Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Blame it on the Brain, Edward T. Welch

I have been studying nutrition, esp how it relates to the brain, for over 2 years.  I've learned a ton and been amazed that most of us survive at all! But, God has been showing me lately, that it's time to concentrate on the heart again. 

A few years ago, I read 'Shepherding a Child's Heart' and realized (after reading it 3 times) that while the heart is of utmost importance, there were other issues that were going on with Myia (and the rest of us to an extent) that needed attention.  So God lead me on the nutrition/education journey, which has been eye opening and fascinating!  It didn't take away from the issues of sin and the heart, but it was a mini-detour to take care of some necessary, albeit messy, business.

Now that I feel rather confident in the physical/nutritional side of life, I knew it was time to get back to the spiritual issues.  It was time to struggle through, think through and figure out, how the spiritual and physical sides of life come together.  What behavior are we responsible to God for, and what is out of our control?  I knew it was a question I had to grapple with until I had some idea of the answer.  Or at least the question needed to be fully formed in my mind.

One morning I was walking across the room and looked down and saw the book 'Blame it on the Brain'.  We've had it for 10 years on our shelf and I've never so much as looked at the subtitle.  But this time it was laying on the floor and out of curiosity, I looked at the subtitle:
 'Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience'

Wow! That was exactly what I was looking for.  It's so fun to see how God works.  He puts something in my head, shows me something I don't know or understand.  And then, shortly thereafter, he sends people, books, etc. along my path to start opening my eyes to the subject. It's pretty exciting!!  In this case, he simply showed me a book I've had for a long time, but wasn't ready for until now.

It was a fabulous read.  It was based on Scripture, with lots of references and actual printed verses to back it up.  As well as 'case studies' from Scripture.  I find those to be just as important.

I'm not sure I agree with him yet as to how much responsibility is placed on people with brain disorders, but it's something I need to think/pray/read about for awhile to come to some solutions for us.  It will greatly affect how I parent and so it is of utmost importance.

He talks about the current science research into brain chemistry, as well as it's history and interaction with society.

He also gives the Biblical bases/theology for what he thinks about the brain-body connection, and then goes on for the rest of the book to apply it.  He gives some basic Biblical principles to keep in mind:

-The brain cannot make a person sin
-Each person's abilities-brain strengths and weaknesses-are unique and worthy of careful study.
-Brain problems can expose heart problems
-Sinful hearts can lead to physical illness, and upright hearts can lead to health

He gives a great recipe to use when dealing with a person with mental issues.
1. Get information (about their current brain issues)
2.  Distinguish between spiritual and physical symptoms
3.  Address the heart
4.  Maximize remaining strengths: correct or minimize weaknesses

He applies the above principles specifically to: Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Head Injury, depression, ADD, homosexuality and alcoholism.

"Biblical perspective simplifies (parenting).  Biblical parenting is time-consuming and it relies on counsel from others, but it is not necessarily complicated.  With the distinction between physical and spiritual problems in mind, take steps to grow in nurturing your child in the Lord.  No matter what your child's strengths and weaknesses, he has the same spiritual problem as everyone else: his heart is in a war between selfishness and obedience to Christ.  Like yourself, a child engages this battle with 1.  the knowledge of Christ and 2. obedience to Christ.  The knowledge of Christ consists of learning about the great justice and love of God displayed in Jesus' death and resurrection.  Obedience to Christ is our response to this good news.  It consists of practicing the command to love God and love your neighbor as yourself, two commands that are fleshed out by the Ten Commandments and other clear principles in Scripture."

"If someone suggests that your child displays behaviors consistent with ADD, don't panic. Translate ADD as, "It is time to develop a deeper understanding of this person."  Don't let the label cause you to think that you now understand the labeled person.  You are just beginning to study him.  Both the spiritual and physical must be taken seriously.  If you ignore the spiritual, there will never be a place for repentance and faith in your child's life.  Sinful behavior will be excused.  The power of the Gospel will be ignored.  If you ignore physical or brain-based strengths and weaknesses, you will never find the creative methods you need to help the person learn.  When the teaching style is poorly suited to the individual, he or she will soon be confused and hopeless.  With many children labeled ADD, the arena of the heart is ignored.  ADD sits at an intersection where physical and spiritual meet.  Like other psychiatric labels, the root cause may be physical or spiritual; it is typically both." 

"For children who tend to be more impulsive in their speech or actions, some biblical principles might deserve special emphasis. The parental task is to develop priorities among the various biblical principles and stay focused on the ones that are most important for the child's spiritual needs.  It is wiser to take one principle and work with it intensively for a few months than it is to work with ten principles superficially, leaving them undeveloped, unclear, and not regularly prayed for. "

"As you gain proficiency in spiritual nurture and discipleship, turn your attention to the person's unique strengths and weaknesses.  The more you understand about the particular strengths and weaknesses of the person, the better you can creatively teach and apply relevant biblical principles."

"Structure means having predictable, clear, simple and written household rules.  These rules should be rehearsed weekly with the child and consistently enforced.  Avoid lengthy, abstract explanation.  If you tend to deliver monologues (I do!), don't.  Structure means that instead of constantly reacting to problems, you pre-empt them.  If the difficult situations can not be or should not be avoided, prepare the child to fact it with prayer and practice."

"When we see the spiritual realities behind our addictive behaviors, we find that we serve what we love. Either we will love and serve God, or we will love and serve our idols. Idols exist in our lives because we love them and invite them in.  But once idols find a home, they are unruly and resist leaving.  In fact, they change from being the servants of our desires to being our masters.  That is why the Bible says that we first choose the addictive substance, but then the addictive substance chooses us.  We can either have the blessing of serving the Most High God who love us, or we will have the curse of being a slave to our desires and the idols that symbolize them.  That is why a biblical approach to addictions must do more than simply say, "Stop it."  It realizes that addicts are both in control and out of control.  This dual aspect of the addictive experience-the rebelliousness and the bondage-is what we commonly call sin, and it is a far deeper, more profound explanation of addictions than the disease metaphor."

I have an addiction to sugar, I have for some time. It's intense once I start on the stuff.  And I've struggled with where the spiritual ends and the physical begins.  Drew smokes, has for 15 years.  He wants to quit, he's tried to quit, but hasn't been successful yet.  But again, where does the physical take over?  I found the book helpful for addressing those issues, as well as the obedience/temper issues in the kids, Myia particularly.    I still have a lot to learn, but this book was very helpful in starting to sort out our particular issues.  God is so good!!

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