When the Bathroom Door is Locked

Dwayne Collins

Recently, my wife and I were flying on a small commuter jet. The plane was full and we had the last row on the right side of the airplane. I was on the aisle and immediately behind and to my left was the sliding bathroom door. I was trying to read, but was aware of the people as they entered the door to the bathroom.

I vaguely noticed a little child, about 4 years old, enter the bathroom and slide the door shut. A short time later, I thought I heard a light tapping. I listened, and again I heard the tapping. It was getting louder and louder. It was apparent that the child, a little girl, had locked the door and didn’t know how unlock it. She was stuck.

I glanced across the aisle and the passenger there nodded his agreement with my assessment. I got out of my seat and tried to slip the slide lock with my finger, to no avail. I got close to the door and yelled for the child to slip the lock back, but she could not understand. I could tell the she was beginning to cry.

I knew that an adult next to an empty seat was probably her parent. I walked about four rows forward and found a lady sitting alone. I told her that her child was locked in the bathroom and couldn’t get out. She looked back and motioned to her husband who was sitting two rows back. He jumped up and tried to force the door open. By this time, the flight attendant, a male, came and began to work the door. He finally got it open and freed the child. Crying, she climbed into her father’s arms to be comforted.

I was reminded of another time, years ago, when my sister was taking her three children to Florida from Illinois on the train. My nephew experienced the same fate. He too, was hysterical by the time he was freed from his prison, unaware of all that was going on, outside of his sight and understanding, to unlock the bathroom door.

Isn’t this just like us. We get ourselves locked in the bathroom and can’t get out. We panic and yell because we don’t know what is going on outside the door. Yet, all the time, God is making the necessary arrangements to rescue us.

The problem is that we can’t see what is going on outside of our sight. We don’t know what God is doing to help us. We begin to doubt. We take matters into our own hands. We think we have to devise a plan instead of letting God work.

This happened in Genesis 15 when God promised Abraham (Abram) a child, even though he was already old, and his wife Sarah (Sarai) was long past child bearing age. Abraham could not see how God was going fulfill His promise. He did not know how God was going to get him out of the locked bathroom of childlessness. So he and Sarah panicked and took matters into their own hands. Sarah gave her maidservant to Abraham to bear a child.

To sit in the locked bathroom and wait on God takes faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. So, even when we are in the bathroom, and don’t see what God is doing, we can be patient and know that God has a plan.

We need to remember that God hears the first tap on the door. Daniel found this in Daniel 10:12. Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.

Are you locked in a bathroom? Have you tapped on the door? Do you think that no one has heard your tap? Be assured, even when we lock the door ourselves, and don’t know how to unlock it; when we tap on the door, and are not sure anyone has heard; when you are trapped in circumstances that you don’t know how to get out of, don’t be alarmed. God has heard your tap on the door. He will answer.

In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Psalm 31:22.

Join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Command and Control

Dan Jenkins

About a week ago I heard President Bush mention that the United States is going to help the new Iraqi government build Command and Control Centers in order to fight the insurgency. When I heard the phrase, ‘Command and Control’ several recollections came to mind. I recall several years ago during the initial phase of the Iraqi war our primary objective was to knock out their command and control centers in order to create confusion and lack of direction among the troops loyal to Saddam Hussein. I also couldn’t help but relate this whole idea of command and control to how the mind works.

Individually, a lack of command and control takes a person down the path of confusion and chaos that is so characteristic of addictive behavior.

It’s been said that an army without the structure of command is led around by its privates. What an appropriate analogy for a sexual addiction! In fact, the rational thinking of your mind is done in the outer layer of your cerebral cortex, and that layer is only a few millimeters in thickness. The cortex makes all the big decisions and psychologists have come to refer to this activity as the ‘executive functions of the brain.’

Below the cortex, running through the heart of your brain like a wishbone, is the limbic system and the source of your emotions. The limbic system is concerned with only a few basic things.

When you walk into a room the first thing your limbic system does is threat assessment, ‘Should I fight or run?’ If there is no threat the question becomes, ‘Is it food and can I eat it?’ If it’s not food the final concern of the limbic system is, ‘Can I have sex with it?’ What do you think would happen if the executive functions that exert command and control over the lower levels of the brain were knocked out by, let us say, a strategically placed cruise missile? The brain would function like an army without an executive commander and the result would be chaos, lack of control, and yes, men being led around by their privates.

Did you know that there are more inhibitory neurons in your brain than there are excitatory neurons? In other words, more effort is spent mentally keeping you from doing things than the energy it takes to do things. Let me clarify this further with some examples. People with brain damage are often impulsive in their actions. They don’t seem to have the executive functions that inhibit impulsive acting out behavior. It takes effort for the rational side of your brain to control the impulsive, emotional side.

