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Community Saved My Daughters Life

Community Saved My Daughters Life

I remember every detail of the drive on that April morning. In a way, it felt as if Zach and I were actors in a movie. Since the day I was born Easter Sunday began the same way – ironing dresses, curling my hair, polishing my church shoes back when that was a thing. Truly, this was the day to look my “Sunday best.” Yet, here I was speeding down the interstate with no make-up, my hair was not brushed, and I would later discover that in my rush to get out the door, I threw on my 10-year-old son’s t-shirt (I was 40.) It was windy that day, and I can remember our minivan swaying against the force of the wind as we drove in silence. The silence was deafening, but amidst the chaos, there was a peace that can only be explained by the presence of the Holy Spirit.  

One hour before this road trip began, our family of six was bundled up on the porch watching the sun come up as we read the story of the resurrection. We started the tradition of an Easter Sunrise time of devotion eight years before, and not once during the early hours of the morning was I interrupted by my phone. Most of the world was still asleep, and so, when my phone began buzzing at 6:45am on Easter Sunday, I was moved to check it but quickly recanted. Something about checking my phone while reading about the resurrected Savior didn’t feel right. Minutes later, as our devotional came to a close, I read the words “CALL ME ASAP” from the birth mother of the child we committed to adopt.

This is not meant to be a blog about our adoption story, so I will save the specifics of this story and that particular call for another setting. However, to help paint the picture of the seriousness of our situation, you should know that the birth mother was only 27 weeks pregnant and began hemorrhaging. She was rushed via ambulance to the closest hospital to her and would undergo an emergency C-section. We were two and half hours from this hospital, and as we were flying down the interstate, I was fighting the urge to begin googling “all the possible scenarios.” I could muster only stillness. I was frozen in the passenger seat, praying silently for the safety of this child that I knew was meant to live.

The silence was broken as the ringing of my phone blared through the car speakers. The number ringing was very close to this situation, and for a split second, I hesitated to answer. Bracing myself, I hit the green button and answered, “Hello.”

Am I on speaker phone?” 

Me: “Yes.”

Would you mind taking me off and handing the phone to Zach?”

Me: “Sure.” 

I watched Zach’s facial expressions, knowing within my heart that the words he would relay to me were not good. 

Zach: “She was unresponsive at birth, and he doesn’t think she made it.” 

Me: Silence. 

I picked up my phone, and the only thing I could think to do was to call on my community. I began texting everyone: “She was born not breathing; they are trying to revive her now; pray.” I copied and pasted those 13 words to everyone I knew at 10:38am Easter morning, which just so happens to be when most of my community was in church. At 10:58am, I texted: “She’s stable.” 

I could bring this blog to a close in a few short sentences. I could recall how so many of my friends told stories of their churches stopping to pray in this moment. I could highlight the beauty of a community that would stop to pray for my daughter. I would definitely love to quote a verse that I simply read over the years in my quiet time but now understand it to be truly true. 

“The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” James 5:16-18. Prayer matters.  

I believe with all my heart that God heard the prayers of His people on that Sunday morning, and Ruth Harvest Dasher was resurrected on Easter Sunday 2021.  

But if I stopped here, it would be a dishonor to the God who works all things for the good of those who love him. If you peered into my life and heart just five short years before this Easter Sunday, you would see a shell of a girl who was ready to write off community. You would see an exhausted wife and mother who was hurt by community and wanted nothing to do with people. For years, I was the poster child for community to the point that I allowed “my community” to become an idol. Idols never work and people are far too weak to be placed on such mighty pedestals. Surely, the answer is to batten down the hatches of your life and let no one into the inner sanctuaries of your heart. Keep everyone at arm’s length. Just sit on the pew. Don’t lead, don’t get involved in peoples’ lives; just coast and keep it all in the family. Surely, this is the answer. 

I tried the “no community” life, and to be honest, it felt safe. If my relationships are only surface level, then no one can get hurt, right? Wrong. Safety cannot replace our intrinsic desire to be known and loved. We were made in the image of a relational God. Three in One. Three separate beings perfectly loving one another. God within Himself is community, and because of this, we all, even if we bury it, desire community in our lives. 

