Robert Shaw, D.Min.
Excerpted with permission from Created for Significance: Discovering Who Defines Us and How We Obtain our Significance.
I believe that there are essentially six core longings: love, safety, understanding, belonging, purpose, and significance. Regardless of culture, ethnicity, age, or gender, these core longings exist in every human spirit. Created in the image of God, we were made to reflect God relationally (spiritual, social, and self-awareness), rationally (images and beliefs), volitionally (motivations and actions), emotionally (responses and reactions), and in our physical activities. God’s desire is for the whole person, and He desires to fulfill these human core longings. From the beginning, God established these longings in the lives of Adam and Eve, and they both found fulfillment of these core longings and completeness in God, and then in each other. When they transgressed against the Lord’s boundaries for their lives, the relationship between the two of them was greatly affected as well. When the source of human definition, the Lord Himself, became separated from Adam and Eve through their sin, the way they saw each other was also impacted.
When parents, who may have missed out on the proper fulfillment of their own core longings, mistreat their own children, pain and woundedness occurs. If a youngster was physically or sexually abused, the child’s desire for love, safety, and understanding is greatly impacted and negatively affected. If a child is constantly ridiculed or neglected, the child’s desire for belonging, purpose, and significance are often negatively affected and driven out of proportion. Since these core longings do not go away, a wounded person will seek ways to meet these deep desires. Woundedness and pain, however, greatly cloud our ability to meet such desires in healthy and fulfilling ways. It also impacts the way we identify and define ourselves. Wardle says,
Deep wounds impact what she believes about herself and her world. The experience of insensitivity and abuse at such an early age can lead to serious distorted thinking. This is particularly true when the adults who are called to care for a person actually injure her. The child is far too young to process all that happens, and there is nowhere to turn for help. Strong emotions lead her to draw conclusions about life based on what she has seen and experienced (Wardle 2001, 45).
This is, of course, true of both boys and girls. All youngsters, and adults for that matter, are positively or negatively affected by their environment.
Adam and Eve felt guilt and shame, and tried to hide from God and each other (Gen. 3:7-8). They experienced broken relationship, and they looked to blame God and each other for the brokenness. “Simply put, shame is a feeling of being inwardly flawed – of not measuring up” (Wright 2005, 19). Simply said, guilt says, “I did something bad.” Shame says, “I am bad.” When we experience shame, we want to hide. After all, if we are so flawed who would want to be with us? The truth is we are not flawed – we are broken. Being flawed is when the item is not made very well. The truth is we all were made in God’s image. We were divinely designed. Being broken is when the item needs to be fixed. It would work fine, if it was simply restored to what it was supposed to be and do. Jesus came to “fix” our brokenness so that we can be who we were created to be. Sin broke us, but Jesus took care of sin and restored us to our true identity. While it is true that we can’t measure up to God in our sin and brokenness, the finished work of Christ makes a way for us to be restored to right relationship with God. God remains in the restoration business today through His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.
When Adam and Eve realized that they sinned and tried to hide from God, God asked two profound questions of Adam. Genesis 3:8-11 reads:
They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (italics mine).
The two questions that God asked are very poignant for our discussion. Notice that when the Lord God called out to Adam, He did not ask, “WHO are you?” Who Adam was, was not in question. Adam and Eve were still made in God’s image. Adam was still God’s son, and Eve was still God’s daughter. Their standing in creation was secure as God’s stewards. However, a great separation took place. Instead, God asked, “WHERE are you?” The Old Testament Hebrew phrase can be rendered, “How did you get here?” The question the Lord asked was more of a reflection of the changed relationship in which Adam and Eve found themselves.
The tone of God’s questions is also important. The Lord’s tone was not one of a finger-in-your-face critical tone. It was one of a Father wondering how His son allowed separation to occur between them. It was as if God was asking, “How did you get to this point where you doubted my love and care for you?” It was coming from a Father whose heart was broken because He too experienced separation. When God asked, “Who told you that you were naked?”, He was asking in the same loving tone. It was as if God was saying to Adam, “Who told you such a thing? It surely was not me. I thought you knew where you stood with me. Did you eat from the forbidden tree? It breaks my heart that you believed someone else over my loving and caring intentions for you.” The devil was successful in portraying to Adam and Eve a very different God than the One who created them and covered them in His identity and love. I will discuss this further in chapter four.
When parents experience estrangement from their children, for example, the fact that they are still parents and the children are still their children does not change. It is that the relationship is broken. The Lord still desired to love and define His children. The first humans longed for their suddenly lost relationship with God. Adam’s sin separated him from God. Adam and Eve felt distant, fearful, and ashamed – even between each other. Their shame was why they hid from God. The feeling of shame replaced the feeling of significance. So, the Lord developed a plan of redemption in order to restore relationship with mankind and to satisfy the longings for identity and fulfillment in human beings. This plan of redemption is through the finished, healing, restoring, and saving work of Jesus Christ.
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Dr. Robert B. Shaw, Jr. is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor in both Virginia and North Carolina. He works at the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) in Forest, VA in professional development and as membership divisions director. Dr. Shaw is an adjunct professor at Liberty University and a Clinical Trainer for graduate counseling intensives. He is also an ordained minister, serving as an elder and executive pastor in churches for over 25 years. He has also been a middle school and high school teacher and athletic coach in both the public and private school environments. Dr. Shaw spent several years counseling military personnel and their families near FT. Bragg, NC and specializes in abuse and trauma related issues, addictions, depression, anxiety disorders, life adjustment issues, loss and grief, counseling church leaders and pastors, and adolescents and adults. Dr. Shaw has a Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from Wagner College, New York where he attended on an athletic scholarship in track & field; a Master of Divinity Degree from Christian International Theological School, Florida; a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Liberty University, Virginia; and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Formational Counseling, from Ashland Theological Seminary, Ohio. Dr. Shaw is a National Board Certified Counselor (NBCC), and a Board Certified Professional and Pastoral Counselor (BCPPC). Dr. Shaw and his wife, Lorinda, a registered nurse, have been married since 1978, and have five children together and six grandchildren. He enjoys running, the beach, sports, music, traveling to historical sites, and spending time with family.