Sunday, February 12, 2017

Unprotected: Book review

[One of the reasons that I haven't kept up regularly with blogging in a while is that I have been using most of my meager free time reading instead of writing, and I have been reading some very interesting books of recent.  Over the coming weeks, I hope to write reviews of some of these books.]

Unprotected, by UCLA campus psychiatrist Miriam Grossman is an incredibly sad but also encouraging book.  The author lays out how modern psychology has given in to political correctness, and how this influence is causing the field to hurt, rather than help many patients.

She starts off with the example of how sexual relations are treated among psychologists, especially on campuses.  The prevailing ideology is to encourage students to explore their sexuality and even encourage them to try risky sexual behaviors without any warnings as to the risks they may be incurring.  While campus health centers are very firm about healthy behaviors like not smoking, exercising, eating a balanced diet, not drinking too much, very little is said about sex other than to use protection, which is widely known to still have many risks, even if used correctly.

While political correctness says that men and women are the same, she shows that the reality is that no one is hurt more by this ethos than women. She shares fascinating research on bonding, and suggests that one of the reasons women are harmed by "friends with benefits" relationships is that after having intercourse, a woman's brain releases oxytocin, a powerful hormone that plays an important role in a mother bonding with her baby (oxytocin is also released right after child birth and while a mother is nursing her baby).  So a woman is not capable of having casual sex with no desire for further commitment in the way that a man can, because her brain is wired differently.  Grossman says that she sees scores of women who come in to her office needing prescriptions for antidepressants as a result of confusing "friends with benefits" type relationships.  No one has warned them that these relationships may actually be hurting them, so they have no compunction that would lead them to avoid this behavior.

The chapter on abortion is one of the hardest to read.  The prevailing politically correct thought about abortion is that very few women are harmed mentally/emotionally by having an abortion.  Grossman sheds light on to how many women are deeply affected by abortion but are afraid to let this hurt come into light.  The symptoms observed in many of these women warrant a PTSD diagnosis according to Grossman, though because of the political correctness bias, this diagnosis is rarely given.  She shares quotes from women who have had an abortion about their pain and loss, and the deep anguish of these women is heart wrenching.  She goes on to cite a study (done by a group of pro-choice men) that suggests that even a number of fathers who choose abortion go on to second guess the decision or think about the baby they may have allowed to be born.

Another heart-wrenching chapter is about all of the women she sees dealing with depression and anxiety because they want to have children, and have waited until their late 30's and early 40's to do so, in order to focus on their career, only to get to that time in their life and realize it is not as easy to do so as the media would have you believe (side note: I saw an article recently that said "Why women are better than ever at having babies in their 40's." and thinking that the only reason people share things like this is because they want to deceive themselves into thinking it is normal and easy to do so.)  Grossman shares the statistics on conception after 35, and chances drop significantly with each passing year, even with medical help.  And even if a woman can afford treatments like IVF (which can cost $20,000 or more), the emotional toll is very high.  One woman called it "a state of desperation like nothing else", and another said it was "the worst experience of my life".  It is not psychologically healthy for a woman to have to go through something like this, but politically correct campus health centers would never warn women about the risks of waiting until later in life to try to conceive.

Grossman also has chapters on why religion is actually good for you (from a psychological perspective), misinformation that has been spread about HIV/AIDS to make it seem like it is more common than it really is among non-drug using heterosexuals, the impact of STD's on a woman's ability to conceive and why people are required to be tested and treated for tuberculosis but not HIV/AIDS (and it boils down to political correctness).

After hearing all of this, you may be wondering how I found the book to be encouraging.  The encouraging part of the book to me was the fact that there is at least one professional in this field in America saying these things (with a good amount of research to back up her assertions as well, there are 40 pages of just citations at the end).

This book is an important read for parents, anyone who works with college students, anyone in the field of psychology and anyone who wonders whether political correctness is good for our nation.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dear Foster Mama, Jesus will Bind up your Broken Heart

[In recent weeks, we have gotten news from three different foster families that we know that young children who have been with them for years will soon be leaving to go to their biological families.  This is a letter written to them, stemming from our similar experiences.]

Dear Foster Mama,

A few weeks ago, Esther came up to me out of the blue and announced."Mommy, did you know that if your heart is broken, God wraps it up in his love?" Her words were precious to me, as they were a great reminder of one of my favorite promises in the Bible.

"The Lord binds up the brokenness of his people and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow."  Isaiah 30:26

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me 
because the Lord has anointed me 
to bring good news to the poor, 
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
to proclaim liberty to the captives, 
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." Isaiah 61:1 

First, let me say that I am encouraged by your willingness to put yourself out there for your heart to get broken.  So many people have said to me things like, "I could never be a foster parent, I would be too sad when the kids leave."  As if those of us who are foster parents are some kind of ogres who could care less about saying goodbye. No, mama, I know your heart.  What sets you apart is not your hard heart that is incapable of being broken, but willingness to trust God with your grief.

In the midst of your grief, preach to your heart, as the Psalmist did:

"Why are you cast down, O my soul. and why are you at turmoil within me? 
Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." Psalm 42:11

When you are tempted to despair, preach to your soul to hope in God.  Remember Isaiah 30:26 (above) that your wounds are inflicted by God's blow (see also Lamentations 3:38) but that he is also the one who will bind them up.  God knew long ago, before you were even born, that he would lead you to be a foster mama and that he would cause the grief of you saying goodbye to your precious little ones.  He promises that he will do good things through your grief (Romans 8:28), so preach to your heart to trust him for the good results and pray regularly that he will bind up your broken heart.

We live in America, where the common belief is that life should be mostly good with short periods of hardship here and there.  The Bible paints a much different picture.  The Bible says that as believers, if we are living the way that the Bible commands, specifically if we, as sinful people, minister to others, who are also very sinful, that our life will be mostly difficult, but he promises periods of refreshment here and there until we reach our final Rest.  You are taking literally the Biblical command to care for orphans, and your heart is being broken.  Fight hard to trust God that he will:

"grant to those who mourn in Zion-
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit,
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified" Isaiah 61:3

God will give you beauty, gladness, the ability to praise him and a firmer foundation on him as a result of your mourning.  And even better, he will be glorified throughout it all.

And though the grief consumes your life at the moment, one day it will be almost nothing, in light of eternity.

"Therefore, having this ministry [of foster parenting!] by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart...

For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that far surpasses them all, as we look not to things that are seen but things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are temporary, and the things that are unseen are eternal." 1 Corinthians 4:1,15-16

Another foster mama

[Click here to see a letter I wrote to Esther after one of her foster sisters left]