Family Crises

(Adapted from a presentation given at Midwest Conference 2018)

All of us have faced a family crisis at some point—actually multiple points—in our lives. Some we create; some we fall victim to; and some that just happen.

This article is going to look at family crisis. The goal here is to help you look at how crisis effects our families, the barriers to overcoming family crisis, how we have addressed previous crises, find better ways to solve crises in the future, and perhaps prevent crises in the first place.

Let us look at my own personal family crisis as an example. The major crisis in my family was the physical and mental problems of my second son. His name is Brad. He was born in November of 1978; the same year I discovered The Urantia Book. He passed away in September of 2010.

Brad had problems even before he was born and when the happy day came it was soon apparent that his problems were not over. His first month of life was filled with episodes of projectile vomiting and no dirty diapers. The doctors said that it was just the formula so try something different. We did—several times. Breastfeeding was totally out of vogue at that time so it wasn’t even considered. We put our trust in our old family doctor until Brad’s young inexperienced mother finally threw a screaming temper tantrum in the doctor’s office.

Brad Lyon

The result was the discovery of an intestinal blockage called Pyloric Stenosis. This required emergency surgery to correct. Probably because of this, Brad became autistic and mentally handicapped, never to progress more than the mental age of about three years old. This created a great crisis in our family. Even though life with Brad presented its challenges, we loved him with all our heart. We took him everywhere and did all the typical family things trying to make his life and ours as “normal” as we could.

Brad’s mom nearly had an emotional breakdown. She developed caregiver syndrome where she thought she was the only one capable of taking care of Brad. She then felt trapped by her circumstances, which led to anger and depression. Brad’s brother felt neglected at times because of our required focus upon Brad.

Family members tended to either feel sorry for Brad or were uncomfortable around him and stayed away. Many of them offered advice that we either had to ignore or found offensive.

The doctors wouldn’t tell us what was wrong with our son. Actually we denied that anything was wrong with him and thought he would grow out of it. We tried to function as normally as we thought normal should be, hoping the crisis would go away. At first, we turned to each other and then we turned on each other. His mom decided that this was her punishment in life. I turned to The Urantia Book.

I read that parents of a handicapped child have an 80% divorce rate. After 22 years of marriage we ended up divorced. At the time, I honestly thought that would make things better for everyone but it didn’t. When Brad became physically bigger and stronger than his mother, we were forced to do something we did not want to do. Brad went to a group home where he was kicked out after a year, then to the children’s hospital in South Bend and then, when the state closed all the children’s mental health facilities to cut costs, I moved him to his own home with 24/7 Medicaid staff caring for him.

So that is the short version of our family crisis.

I began writing a newsletter article called “Survival of the Subnormal Minded.” This article took me a few years to write, beginning a couple of years before my son passed away. During that time my thinking about this topic evolved and so did the article, which is why it took so long to write it. And the reason for writing it took on greater significance with his death.

If you ever need help figuring out a difficult problem or answering a difficult question, try writing a newsletter article about it—even if you don’t intend to publish it. The research to write such an article is great therapy and helpful in finding a solution. Maybe others can benefit from your research too.

A few years after Brad was born a friend of mine had a severely handicapped newborn child. He was terribly upset. I told him that first you will blame yourself; then you will blame your spouse; then you will blame God; and then you will finally realize that nobody is to blame but you are left with the frustration of “Why?” When a crisis arises we usually feel the need to blame somebody because we cannot accept that bad things just happen. We want to know “why” it happened. Reading the inevitabilities on page 51 of The Urantia Book helps us to understand not only the “why” of all this when we face a family crisis but also the necessity of it.

Brad never had a pal or buddy, never had a girl friend or got married, never had children, never had a job or been part of a team. I remember when Brad passed away I asked the funeral home for just graveside rights because the only people attending will be his mom, his brother, myself, and maybe a few family members.

