I’m one of the local leaders of the New Canaan Society in Grand Rapids, a mentoring ministry to men. A few weeks ago, we had a dozen young men, most of whom are still indifferent to God, over to my house for a meal and discussion on the topic of engineering a more purposeful life.
Two of the young men coach high school teams in an upscale community nearby. I asked them what the most challenging part of their job was. They looked at each other and almost simultaneously blurted out, “Kids screwed up by their parents!” I pressed them to elaborate on their assertion.
If you have a family member or friend in some kind of 12 Step Program and they’ve not yet found freedom from their addiction, you may find this story helpful.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting outdoors on a sunny, crisp fall day, having a cup of coffee with John, a young man who’s been in and out of rehab for years. John is good looking, intelligent, charming and an alcoholic. He grew up in a Christian family so he knows about God – he even says he “believes in God.” However, there’s not much evidence he’s serious about following Jesus. Nevertheless, it’s to this higher power that he prays, but apparently without much success. And he doesn’t know why. “Why doesn’t God deliver me from this addiction?” he asks.
I told him the story of a close friend of mine, who was in rehab in California years ago. Everyone in their group was asked to describe their higher power. One man said that his higher power was the color yellow!
In our years of counseling couples and families, we have encountered this challenging scenario many times:
Wife: “I would forgive him if he would just apologize.”
Husband: “I did apologize. I said I was sorry.”
Wife: “That’s not an apology.”
In the husband’s mind, he apologized; in the wife’s mind, he did not. Does this sound familiar? Have your apologies to your spouse and children fallen flat? Do the apologies of the people in your family connect with your heart and motivate you to forgive? Or do they seem to seldom apologize? What are your children learning through your words and actions about what it means to apologize?
After two years of research, we have discovered that people have different apology languages. A person may apologize sincerely, and yet, the apology is not perceived as sincere because it’s spoken in a different language. Consider these five distinct languages of apology:
When I was a kid, my parents made me memorize the Heidelberg Catechism, 129 questions and answers. Memorize the whole thing! You couldn’t get kids to do that today at gunpoint!
The catechism was the framework for understanding a reformed, covenantal, biblical worldview. As a 12-14 year old, I couldn’t have cared less. When I asked my parents “why,” they said they didn’t simply want me to know what Christians believed, but why we believed it. What a novel thought! But even now, 50 years later, what I learned way back then, the Holy Spirit still uses to remind me why I have the confidence I do in God’s truth.
Every church has a Statement of Doctrine. But half dozen years ago, the elders at my church felt we needed more than a statement of what we believe. We came under conviction that with biblical truth under attack everywhere, our people needed more context. They needed to know why we believe, what we believe!