Now, add to this that the Limbic system, the emotional part of your brain, does not have an understanding of time or reality. Fantasy seems to satisfy almost as well as reality. For example, you fool your limbic system every time you create a sexual fantasy and your body becomes sexually aroused. You know in your cerebral cortex that this is not reality, but that old limbic system doesn’t seem to know or care.

What happens, then, when you give command and control functions over to that base, lower level, emotional part of your brain? Answer: You stop living in reality. You start living a life of impulsivity and chaos. People who have lost executive functions, either by brain damage or addictive processes, feel threatened by things that should not evoke a fight or flight response. Without command and control, people develop anxiety disorders (see threat everywhere), eat excessively, or become sexually out of control. Sound familiar?

When a person with brain damage has lost command and control over their behaviors, we don’t lay big guilt trip on them. The answer is fairly simple. We structure their environment so they are more likely to succeed. For example, sometimes mentally retarded individuals self-stimulate by banging their heads against a wall. Lectures and shame-based approaches don’t change the self-abusive behavior because it’s not based in rational thought. Instead, we take away a little of their freedom and make them wear a helmet.

People with sexual addictions need some external control too (no, not chastity belts). We call it accountability to someone else. Submit yourself to the authority of another person who can help you make those tough decisions. It’s humbling but the alternative is to stay emotionally retarded.

If your command and control centers are not functioning correctly, seek out someone else who will fulfill that function to some degree. I’ve known very intelligent men who are being led around by their limbic systems because they have a long history or relinquishing control of their executive functions to their basic instincts. It’s very humbling to realize that the path to regaining control involves other people but accountability partners will help you start thinking again with your cerebral cortex.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.

Rebuilding Trust in Friendships

Clint Thomas

Friendships can be an incredible source of stability, encouragement and strength. God said in Genesis 2:18, ‘It is not good for man to be alone,’ thus the friendship between Adam and Eve began. Also in Hebrews 10:24-25 we are exhorted to, ‘spur one another on toward love and good deeds as well as maintain meeting together for the purposes of encouragement.” In other passages (Eph. 4, 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12) Paul talks of Christians working together as a body in interdependence. All throughout scripture we see examples of the importance of friendships.

A good friendship requires maintenance and care, time and attention. Something we guys don’t think much about this part of friendship, expecting that it won’t require any effort. In effect we sometimes treat friendships as if they have very little value. In large part we have not been taught how to maintain or value these relationships. An unfortunate fact about our culture today is that most men have very few friends compared to women. As a result this has negative effects on our emotional and physical health.

Friendships are primarily about intimacy; knowing another person and being known. The phrases ‘see into me’ or ‘into me see’ describe it well.

Maintenance within a friendship is allowing yourself to be fully known and showing interest in knowing the other person. When this happens a deep connection can be experienced. However, what happens when we are caught up in sin that we are ashamed to share with our friends? Can we be intimate and hide simultaneously?

This is the ultimate struggle in friendships and marriage for that matter; allowing our sin to be known as well as our positive qualities. I hear from wives who are broken by their husband’s sexual sin say, ‘I thought I knew him but I guess I didn’t. I feel so hurt, I don’t know if I can ever trust him again’.

They feel betrayed, foolish and vulnerable. While wives are our closest friends, our other friends will sometimes feel similar.

Friendships are like taking a walk with someone. The further you travel the closer you become. However, at the point you begin to lie, or deceive, you are no longer walking with that person even though they think you are. You have chosen a separate fork in the road.

Rebuilding the friendship is much like walking back to the fork in the road where you separated from your friend and starting from that point forward. Your friend will know that you are trustworthy by your willingness to do this without defensiveness. They will see they are important to you by your willingness to put this kind of effort forward to restore trust with them.

A trustworthy person will have words and deeds that match. What they say and what they do will be the same. They will also acknowledge when they have hurt someone. Taking responsibility for their actions, they will apologize. Their non-verbal communication such as body posture and facial expressions will match this as well. When this repentant stance is taken over a period of time trust will begin to build.

A repentant heart leads to rebuilding trust and reconciliation can be the end result. You don’t have any guarantees that your friend will respond to your efforts but you will never know unless you put the effort forward. When your friend knows that you mean what you say he can trust that it will be safe to get close to you and reconcile an intimate relationship.

The Greek term for reconcile is to bring back to a former state of harmony. This harmony can only be gained when there is true repentance on the offender’s part and therefore safety in the relationship.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle and The New Life Weekend.