However, on the day of the funeral there were 50-60 people there. That is when I realized that Brad’s life provided the opportunity for others to experience and demonstrate courage, altruism, hope, faith, loyalty, and unselfishness. Even with his handicaps, Brad was able to serve others.

The purpose of this article is to share with you our own personal growth in finding answers to our many questions. Perhaps we will see how applying The Urantia Book teachings to family crisis situations can help us to understand them and react to them in a more positive manner. We can put the teachings into action and grow and benefit from them. I hope this will bring the same peace we have found in The Urantia Book concerning our son to those of you who have experienced or currently experiencing a major family crisis. Even Jesus experienced several family crises from the death of Joseph, the death of little Amos, poverty, illness, to disagreements, misunderstandings, and separations. And of course his greatest family crisis: the Lucifer Rebellion. Look at how he dealt with these crises in his life to help you deal with those in your life.

So, let me take you through the evolution of my solution to our family crisis. Of course, my solution did not change the circumstances; only my perception, understanding, and reactions to the circumstances.

As parents of a mentally handicapped child, we asked ourselves many questions but the big ones are:

Why is Brad the way he is? What happens to my son if I die? What happens to my son if he dies? Does a person who does not have a normal mind survive mortal death?

I struggled with these questions for many years. I suspect that all parents of a mentally handicapped child do too.

The first question, “Why is Brad the way he is?” is one that all parents of a handicapped child will ask and the next one is usually “Why did God let his happen? Or even worse, “Why did God do this to my child?” The conclusion that I came to was that we live a material life with material bodies and like any material thing on an imperfect world, they are sometimes defective and sometimes break or go bad or eventually wear out.

Jesus said, In the matter of sickness and health, you should know that these bodily states are the result of material causes; health is not the smile of heaven, neither is affliction the frown of God. [Paper 166:4.10, page 1831:1]

The difficulties of Brad’s life were not in any way a sign of God’s disfavor with him or us. Brad was simply an innocent victim of one of the material accidents of time. Such occurrences are not pre-arranged or otherwise produced by the spiritual forces of the realm. Our Father does not cause or send pain and suffering upon us.

The Father causes his rain to fall on the just and the unjust; the sun likewise shines on the righteous and the unrighteous… [Paper 166:4.4, page 1830:4]

I think this quote means that bad things happen to good people just as good things happen to bad people. The situations in life are different for each person but our lives are made up of both good and bad events regardless of who we are or what kind of person we are. If I have learned anything from my 65 years on this planet it is that good things often come from bad experiences. Often there are unforeseen benefits to suffering or the difficulties and disappointments of life.

So, why do bad things, or what we perceive as bad things, happen?

From The Urantia Book we are told:

The uncertainties of life and the vicissitudes of existence do not in any manner contradict the concept of the universal sovereignty of God. All evolutionary creature life is beset by certain inevitabilities. Consider the following:

Is courage—strength of character—desirable? Then must man be reared in an environment which necessitates grappling with hardships and reacting to disappointments. [Paper 3:5.6, page 51:5]

Is altruism—service of one’s fellows—desirable? Then must life experience provide for encountering situations of social inequality. [Paper 3:5.7, page 51:6]

Is hope—the grandeur of trust—desirable? Then human existence must constantly be confronted with insecurities and recurrent uncertainties. [Paper 3:5.8.3, page 51:7]

Is faith—the supreme assertion of human thought—desirable? Then must the mind of man find itself in that troublesome predicament where it ever knows less than it can believe. [Paper 3:5.9, page 51:8]

Is pleasure—the satisfaction of happiness—desirable? Then must man live in a world where the alternative of pain and the likelihood of suffering are ever-present experiential possibilities. [Paper 3:5.14, page 51:8]

We are also told that the greatest affliction is to have never been afflicted. It is often the bad things in life that make us appreciate the good. It is the ugliness in this world that makes us appreciate the beauty of God’s creation. It is the potential of evil that gives us the opportunity to choose the good. Stars are best discerned from the lonely isolation of experiential depths, not from the illuminated and ecstatic mountaintops.

