Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Brain Hemorrhage and the Nosebleed

"When school is not a good fit for a boy, when his normal expressions of energy and action routinely meet with negative responses from teachers and classmates, he stews in feelings of failure – feelings of sadness, shame, and anger, which can be very hard to detect beneath that brash exterior. Unable to “talk out” the emotional pressure, boys typically act out through verbal or physical aggression that walls them off emotionally from others, straining or severing emotional connections to the people and circumstances they find painful. And the worse a boy behaves, the more he invites negative reactions from teachers and other adults.” (Raising Cain)

My wife and I just had a little boy in November and it has been quite a joy to ponder all the mud puddles, puppy dogs, ball games, and baited fish hooks. It has also been an opportunity to re-acquaint myself (this time non-objectively) with the thought of Professor Rod Rosenbladt (on fathers and sons) and the documentary and book Raising Cain (h/t to Aaron Zimmerman for recommending it).

It is amazing how things that are actually true dovetail in the form of analogy. As I go through Raising Cain, I will pause to share interesting insights from the book as they lend themselves to analogy of the insights of the Reformation. In the particular piece I shared above, the analogy is to sin as condition rather than action. Bondage to self-assertion rather than free will acting through objective choice.

I usually describe it to my class as the difference between a brain hemorrhage and a nosebleed. If there is a brain hemorrhage (internal) and its symptom is a nosebleed (plainly visible), it is always our first instinct to treat the symptom without regard to that which we cannot see. So, we stuff Q-Tips up our noses and call it a day. But it is a symptom! Its status as outward manifestation is totally irrelevant compared to the brain hemorrhage that exists away from plain view!

Listen to what Jesus says in Mark 7:
Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”(Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”

Take a look at the poor boy described above. Let's say lagging development in reading comprehension is causing frustration. The only outlet the boy knows is Action Jackson. And what does he get? A teacher or parent who tries to manage the symptom (well-intentioned, of course, but ham-fisted). The nosebleed gets the attention while the hemorrhage stews and everything gets worse. A misunderstanding between condition and outward deed that has tragic repercussions.

But read this from Raising Cain: “A kindergarten teacher told us how she uses hugs to welcome her students each day and has seen the transformative calming effect of that simple act on the most troubled and disruptive boys in the class.” The teacher elaborates: “These cold, angry boys melt in your hand because their basic needs are to be loved, cared for, respected. Boys have the same human needs as girls.”
This woman understands the hemorrhage and she understands the effect of one-way love. And the analogy holds with respect to the effect of the same one-way love to the condition of sin. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom... (Luke 12:32)

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