If you are hurt by community and are reading this right now, I want you to know that I deeply feel your pain. I deeply understand your fear and get your desire to crawl into a hole and swear off community. While affirming the pain you experience, I want to simultaneously challenge you to consider a thought. If you wall off your potential to be hurt by keeping everyone at arm’s length, then are you not also preventing yourself from being loved by the very people who will one day stop everything they are doing to pray for you? 

Yes, the likelihood that you will be hurt somewhere down the road by someone in your community is very high, and likewise, you will, more than once, be the cause of pain in someone else’s life. We are all broken vessels navigating dangerous waters, but still, we are better at navigating together. 

Your communities may change and that’s okay. I’m reminded of the scripture in Acts 15 where Paul and Barnabas decided to go separate ways, due to a “sharp disagreement,” but neither of them went alone. You need others and others need you. As you begin to open your heart to community once again, make sure you are not building with bricks of division. It’s easy to come out of a community gone wrong situation and allow your anger and frustration to become the DNA of your new community. This is a trap from the evil one. Communities built on division will never last. In other words, build or rebuild communities that are “FOR” and not “AGAINST.” 

Finally, to the one who is thriving in their community. Yay! Community is good because God is good, and He loves when His people live in unity. “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” Psalm 133:1. As with all good things, Satan schemes to distort them for his great pleasure. One way He attempts to do this is by elevating our “community” to a place that should only be reserved for God. He does this by creating closed circles of people that become so close that there is no room for anyone else. Communities led by the Holy Spirit always have room for one more because, as God’s people, we understand that ultimately, our “community” is far and wide. Our community crosses mountains and oceans; to the ends of the earth, we are God’s people, and through His blood, we will forever be connected. 

I’m so thankful that God pulled me out of my pit of despair all those years ago. I’m thankful for my intimate community and the community of God’s people at large. To every person who prayed for us on that Easter morning just shy of a year ago, I cannot begin to thank you enough, but still, thank you. God is good. He is healer – healer of broken hearts and healer of hearts that have yet to begin beating. 

Jill Dasher is the author of the brand new book SHALLOW, drowning in the shallow end of people’s approval. She is a blogger and Christian speaker who is passionate about sharing the freedom that exists when you refuse to live in hiding & freely submit all of your fears, flaws, & failures to the God who made you. She resides in the mountains of NC with her husband and five children.

Use code LOSISTER15 for a 15% discount off Jill’s book SHALLOW!

Below the Surface

Below the Surface

“I assumed that if the surface looked good, then it must be good. But an outside-in perspective is rarely as accurate as a view from the inside-out.”

Imagine for a moment that you are sitting on the shoreline of the most magnificent beach; the sand is white and brilliant, and the waters are as clear blue as the sky. Now imagine if you never were allowed even to place your foot into the water. Imagine that all we ever could do was look upon these intriguing waters, but we never were able to know what lies beneath. What if the ocean were merely a mystery—; a vast ocean of secrecy that you were never able to discover? Everything that lies below the surface was off limits to you—; no seashells, no blow-fish, clams, starfish, or sunken ships with treasure—, none of it. You were completely cut off from the deep.

Now do me a favor, if you will, and imagine that the shoreline represents everything about you visible to the outside world, and the ocean represents the core of who you are—, the very depth of your soul. What if the only thing that ever could be known about you by yourself and others was merely the physical, the obvious, and the part of you that you make known to the world around you? Suppose the very core of who you are was kept hidden, not only from others, but also from yourself.? Why? All because you were afraid of what might happen if you really looked below the surface, afraid of what others might think of you and what you might think of yourself.

I wrote a book called SHALLOW because as sad as it is to admit I have lived the majority of my life on the surface. I’ve lived in shallow places, content to deal with only surface-level issues in my friendships, body, faith, and marriage—all of which I individually discuss throughout the book. When you spend your focus and energy polishing the surface of your life, you may find it easy to convince yourself that all is well. I assumed that if the surface looked good, then it must be good. But an outside-in perspective is rarely as accurate as a view from the inside-out. This is a view that, all too often, is left unseen because we don’t think it matters all that much.