In the mind of God there is a plan but as mortals on this tiny isolated material world it is nearly impossible for us to comprehend that plan. While at times we may question God’s ways and wonder why things happen the way they do, all we can do is believe and put our faith in God and in the wisdom of His plan for we know that our Father loves us unconditionally and he would never do anything to hurt us.

The ways of God are true, beautiful, and good. It is the truth, beauty, and goodness instilled in us by the indwelling spirit that leads us to love our children, our grandchildren, each other, and even those difficult to love.

Something went wrong during the material development of Brad’s physical body. His hardships and our disappointments gave us courage to fight for his happiness and well-being. The unfairness of Brad’s situation inspired many people to serve as caregivers and their service no doubt brought them spiritual satisfaction. The uncertainty of his survival and the reasons for his problems caused us to have faith because we believed more than we knew about Brad’s life and his future. Brad’s pain and suffering caused us to appreciate our own health and happiness and that of his brother and our grandchildren. Caring for Brad made us unselfish as we chose to put his needs above our own.

The second question, “What will happen to Brad if we die?” is a question concerning the care of Brad while here on Urantia. Since Brad has gone before us this is no longer of concern. However, let me share these quotes that I think relate to Brad’s mortal life.

The teaching about guardian angels is not a myth; certain groups of human beings do actually have personal angels. It was in recognition of this that Jesus, in speaking of the children of the heavenly kingdom, said: ‘Take heed that you despise not one of these little ones, for I say to you, their angels do always behold the presence of the spirit of my Father.’ [Paper 113:1.1, page 1241:3]

Originally, the seraphim were definitely assigned to the separate Urantia races. But since the bestowal of Michael, they are assigned in accordance with human intelligence, spirituality, and destiny. Intellectually, mankind is divided into three classes: [Paper 113:1.2, page 1241:4]

The first classification is:

… The subnormal minded—those who do not exercise normal will power; those who do not make average decisions. This class embraces those who cannot comprehend God; they lack capacity for the intelligent worship of Deity. The subnormal beings of Urantia have a corps of seraphim, one company, with one battalion of cherubim, assigned to minister to them and to witness that justice and mercy are extended to them in the life struggles of the sphere.

Had Brad outlived his parents, the guardian angels would have continued to watch over him. The other two classifications of intellect are the average, normal type of human mind and the supernormal minded.

The third question is, “What will happen to Brad when he dies?” If we study things like the planetary nursery and the subnormal minded, perhaps we can find an answer to this. This question always seems to come up in study group at some point because of my son Brad.

Because Brad did not have a normal mind, does that mean that he was merely an animal and not human? Since he could not make a moral choice (or at least a moral choice that we could perceive) was he unable to receive an Adjuster? If he could not receive an Adjuster was he less than human?

So, here is a list of questions for your consideration. I also encourage you to use them for discussion in your study group.

What is or was our family crisis?
What was or will be the outcome?
How did I react to this crisis?
Did I do or say anything to create the crisis or make it worse or to prolong it?

What does The Urantia Book say that can help me to find a good solution for our family or to do better next time? Try to answer these questions unemotionally.

Here is how I used The Urantia Book to address my family crisis.

Does a person of subnormal mind survive mortal death? Let me point out that:

  • Subnormal minded people are not animals but are mortals with less intelligent minds that function on levels higher than animals.
  • The first mansion world has a nursery dedicated to the pre-choice children of surviving mortals.
  • Infants who have not yet received a Thought Adjuster have survival potential and are kept safe in the planetary nursery until a parent arrives to make decisions concerning their future.
  • Thought Adjusters come to indwell the children of the planetary nursery just as they would on this material world.
  • A corps of seraphim, one company, with one battalion of cherubim, minister to the subnormal minded children of Urantia to assure that justice and mercy are extended to them in this material life.
  • Mansion World Teachers, under the supervision of the Melchizedeks, maintain extensive educational facilities for the training of the probationary wards of the Finaliters.

