Cries of the Heart - Part 3



Cries of the Heart - Part 2

I’ll never forget the day when my dear friend, the late Dr. Gary Smalley, the “guru” of marriage and family wisdom to millions of admiring fans, taught me the five levels of intimacy in marriage (and equally true for raising children.)

Gary, who’s warmth, wisdom and communication skills won the hearts of those who knew him said that truly knowing your spouse (or children) depended on your willingness and ability to understand and practice the “deep dive” through five levels of intimacy.

  • Level 1 – Small Talk: “Hi. What’s up?” – “Not much.” – “What’s going on?” etc.
  • Level 2 – Facts: “I read today that…” – “Today the kids told me that…” – “In history class I read…”
  • Level 3 – Opinions: “Mom, I don’t think that…” – “I don’t agree that…” – “I see it this way…”
  • Level 4 – Feelings: “Dad, it really hurts me when…” – “Mom, I’m so sad when…” – “Sometimes I just feel so lonely.”
  • Level 5 – Needs: “Mom, I need you to be there when…” – “Dad, I need your soft shoulder when…”

The fruit of living in all five levels of intimacy is trust, warmth, closeness, and heart-to-heart family relationships. The challenge, Gary said, is that when a couple or a parent-child get to Level 3: Opinions, a “fear dance” begins because of our tendency to prove our point, control, and stand vigorously for our own opinion. It is “me vs. you” time. During this immature battle of opinions fear is invited in, hearts close, and emotional safety is shut down. So, we “dance” back to Level 1; Small Talk. The relationship is imprisoned in shallowness. Intimacy is never achieved.

The “grace” connection and the gift of understanding can tear down that wall and take the relationship to a deeper and more fulfilling level.

  • Romans 8:1 – “Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 – He made Him who knew no sin to be sin in our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
  • 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

These three treasures are “steak and potatoes” to a child’s spiritual and emotional heart!

The “grace-connection” is built in the home by insightful parents who model it, who don’t speak condemnation or shame over their children, and who apply discipline and forgiveness like Siamese twins. It is giving to our children what we hope and believe God is giving to us.

The “gift of understanding,” though seldom spoken of in parent-child literature, is an absolute cache of gold for the parent with a soft patient heart, loving eyes, keen ears, and a curious mind. To a child, being understood opens up a mind that wants to learn and grow, a heart that feels free to feel, and a personality that wants to engage in conversation and express ideas without fear of belittlement or condemnation. Children that feel understood want to explore knowing God and giving the gift of understanding others.

The killer “C’s” of understanding and truly knowing your child are Control (over control), Criticism, Condemnation, and Czarcasm (my word for put downs or convey contempt.) The fertilization for building understanding is much like emotional validation. The two will be rewarded together for you as a parent as you engage in conversation with warmth, empathy, and open-ended questions that include follow up questions like: “Describe that for me.” “Tell me what that’s like for you.” Or “I’d love to know more about that.” If you’re a “fixer” or love to give advice or if you have a tendency to cut conversations short with controlling “here’s what you need to do” answers, you can probably imagine how empty your child’s need to be validated and understood will become. “Robot kids” say “yes sir” and “no ma’am” on the outside but their heart will remain underdeveloped, fearful, and insecure. Memorizing Psalms 139:1-4 together is the best way I know to allow God to communicate His wonderful heart for understanding His children and His help to re-weave a heart that has been tattered by a non-understanding home. The person who knows your child’s heart the best and yet loves him/her the most will win the heart of your child. The three simple keys to become that person:

  1. Be available when you are needed. When your child calls, the rest of your day is on freeze frame. When you child needs a soft shoulder, yours is the softest pillow in the home.
  2. Keen ears: Lock up your tongue and throw away the key! Unsolicited advice is considered criticism. Earn yourself a P.H.D. in asking caring open-ended questions. Listen with world famous patience. Let your open eyes and your open-heart fill in the blanks.
  3. Long-suffering, ever-enduring, marathon style friendship. Love never fails. Prize winning parents never throw in the towel.

