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Attachments 16

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Attachments 16

(This series has already been a tremendous blessing from God.  We are beginning to understand that we must first explore the symptoms and diagnose the disease or problem, before we can move to any cures or prognosis.  So, we have worked our way through the three insecure attachment styles and given some characteristics and perspective to the secure attachment style.

      Tonight we begin to work on how all of this affects our relationship with Jehovah God.  This is the second major section of the book, and this is what I have been pointing towards from the beginning.  You can follow along with me in your book on page 147.)


Unlocking the Secrets

To Loving and Lasting



God and You

Embracing the Relationship That Transcends All Others

With George Olschlager

Relationship or bonding…is at the foundation of God’s nature.

Since we are created in His likeness, relationship is our most fundamental need, the very foundation of who we are.  Without relationship,

Without attachment to God and others, we can’t be ourselves.

–Dr. Henry Cloud

       “In times of trouble, God can seem far away, be He isn’t.  He’s always near, and He wants us to know that.  He wants us to feel His embrace and to feel secure in Him.  But although He’s always with us, when trouble strikes we either move closer to Him or further away.

Before we discuss God and how our attachment model affects our relationship with Him, we need to remind you again of what an attachment relationship looks like.  Imagine a mother sitting on a park bench with her eighteen-month-old-son.  Let’s call him Junior and watch him as he explores the nearby world.  As he does, both Junior and Mom are very aware of the distance between them, usually about eight to ten feet max.  Junior keeps a wary eye on his mother, and if he confronts something he’s unsure about, he looks back to Mom to see if it’s okay to keep going.  Developmental psychologists call this social referencing.  It’s a baby’s way of saying (without words), Hey, Mom, is it okay if I do this (whatever this is)?  Or is it too dangerous?  If Mom gives a little smile or has a neutral expression, he will proceed.  If she frowns or looks fearful, he hesitates.

Now imagine that a train roars down the tracks adjacent to the park, the explosion of sound frightening the little boy.  He instantly makes a beeline to his mother’s lap.  She scoops him up and holds him close.  She buries his head in her neck as she presses her hands over his ears.  Shielded from the noise, Junior calms down.  Then, after the train disappears, Junior’s eyes come up to his mom’s.  She smiles down at him.  ‘Boy, that was really loud and scary,’ she says, validating his fear.  Then she gives him a reassurring kiss on the nose.  She snuggles him even closer, loving the fact that he’s come to her for comfort.  A few moments pass, and Junior scquirms to get down.  His curiosity slowly returns, and he begins to explore the sandbox near Mom’s bench.”[1]

That is the way it should be!  “This scene illustrates several of the core components of an attachment relationship….  Junior keeps an eye of Mom to assure she’s accessible and available.  Then, when threatened, he seeks proximity to his mother.  His mother provides a safe haven, which comforts Junior when he’s distressed.  And once he is comforted, he uses his mother as a secure base from which he launches himself on further exploration.  We can only imagine that if he were suddenly separated from his mother, Junior would become anxious and upset.  And if he lost her, he would grieve and experience deep sorrow.”[2]  The author didn’t say this, but we can extend his imagining to the kinds of situations that most of us have experienced, i.e. our mothers did not do any of these things but minimized the situation, or ignored us, or belittled us for being afraid, or some other action that did not incarnate the love of God!!!


Let’s notice the criteria for an attachment relationship.

The Five Criteria for an Attachment Relationship

1.     Proximity (closeness) to the caregiver is sought, especially in times of trouble.

2.     The caregiver provides a “safe haven,” a felt sense of security.

3.     The caregiver provides a secure base from which to explore the world.

4.     Any threat of separation induces fear and anxiety.

5.     Loss of the caregiver induces grief and sorrow.[3]

       Please notice that these criteria are the same for any attachment relationship, i.e. parental, marital, familial, friendship, or spiritual.

       “Now think about our journey in this life.  Our relationship with God satisfies all of these conditions if we allow it to happen:

·        We seek closeness to Him in times of trouble.  He is our refuge, our place of safety, and we seek proximity to Him.

·        We look to Him to provide us with a felt sense of security; He is our safe haven.

·        He’s also our ‘rock,’ our secure base, our foundation from which we can face the world with boldness, strength, and confidence.

·        The thought of separation from Him produces significant anxiety—we find it scary.

·        For us to give up on God or for us to feel that God has withdrawn from us produces grief and sorrow.

Confusion can come, however, if we feel that God has let us down—that he somehow authored an evil fate for us—or could have prevented pain in our lives and didn’t.”[4]

       When we are faced with situations that cause this kind of confusion, we are “forced into what psychiatrist Irvin Yalom calls a boundary situation, ‘an event, an urgent experience, that propels one into a confrontation with one’s existential ‘situation’ in the world.  [It] has the power to provide a massive shift in the way one lives in the world.’  A wake-up call.  One like the prodigal son had when he wasted all the money his dad had given him and ended up eating pig food.  Scripture says, ‘He came to himself’ (Luke 15:17 NKJV).  In other words, he came to his senses and in essence said, ‘This is a crazy way to live.’”

       What the author is talking about is a Significant Emotional Event (S.E.E.) or crisis!  A crisis can lead to growth when it presents an opportunity to confront impediments to further development (Robert Coles 1964).  Coles puts forth the notion that development occurs through an encounter with stress…conflict provides an opportunity for growth.  The Chinese understand this, because the Chinese word for “crisis” is a combination of two signs:  “danger” plus “opportunity.”