What mattered to me were the things that could be seen, perceived, and assumed based on the shallow shoreline of my life. Perception became my reality. It was the idol that ultimately led to imprisonment of my soul. The way I perceived myself, along with my perception of how others viewed me, became my measuring stick for success: If you think I am kind, then I must be kind. If you think I am pretty, then I must be pretty. If you believe my life looks like the picture-perfect all-American family, then that is what we must be. But one of the dangers of that path rests in what happens when others don’t think those things of me: What if, through your senses, you perceive something very different about me? What if you believe me to be selfish and self-seeking? What if you think I am fake? What if you believe me to be shallow?

I gave the world complete access to define who I was. When their definition did not match up with the person I was portraying myself to be, all my efforts were thrust into changing that one thing, whatever it was at the time: “Just be more spiritual, funnier, the life of the party, meek, more stylish”—you get the idea. I believed the lie, “Be who they want you to be.”

Mark Sayers nails this idea perfectly in his book The Vertical Self:

Welcome to the twenty-first century, where we

can now purchase and change personalities

the way we can clothes, depending on mood

or circumstance. Welcome to the world in which

we are told we can be anyone we want to be,

where identity is no longer based in a sense

of self but rather in the imagery we choose at any particular moment.

My circumstance (aka, how the community around me perceived me) is what dictated the person I ascribed to be at that moment.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Or maybe, as you read, you are thinking, I am well aware of what this looks like because this is my life. I am tossed continuously to and fro, bending and shaping who I believe I should be based upon the opinions of others. And not only their opinions of me, but my perception of their lives from the outside looking in. Contemplate this question: What is the driving force behind the majority of your decisions? Are you shape-shifting your way through life to impress people? Do you constantly redefine yourself in an attempt to be accepted or relevant in today’s ever-changing culture?

When I so desperately sought the approval of other people, it led me to live a life of chaos. I was literally like an infant being tossed around in a violent thunderstorm—or probably more like a hurricane. This way of living sent me down a path of destruction, thrown every which way in an attempt to “arrive” at Destination: “They Love Me” and trying to “be” whatever was required at that moment to be accepted. But God is graciously and patiently beginning to teach me that you can “be” a lot of things and never “become” anyone. He is teaching me that you can “be” a friend and never taste what is meant by friendship. You can “be” loving and yet never truly experience the intimacy of love. Giving the world an à la carte version of yourself will not lead to life. Instead, it will leave you with an unquenchable thirst for more, with your head on a perpetual swivel. In other words, perception is not necessarily reality.

Leaving the shallow end is always a little uncomfortable. As our toes stretch to no longer feel the ground beneath us, we’ll have to fight the urge to turn back. If you choose to read my book, it may get tough. You will likely discover wounds buried deep within you, and maybe you’re not quite ready to expose them. If that’s true, it’s okay, because God’s timing will always prevail. He will lead you back to those challenging places when you’re ready.

Allowing God into the deepest hidden parts of you does not mean that you have to let the world in as well. That part will come later. And when it happens, you’ll be astonished at the workings of the Lord because you will find yourself opening up to people about situations in your life that today, in this very moment, you could never imagine sharing with another soul.

WARNING: THIS BOOK IS RAW. It was not comfortable to write and was not easy for me to share my flaws. And trust me when I express that it doesn’t feel good to share my raw, vulnerable, jealous, vain, shallow heart. We so often correlate “easy” with “right.” In other words, if something feels good, then it must be good, and if something doesn’t feel right, then it must be bad. This is a flawed way of thinking and, quite frankly, a tactic that Satan deploys to keep us in a state of merely existing—a life that moves at a consistent pace, following the rules of society, with no challenge to the soul or desire for growth. And that, my friends, should be the thing we fear – a life lived in the shallow end. A life that simply goes through the motions because we are afraid to leave the safety of the seashore.

Do you want to keep living this way? Do you want to remain above ground, devoting all your days to merely polishing the surface of your life? Will you pause to consider the mysteries of what life could look like if you allow God into all of the invisible places?

