and at www.conniejakab.com