I dearly hope this year’s study of the “Heart Cries of a Child” has been helpful as together we seek to raise children who are secure, creative, motivated, and have a desire to explore God and grow in intimacy with Jesus their Lord and Savior.

Together for kids,
Joe White

With gratitude for the insightful writing of Gary Smalley, Josh McDowell, J. David Stone, Dr. Caroline Leaf, and John Trent, here is a summary of the “Heart Cries of a Child.”

  • Acceptance
    • Felt Need: I am wanted
    • Fulfilling Reflections: I can embrace God and others
    • God’s Provision: Psalm 139:13-18, Romans 8:14-17
    • Toxic Alternative:
      • A. “I’ll sell myself to the lowest bidder” ie. “likes” starvation, sexting, social media fixation, shallow relationships, addiction to porn, sexual fantasies, sex-based relationships, same sex & bi-sexual quests.
      • B. Rejection produces insecurity. Alcohol brings social acceptance, party highs and substance abuse
  • Intimacy
    • Felt Need: I am loved
    • Fulfilling Reflections: I deeply love God and others
    • God’s Provision: Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:4-5
    • Toxic Alternative: Looking for love in all the wrong places, stale quiet times, unfulfilling relationship with God & others, seek to fulfill need with sexual relationships, porn
  • Purpose
    • Felt Need: My life matters
    • Fulfilling Reflections: Your life matters
    • God’s Provision: Matthew 22:37-39, Colossians 3:23, Ephesians 2:10
    • Toxic Alternative: Procrastination, poor study habits, laziness, little desire for time with God, excessive time with video games, Netflix, TV, Facebook, etc., slothfulness, discontentment
  • Affirmation
    • Felt Need: I am appreciated
    • Fulfilling Reflections: I appreciate God & others
    • God’s Provision: Zephaniah 3:17
    • Toxic Alternative: Easy prey for toxic relationship hunters. Defensiveness in professional/marital/social sharpening correction. Difficulty with conflict resolution. Overly competitive – always seeking next “win.” False pride – seek habitually financial success – lack of ability to take responsibility for mistakes, lying to cover up mistakes
  • Honor
    • Felt Need: I am highly valued
    • Fulfilling Reflections: I highly value God & others
    • God’s Provision: John 15:13, Romans 8:32
    • Toxic Alternative: Negative self-talk, sarcastic, gossip, slander, will use others for my gain, prideful, talks about own accomplishments, flaunts beauty, physique, talents, anorexia/bulimia
  • Understanding
    • Felt Need: I am known
    • Fulfilling Reflections: I want to know God and others
    • God’s Provision: Psalm 139:1-4
    • Toxic Alternative: Poor listener, talks incessantly, surface text chatter, surface social chatter, lack of depth in relationships, fear to open up about “the real me.” Lying to cover up real me.
  • Emotional Validation
    • Felt Need: My feelings matter
    • Fulfilling Reflections: Your feelings matter
    • God’s Provision: Psalm 139:7-12, Hebrews 4:15-16
    • Toxic Alternative: Fear of “letting down walls”, lack of trust in relationships – nervousness with others, talk about sports, clothes, weather, makeup, etc. But afraid to open up about feelings.
  • Grace
    • Felt Need: I am forgiven
    • Fulfilling Reflections: I forgive easily
    • God’s Provision: Romans 8:1, 1 John 1:9, 2 Corinthians 5:21
    • Toxic Alternative: Bitter, hot tempered, argumentative, shameful, guilt ridden, angry with God and others, accusing others.
  • Discipline
    • Felt Need: I am under God’s authority
    • Fulfilling Reflections: I have peace with myself, God, and others
    • God’s Provision: Hebrews 12:6-11
    • Toxic Alternative: Entitlement, false pride, self-focused, aimless, self-absorbed, broken relationships, false sense of security

KEYWORDS: Behavior, Spiritual Identity, Purity, Relationships, Family,