How you perceive yourself and how others perceive you is of little importance to reality. Perception is not reality. Reality is not what you decide or feel it to be. Reality is not the life you create while running from your past, and it will never be found in a three-step formula. Reality is reality, and the only way to experience it fully is to seek refuge in the only One who can fully see us. He sees us from the inside out, from beginning to end, our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows.

Choose to live in reality with me as I unveil patterns and fears that were displayed in my own life. Time and time again, I came broken before a Father who really knows me, and time and time again, He wholeheartedly loved me. Although this book is about my journey out of the shallow places, I would love to simultaneously be a part of God doing a work in you. Let’s grow and change together. Now, take off your floaties, get over your fear of being in a swimsuit (that is so shallow), and dive in deep.

Jill Dasher is a blogger and speaker who is passionate about sharing the message of being known through authentic community with God and each other. She resides in Asheville, NC with her husband Zach and four children. In between sunset hikes and camping weekends she works alongside her husband running a media company. Follow Jill on Instagram @jilldasher

Use code LOSISTA10 for 10% off Shallow from now until July 5th when purchasing from jilldasher.com! Shallow can also be purchased on Amazon.com.
The Perfect Mother

The Perfect Mother

Through years and years of blogging, I almost always avoid the topics of motherhood and parenting. The question is, why? I have four children, for crying out loud! You would think I would know a thing or two about motherhood, yet time and again, I avoid the topic. The reason I avoid that subject is that I am afraid to speak into such an important role, especially in a time when it seems our culture is quick to cancel you. What if I rave on about my parenting skills, then my kids make a mess of their lives? What then? Will I be considered a phony?

One thing I am learning about myself as a mother is the temptation to make an idol out of the “righteousness” of my children.  I am tempted to make “their” righteousness or lack thereof a reflection of my own. The struggle with perfectionism easily becomes a virus that spreads from one generation to the next if one is not careful. It is easy for us as moms to “cover” for our children in the name of “saving face.”

What do I mean by this? Well, I don’t know about you, but I struggle with wanting to be respected by others for being a good mother. I struggle with this because somehow, I am convinced that if others view me as a “good” mother and they view my children as “good” kids, then that must be the reality. Never mind that I am placing my worth and value as a mother in the hands of flawed human beings.

I recall attending a weekly Bible study with other moms and toddlers when my kids were much younger. It was hands down the most stressful part of my week; I  know that sounds terrible. Before I even arrived at the study, anxiety began to stir up within me because I just knew that my kids were going to misbehave. And sure enough, they did. It was always my kids — yep. They were always too rough, too loud, too mischievous, too destructive, and way too toddler.

Anybody in the house feeling me yet?

I got in my car sweating and overflowing with anxiety, mad at my kids because they did not behave, and even madder at the moms who insinuated that it was “my kids’” fault. How exactly could they tell between prayers and scripture reading that it was, in fact, a Dasher that was at fault? Girl moms blame everything on boy moms! Did they have eyes in the backs of their heads? I am laughing as I write this, but some of you are “amening” and “shouting hallelujah” like there’s no tomorrow. You’ve been there. You know what those settings can be like. Everyone is trying to outdo the other. Mom groups can get about as competitive as a county fair pageant in July, and no, I am not downing county fair pageants; I was, after all, Miss Cherokee Capital Fair back in my day. Ha, I just had to throw that in there for kicks.

Now before you get all hot and bothered and ready to call it quits with your Mommy and Me group, just hear me out. The greatest lesson I am learning through being a mother is found in one simple word, applied all over my life, every day of my life, and now more than ever. The term is GRACE. GRACE ON ME. GRACE ON MY KIDS. GRACE ON HER.

GRACE ON ME (YOU) – YOU AND I ARE NOT PERFECT MOTHERS. We never have been and never will be. You can search Instagram over, and you will find a whole lot of amazing moms. You will find a whole lot of trendy moms, creative moms, talented moms, but a perfect mother, you will never see. One of the greatest gifts we can give to our children is just that; that they would know we are a continuous work in progress. I strive to confess as comfortably as I praise within the walls of our home because I genuinely believe I experience the most praise through confession. Not the kind of praise that says, ”Wow, you are an awesome mom!” Nope; instead, the type of praise that says, ”Wow, you are an awesome God!” So awesome that I could screw up that big, yell that loudly, overreact  to that extent, and yet, through confession, God begins to heal my family once again. And again, and again, and again. Give yourself the grace that God so graciously gives to you.