       Years ago, when I taught crisis counseling, we looked at Norm Wright’s book on crisis counseling and talked about the developmental crises of adolescence, marriage, the birth of children, aging, bereavement (Grief £ RecoveryÒ), mid-life crisis, and death, which need readjustment and new meaning in life.

       Clinton & Sibcy state that it is during these boundary situations that it is time to learn “something that some of us may never really learn until heaven or until we are confronted with our own boundary situation:  God is the ultimate attachment figure.  He will always be there.  He applauds our uniqueness, He cheers our joy, and He weeps with us in our sorrows.  He will never die.  His presence is eternal and His love is everlasting.  He fills a place in our hearts that only He can fill.  He’ll work in every aspect of our lives—our brokenness, our rebellion, our beauty, and even in our plainness.  And as He works, we too will work.  After all, as the saying goes, It isn’t what happens to a man; its what he does with what happens to him.”[5]

       Everybody here knows these things in his/her mind.  We have heard it in sermons and nodded and given strong “Amens,” when we have heard it.  But, we do not know them in our hearts!  Boundary situations act like an acid bath on our lives.  They strip away everything we thought we knew about ourselves and God.  It forces us to reconstruct our worldview so that God can become the center of our emotional universes.

       These boundary situations will either lead us away from God or to God.  If they lead us to God, we can learn that even though God may allow difficult things in our lives, He is always there to love us.  Therefore, we can learn to keep God at the center of our lives.

       Jesus did the same thing when He was here on earth.  “…throughout His lifetime, Jesus made His relationship with God His priority.  And He expects the same of us today.  Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, ‘Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.’  Jesus wants to be the first link in the attachment chain.  He wants us to turn first to Him, not to our parents or our spouses or anyone else.  And when we do, our lives become properly ordered.  In the words of C. S. Lewis, ‘Whenever we try to put second things into the first place position, we lose the joy of both God and whatever we are trying to replace Him with.’”[6]  That is so true and powerful, because those other things don’t make good Gods!”  Consequently, boundary situations can become like “megaphones” calling us nearer to God.[7]

       “To place God at the top of the attachment list doesn’t mean we need God and no one else….”[8]  Remember the saying I taught you, “You alone do it, but you don’t do it alone!”  It simply means that

·        God will meet us and be with us in our pain.

·        He will comfort us in the midst of his suffering.

·        He will see us through, even though He will not necessarily remove what hurts.

·        Like a loving parent, God will comfort His hurting child without healing the malady itself.

·        He becomes a safe haven, a refuge for a wounded soul.[9]

Your Attachment Style and God:  Responding to Tragedy

       So, it is possible to respond positively to a boundary situation, but not everyone will respond the same.  “Your attachment style strongly influences how you will react to boundary situtations.  Let’s look at some of the different responses.”[10]

Avoidant Attachment Style

“Those with this style of attachment move away from God during times of distress and cling to possessions, success, or other addictions.  They may angrily say; ‘Just as I expected, God can’t be trusted.  He gives you someone you can love and then just tears him away.  Who needs a God like that?’

       Others may fire off anger in God’s direction by pursuing sinful habits as a way to self-medicate their pain.’”[11]

Ambivalent Attachment Style

“Those with this type of attachment style are prone to vacillate.  On the one hand they feel rage toward God, and on the other they are consumed by self-incrimination and excessive self-blame for their loss.  Like those with the avoidant attachment style, ambivalent persons don’t turn to God for comfort.  However, instead of turning to things like success and addictive behavior, they may search frantically for a substitute attachment figure.  Obsessed with having someone close, they may bounce from relationship to relationship.  If none is discovered, their anger, sadness, and grief may deteriorate into a deep, morbid depression.”[12]

Disorganized Attachment Style

“Those imbued with this attachment pattern view boundary situations as merely a continuation of their life story of loss.  As seen through their eyes, God is malicious, like their early caregivers.  And since there are a number of ways to respond to malicious people, these people respond with a mixed set of behaviors:  addictions, self-protection, clinginess, anger, and even fiery rage.  They may see God as seething with wrath and their personal tragedy as something they deserve.  At the same time, they may actually bury other feelings of resentment, anger, and even rage.

       They are, of course, terrified to express these feelings for fear that in savage response to them God may unleash even greater punishment.  But those buried feelings probably won’t stay covered for long.  They may resurface as general anxiety, worry, and even panic attacks.  Whatever happens, the results are the same:  fear, anxiety, and pain.”[13]

Secure Attachment Style

Those with a secure attachment style experience all of the pain and feelings that everyone else experiences, but from a secure base they view their tragedy through the lens of an all-powerful yet loving God and a waiting heaven.[14]

Homework:    Attachments (pages 154-160).

The word this week is a fresh invitation from Jehovah God in

Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB-U), “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. [29] Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

(Now is the Day of Salvation!  Come to Jesus, Now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 148.

[2] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 149.

[3] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 149.

[4] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 149.

[5] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 150.

[6] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 151.

[7] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 151.

[8] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 152.

[9] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 152.

[10] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 152.

[11] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 152.

[12] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 153.

[13] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 153.

[14] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 154.

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