By Amy Vassak

Four years ago, my husband stepped on a seemingly insignificant sea urchin in the ocean. His foot was bleeding a little, so I cleaned the wound, bandaged it, and we went on our way. The wound never properly healed, but it also never became inflamed. After a few weeks of no adverse outward reaction, my husband suddenly became ill. In a matter of two weeks from the initial onset of a fever, my husband was bedridden. His illness culminated in a surgeon’s amputating almost half of his left foot to spare his life because his body had become septic. The sea urchin had left bacteria on the bone of his foot, and the bone became infected long before the infection was revealed on the outside.

In the past few years, an alarming trend has been taking place among Christian homes. Our homes are going septic because of an infection that has taken over on the inside. Families pull into the church parking lot, and like all of the other families, they are sharply dressed, they go to their Sunday school classes, and they sit still and behave in the pew their family always sits in. They sing the songs, give their offering, work in the nursery, and nod their heads in agreement to the sermon, but when they go home, things take a drastic turn.

Sometimes my family likes to eat breakfast food for dinner. One evening I made French toast and bacon, and we sat down to eat it. I took one bite and nearly gagged! My husband and kids were so gracious and kept eating it, but something had gone horribly wrong, and I simply couldn’t finish my food. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to ruin this simple meal. A few weeks later, I was making French toast again, but this time for breakfast. I reached up in the cabinet and pulled down…nutmeg! Yikes! I almost put it in the batter. Then it hit me. That’s what I had done weeks before to ruin the French toast! The two containers of cinnamon and nutmeg looked exactly the same.I hadn’t even checked the label the first time. I assumed that I had cinnamon, the right ingredient, but I only had an imposter, and it ruined the meal.

In the last few years, I have been called upon to help some young people deal with the most egregious of circumstances in their homes. The level of abuse in some cases is horrifying. Siblings being chained together for hours at a time; iron burns used as a tool of discipline; a mom inviting a man over repeatedly, even though she knew he was abusing her daughter—these are only a few examples of what has gone on in some homes. You might say, “What does that have to do with me? I would never abuse my child to that extent or in that way! That is disgusting and would NEVER go on in my home!”

Believe it or not, I have seen kids grow up in the kinds of dysfunction that I have mentioned who go on to have wonderful lives and functioning families. The “infection” is obvious.The “wrong ingredients” are glaring. The dysfunction screams at them day in and day out. The child can easily identify what is wrong and, in many cases, sets out to fix it so that he is not guilty of repeating the behavior.

However, the most difficult circumstances to overcome are those that aren’t glaringly bad. It’s so difficult for children to overcome those homes where the infection surges in private but keeps its hypocritical nature in check in the eyes of the public. Proverbs 18:14 says, “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?”

The resilient spirit of a child can keep him going during the most horrific abuse, but when his spirit is wounded, that’s too much for him to handle. Proverbs 12:4 says, “A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones.” Bone rot is not good.I learned from my husband’s amputation that infection in the bone can’t be healed; it has to be removed. I think this verse could apply to any relationship. If a mother brings shame to her child, some part of that child’s spirit, dreams, or joy will diminish.

Because our homes are going septic, we are losing our children. They leave our homes and leave God and church behind. This level of manipulative septic abuse is far more destructive than physical abuse because it’s not easily recognizable to the child. It simply kills his spirit slowly. Children are taught to honor their parents, but they feel no love returned to inspire the respect.

The following are some examples of this septic abuse:

• A mother said to her son, “I love you because I have to, but I don’t like you very much.”

• A mom threatened repeatedly to leave her family and told her daughter it was all her daughter’s fault.

• Parents demanded perfection, and when their child couldn’t deliver, they humiliated her in front of her siblings.

• A mom said repeatedly to her daughter, “If you weren’t so fat, I wouldn’t be ashamed for people to know you’re my child.”

• And this one happens all of the time: after church parents immediately chew up and spit out the adults their children love.

No home is perfect, but far too many parents squirm in the pew while listening to a sermon on the home—only to go home and discredit the sermon to justify their septic homes.

These seemingly harmless offenses are repeatedly committed, and parents still expect that their children will be stable adults. After all, they aren’t being physically abused. Hypocrisy has caused a chain reaction of rebellion in the heart of these children.

So what do we do now? How do we fix it?

1. Have a real connection with your God. Do your children know that God is working in your life every day?

2. Deal with your issues. How sad when a person brings a new life into this world without ever dealing with personal emotional issues. Evaluate the whys of your life and fix the negatives.

3. Keep your offenses small. Say “I’m sorry” every time you do offend. If you will rein in yourself, your family and others will cut you some slack when you need it.

4. Be the same on Monday as you are on Sunday. Our churches are full of functional addicts to hypocrisy, and we never put the brakes on. We just keep feeding the phony in ourselves.

5. Don’t expect your children to just “get over it.” You have to facilitate healing no matter how painful that may be. Let them talk things out.

6. Encourage your children. Pride and intimidation keep us from giving our children the validation they so desperately need.

7. Beg God for mercy. No one does everything right, yet nearly every time a child goes astray or makes bad choices, he hears, “I don’t know what happened. I did everything right.” Really? Because that’s not humanly possible.

If physical abuse is taking place in your home, seek help and please put an end to that behavior immediately. An abusive parent is without excuse. But chances are, if you are reading this article, you are a decent human being who simply doesn’t realize the depth of hurt your words and manipulation may have caused.

I have good news for you! As the surgeon carefully operated on my husband’s septic body to remove the threat to his life, God can painstakingly operate on your septic home and remove the threat to your children.

As long as you’re breathing, it’s not too late to let Him do His perfect work.