Finaliters, Melchizedeks, seraphim, cherubim, and surviving parents all are involved in the mortal and post-mortal life of these undeveloped souls. Education and training in infant-receiving schools are provided to prepare these children of time for the ultimate adventure. A corps of seraphim and a battalion of cherubim watch over the mortal life of the subnormal minded. It seems that a lot of effort is put forth to care for these imperfect children of this imperfect material world. So apparently they must have potential survival value. There is in The Urantia Book an entire sentence that is in italics:

Nothing of survival value is ever lost in all the wide universe. [Paper 109:3.2, page 1197:4]

We see in The Urantia Book that potential is very important for it is not what we are, but what we are becoming that is important. In this spiritual universe, I suspect that only real or potential spiritual value is worthy of the efforts of angels and spiritual beings. I now believe that we are assured that the material difficulties and physical imperfections of Brad’s mortal life do not follow him or hinder his potential for an eternal spiritual life or in any way prevent his survival and attainment of the presence of God.

I now believe that because of the patience, tolerance, understanding, and merciful sympathy of the governing bodies of Orvonton and Nebadon that Brad will be afforded additional time and accorded further opportunity in which to make his choice and shall not be deprived of the eternal joy of pursuing the ascending career.

The failure to make a final choice concerning God before mortal death will not prevent Brad’s survival and advancement to the mansion worlds. The mental handicaps of my son will not prevent him from being given full and ample opportunity to make one irrevocable, self-conscious, and final choice.

I am convinced that Brad is now sleeping, awaiting for his mom or I to arrive and awaken him on the mansion world; where perhaps for the first time he will make a clear and conscious choice about his future.

I believe that some of the greatest lessons from The Urantia Book are that “In the mind of God there is a plan” and that the universe is friendly and everything works for the good. While Brad’s passing was painful for us, some good has come from it. I did the eulogy for my son because it was the last thing I could do for him. Those who know me personally know what a difficult thing it is for me to speak in front of people. That eulogy allowed me to share teachings from The Urantia Book with family and friends that I have not been able to reach otherwise.

I boldly quoted The Urantia Book and mentioned it by name in the eulogy.

The funeral home director told me that in 15 years of doing funerals that was the best eulogy he had ever heard. And all of it came straight from The Urantia Book.

A couple of weeks later, my two sisters showed up at my study group for the first time ever. They came because of what I had said at Brad’s funeral. Brad’s mom (Deborah) has suffered years of guilt over Brad’s condition but the words of The Urantia Book washed away this guilt and fear in a way that I was not able to help her with before.

The guys at work sent flowers for Brad. I thanked them for their sympathy by sending an email to about 750 people at work that said, “While we are sad at the loss of Brad and miss him dearly, we are excited for him because we know that “death is only the beginning of an endless career of adventure, an everlasting life of anticipation, an eternal voyage of discovery.” Along with page and paragraph of The Urantia Book. I got about half dozen nice emails back commenting on this statement.

So, this is the story of my progressive journey concerning my son, his eternal future, and our family crisis. I struggled for years wavering between believing that my son would not survive but hoping that I was wrong, to being convinced that he has survived and looking forward to monitoring his future growth and progress in service to our Heavenly Father. I came from believing that Brad had no potential survival value to being convinced of that fact and looking forward to the day when I will see him again.

I came from feeling somehow responsible for his handicaps—and disappointment that he would miss the opportunity to experience the ultimate adventure—to the point of knowing that sometime soon he will be able to communicate with a clear functioning mind, a new and improved morontia body, and once again enjoy the loving embrace of a father for his son.

