A few days ago, I watched William P Young’s (author of The Shack) testimony on YouTube. It was a wonderful story of redemption and a man’s struggle to find “home”. Listening to him explain what he was thinking as he wrote the book, after eleven years of contending for his emotional healing, made me appreciate the story even more. He made a statement that struck a chord in my heart, stuck in my mind and caused me to pay attention to what I hear and to what other people hear, as we negotiate this mine field called “communication”.
While he was sharing about how difficult it became to hide his pain after getting married, he told of an incident where his wife asked him not to mix the whites with the colours when loading the washing machine, and of his internal struggle with it. As he put it “she was making an observation, but I heard a value statement”. I have been meditating on that phrase ever since.
I believe that this is a very common and familiar ailment, part and package of the human condition and the only remedy for this is to be grounded in the father’s love and to find our value in Him alone. I believe this is the reason why some people seem almost unteachable and why most of us don’t appreciate discipline and correction. When Holy Spirit whispers a word of correction in our hearts, when our spouse, child, pastor or employer mentions something that could be done differently, we don’t hear an observation, we hear a value statement.
The author of the book of Hebrews exhorts the church regarding the Lord’s discipline with these words: ‘And have you forgotten his encouraging words spoken to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t underestimate the value of the discipline and training of the Lord God. Or get depressed when he has to correct you. For the Lord’s training of your life is the evidence of his faithful love and when he draws you to himself it proves you are his delightful child.” Fully embrace God’s correction as part of your training, for he is doing what any loving father does for his children. For who has ever heard of a child who has never been corrected? We all should welcome God’s discipline as validation of authentic sonship. For if we have never once endured his correction it only proves we are strangers and not sons’. Hebrews 12:5-8 TPT
We go to church and the sermon pushes a button. We don’t hear “we can do better” we hear “you don’t measure up, you aren’t good enough, you are not spiritual enough, you are not acceptable”. When your spouse says “we should get a little more exercise, we hear “you are too fat, you are not attractive anymore, you have let yourself go”, instead of what might very well have been “I love you and I am concerned about your health, I want you to be around for a long time…I value your presence and I want it for as long as possible’.
It seems that at the root of most relational and communicative problems lies this truth…we don’t hear what is being said. We don’t hear, because somewhere, somehow, someone or something has lied to us and we have come into agreement with that lie. Somewhere we have been told, either in words or by their actions “you are not enough”, “you are not what I need”, “you do not fill the void”. We believed it, we have come into agreement with it and now we operate from that position. When it comes to the Lord’s discipline, we don’t really belief the Word. Hebrews 12:11 says this: Now all discipline seems to be more pain than pleasure at the time, yet later it will produce a transformation of character, bringing a harvest of righteousness and peace to those who yield to it.” (TPT)
That’s the truth, that’s an observation, but we hear a value statement. We hear “I discipline you because you don’t measure up to My standards, I can’t use you because you are worthless as you are, I have to fix you first”.
Let me finish with some ideas of how to apply this revelation. Firstly, prayerfully consider how you hear. Ask the Lord to reveal your heart to you, trust Him to show you the lies that you believe and replace those with the truth, according to His Word. Secondly, be mindful that almost every other person you deal with are as insecure and wounded as you are. Guard your heart, and theirs…they also hear value statements instead of observations.
May the Lord of all grace and mercy speak clearly to our hearts and give us ears to hear and eyes to see.