by Mike Manzie
Pastor Roger’s parents were missionaries and traveled around the world preaching the gospel. This was a unique opportunity for young Roger. However, he was often left alone in these foreign countries and put in the care of various orphanages where his parents served at the time.
Initially, when he came to Russell and me for counseling (regarding his porn addiction), he told us about exciting things he had experienced in all these countries. However, as counseling continued it became apparent: his childhood wasn’t all fun and games.
He stayed in these various orphanages full-time and ate, slept, and played with these refugee orphans who lived there. But of course, he was not an orphan.
As his story emerged, it became clear that Roger suffered from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in some of these places. In one incident, he witnessed a young boy being sexually abused by an older boy. After this terrifying assault, the older boy then laughed at what he’d done. Roger said he was frozen by fear as he witnessed this horrific event. He felt powerless because this was the same boy who had sexually abused him as well. He told us he hated himself for years for not protecting the younger boy. We emphasized, of course, that he was a young boy himself and could do nothing to stop it.
Roger said the shame of all these experiences has haunted him for years, even to the present day. He said he knows that God loves him because that is what the Bible says, and that is what he was taught in seminary. But he sure doesn’t feel it, he told us, “I’m supposed to feel it because I’m a pastor for goodness sake!” he said. But instead, he feels completely unlovable (and that haunts him too).
In a recent zoom session, he had his young son with him. This precious little boy would interrupt our session because he wanted his “Daddy.” Roger kept apologizing for his little boy’s interruptions, but we didn’t mind at all (we couldn’t help but giggle at how cute he was). At one point, he wanted to crawl on “Daddy’s” lap. Roger pulled him up to his knee and he hammed it up for Russell and me. Then Roger hugged and kissed his little boy before placing him back on the floor and telling him to play.
Once again, Roger apologized for his toddler’s behavior. At that moment I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to ask Roger if he was mad at his son for interrupting our session. “Of course not,” Roger said. “He’s only a one-year-old; he doesn’t know any better.”
“How did you just discipline your little boy?” I asked him. Roger looked surprised at the question but said “I just told him to behave. And he did.” I told him to think relationally and answer the question again. “Well, I put him on my lap,” he said. Again, I pressed my point, “Didn’t you kiss and hug your little boy and tell him that you love him?” “Yeah.” “That is how God loves you,” I said, “when you misbehave. He puts you on His redemptive lap and loves you unconditionally no matter what you’ve done, just like you just did with your little boy.”
Instantly Roger broke and cried uncontrollably. His little boy ran up to him because his dad was now sobbing loudly. Roger picked up his little boy and told him, “Daddy’s ok.” Obviously, this little one was concerned for his Daddy.
For the first time in his life, he felt the unconditional love of God. And all this demonstrated by a one-year-old whom Roger loves unconditionally, as our dear Father loves us.