Here are a couple of last quotes about crisis:

Rodan said: But the greatest of all methods of problem solving I have learned from Jesus, your Master. I refer to that which he so consistently practices, and which he has so faithfully taught you, the isolation of worshipful meditation. In this habit of Jesus’ going off so frequently by himself to commune with the Father in heaven is to be found the technique, not only of gathering strength and wisdom for the ordinary conflicts of living, but also of appropriating the energy for the solution of the higher problems of a moral and spiritual nature. [Paper 160:1.10, page 1774:2]

The Master well knew that many of his followers were slowly but surely preparing their minds finally to reject him. He likewise knew that many of his disciples were slowly but certainly passing through that training of mind and that discipline of soul which would enable them to triumph over doubt and courageously to assert their full-fledged faith in the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus fully understood how men prepare themselves for the decisions of a crisis and the performance of sudden deeds of courageous choosing by the slow process of the reiterated choosing between the recurring situations of good and evil. He subjected his chosen messengers to repeated rehearsals in disappointment and provided them with frequent and testing opportunities for choosing between the right and the wrong way of meeting spiritual trials. He knew he could depend on his followers, when they met the final test, to make their vital decisions in accordance with prior and habitual mental attitudes and spirit reactions. [Paper 153:1.3, page 1708:2]

Perhaps the repeated crises of our lives are this same kind of training for us. Exposing us to the ups and downs of life, the joy of victory and the agony of defeat until we develop good problem-solving habits without crumbling during a crisis or getting too full of ourselves in our successes.

Before Jesus was put on his cross, the two brigands had already been placed on their crosses, all the while cursing and spitting upon their executioners. Jesus’ only words, as they nailed him to the crossbeam, were, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He could not have so mercifully and lovingly interceded for his executioners if such thoughts of affectionate devotion had not been the mainspring of all his life of unselfish service. The ideas, motives, and longings of a lifetime are openly revealed in a crisis. [Paper 187:2.4, page 2007:3]

What do our words, actions, and feelings—our emails, tweets, and Facebook posts—during past crises tell us about ourselves? What does this tell us about what we need to do to become better crisis managers in our families? When a crisis is over, we all have things we wish we had said, things we wish we had not said; things we wish we had done, things we wish we had not done.

The worst thing about a major family crisis is that it almost always tears the family apart. The anger, resentment, and hurt often lasts a lifetime, sometimes gets passed on to future generations, and a good family is destroyed in the process. It is very difficult for any family to repair the damage and rebuild the family they once had or always wanted.

But, what if we could learn how to put our families back together. What if we as students and teachers of the Urantia revelation could be the first to teach others how to rebuild broken families. What if we could figure out how to put humpty dumpty back together again? What if we could be the shining examples of what real families are and how they can recover from crisis? What if we could figure out how to prevent family crisis in the first place?

Can we begin to lead our families back to the loving relationships that represent the family of God to others and demonstrates the love of our Paradise Father for all? Can we be examples of the parental affection of Christ Michael and the Mother Spirit?

Can we be the father-husband, mother-wife that God wants us to be and that we have the potential to become?

So, let’s change gears a bit.

Christianity is seriously confronted with the doom embodied in one of its own slogans:

A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The non-Christian world will hardly capitulate to a sect-divided Christendom. The living Jesus is the only hope of a possible unification of Christianity. The true church—the Jesus brotherhood—is invisible, spiritual, and is characterized by unity. [Paper 195:10.12, page 2085:03]

We can see in The Urantia Book that many splits and divisions have occurred in the past within the community of believers in Jesus.  Abner split from the Apostles.  Nathaniel split from the Apostles when they changed the gospel. There was the great Schism of 1054, that brought about the final separation between the Eastern Christian churches and the Western church led by Pope Leo IX that did not end (kind of) until 1965.

Every major religious group has undergone one or multiple splits or schisms. They are usually based on succession disputes, political power, or doctrinal disagreements. In addition, there are usually three divisions within such groups that represent different types of belief—conservative, moderate, and liberal views.

Even though we all feel and share in the personal spiritual unity as individuals within our Urantia community, we see these same organizational differences and membership personalities within our Urantia organizations. Will it take us 911 years to solve our crisis? I am convinced it will not.

How can we prepare for or prevent future disagreements within the worldwide and rapidly growing Urantia community? What can you do personally to help put our Urantia family back together again?

We are currently experiencing a major family crisis right now within our Urantia family. Many people blame this crisis on someone who no doubt did what they thought was right in the best way they knew how, but one person cannot create a crisis.

The reactions of each party contributed to the crisis. Some of the issues resolved themselves or became less important over time but a few remain to be solved.  However, many people are working to resolve this crisis and the issues that once seemed insurmountable are now viewed as potential areas of negotiation. Unity is no longer seen as impossible to achieve but as a matter of “when and how can we achieve it” What will this unified movement look like in the future?

This crisis began roughly in 1989. Only a handful of people alive today really know what triggered the crisis.  Our young students and leaders don’t really care what happened back then. For them it is all about today and tomorrow.

I recently met with a team of people for what we called the Unity Initiative. One person who was directly involved in the Urantia schism told me that, “Looking back, I can’t believe some of the things I said and some of the things I did.”  Another one said, “We could have and probably should have done things differently.”

It is obvious that many people on all sides could have done things differently and all of us, me included, have said things we wish we had not said.

Perhaps the real issue is not what happened in 1989 but what happens in 2018? Perhaps this separation is a training ground for us—much as Jesus trained his organization of apostles to deal with crisis and disagreements. How can we solve our schism? What good can we harvest from our family crisis? Even the Lucifer Rebellion produced far more good than it did damage.

Are we prepared for the growing wave of interest and students of The Urantia Book? What image will we project when that wave crashes upon our shore? Let it be an image of love and unity for each other—whether we are all in one organization or perhaps a union of organizations—that will attract all those who will soon arrive on our doorsteps.

I feel like our community at the moment is like the marriage counselor who is getting divorced. We are supposed to be those who love one another as Jesus loves us. We are supposed to be those who have a close personal relationship with God in Heaven and have chosen to do his will. We are supposed to be those who love even our enemies.

We are those with a revelation of truth and we are God-conscious, born of the spirit as children of light and life, unafraid to preach the good news of eternal life to our fellows who languish in darkness and hunger for the bread of life and the light of truth. We are those who use our faith to reveal the light of truth to the world; who share this fifth epochal revelation to open the eyes of those blinded by tradition.

We are those whose loving service effectually destroys the prejudice engendered by ignorance. We are those who are supposed to draw close to our fellow men and women in understanding sympathy and with unselfish devotion lead them into a saving knowledge of the Father’s love. We are those who are not to hide our light under a bushel. We are those who are supposed to make known the love and the mercy of God to all mankind. We are the ones who have been given ten talents.

Through fear we often flee from the facts of a disagreeable experience, but we have been baptized with the Spirit of Truth, to bravely and joyously go forth to meet the new experiences of proclaiming the good news of eternal life in the kingdom of God.

We are the children of truth and light; therefore, let us not stumble into the misunderstanding entanglements of mortal suspicion and human intolerance because of something that happened thirty years ago between people most of us don’t even know or have ever met.

If you are ennobled, by the grace of faith, to love unbelievers, should you not also equally love those who are your fellow believers in the far-spreading household of faith and the fifth epochal revelation? Remember, as you love one another, all men will know that we are disciples of Jesus. And I believe that knowledge will break down their fear of “our new religion” and this epochal revelation.

Jesus said:

Go, then, into all the world proclaiming this gospel of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men to all nations and races and ever be wise in your choice of methods for presenting the good news to the different races and tribes of mankind. Freely you have received this gospel of the kingdom, and you will freely give the good news to all nations. Fear not the resistance of evil, for I am with you always, even to the end of the ages. And my peace I leave with you.” [Paper 191:4.4, page 2042:1]