Therefore, confess your sins to each other, and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

GRACE ON MY KIDS (YOUR KIDS) – MY KIDS/YOUR KIDS WILL MESS UP. Their rap sheet will include sin; there is no way around it. None of us likes to think about our children as sinners, and we certainly do not want to advertise it; nonetheless, it is true. As you begin to learn to give yourself grace as a mother, it allows you to dispense it to your children more easily because you are not trying to maintain an image. Dispensing grace is NOT covering for your children; rather, it is the opposite. Grace is exposing the truth and loving them despite it. That does not mean it is easy. I will confess to you, as a mother, I do want my children to be perceived in a beautiful light. But way more than that, I want them to be men and women of integrity. This will not happen in a vacuum. If I desire that of my children, then that is who I have to be as a mom — someone honest about who she is, the good as well as the bad.

GRACE ON HER – Let’s be honest, motherhood can bring out the worst in us at times. Yes, it is true. If you are a mother, and you are reading this, you may very well have the mom or moms in your life who just always seem to have it out for you. With passive-aggressive words, they critique your children, your parenting, your lifestyle, or your style for that matter, and you find yourself bending over backward to try to earn their favor. Don’t. Quit going back to the well of man’s approval. Show them grace and seek the wisdom that comes from above. Ask the question, is this a God-honoring friendship?

God forbid, you may have actually been that mom, oh, hey, now. Well, I, for one, was on both sides of this coin, and I can say for sure that many times, the moms I most set out to destroy, even if only in my head, were the ones I secretly admired the most. Why are we so quickly prone to see the worst in others? I think it is because we believe the lie that for someone to be great at something means we must be less than. This is simply not true. In fact, God created us each different, possessing specific gifts for the purpose of building up the entire body.

… from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:16)

 God meant for us to thrive in community with one another, building up each other in the gift that God gave to us for the benefit of us all. Become a champion of others. Satan may thrive in the battle of comparison, but we do not have to step foot on that battlefield. We can choose to be different. What if, instead of our children hearing what is wrong with everyone else, they heard what was right? How might that change the way they learn to interact with their friends? How might that change our hearts if we truly understand our need for the body to work properly to grow in love?

GIVE GRACE. RECEIVE GRACE. BECOME A CHAMPION OF OTHERS.

At the end of the day, in our attempt to be the best mothers we can be, the key to remember is this. It is not about the righteousness of your children (they will mess up). It is not about the virtue of your motherhood (you will mess up). It is about the righteousness of Jesus and His finished work on the cross. It’s the understanding that, as believers, we already are canceled. His blood canceled our debts, and for that reason, we should be all the more eager to lavishly and regularly dispense GRACE. TO OURSELVES, TO OUR KIDS, TO EACH OTHER.

Jill Dasher is a blogger and speaker who is passionate about sharing the message of being known through authentic community with God and each other. She resides in Asheville, NC with her husband Zach and four children. In between sunset hikes and camping weekends she works alongside her husband running a media company.

Follow Jill on Instagram @jilldasher

Marry a Man Who Will Worship With You

Marry a Man Who Will Worship With You

We were unabashedly praising the name of Jesus together at the Passion conference, and I remember looking over at my husband of nearly 19 years; I was overwhelmed with gratitude. All I ever wanted was a man who loved the Lord with all his heart, and here we stood, tears rolling down our faces, hands raised to The King of Kings, worshipping as one. The moment was monumental for me, one that did not go unrecognized, because what I experienced in that time and space was the fruit of another moment spent in a very different place.

It was dark — a very dark place one might even call a prison. How did I get there? Would the sensation of light ever again grace the confines of my heart? I was not sure. At that moment, correction, in that season, I felt an array of emotions, none of which I was accustomed to, at least, not to the extent that they were currently plaguing my inner being. It was a drought of the soul that wrecked me to the core.

Abandoned, alone, betrayed, outcast, fearful, distrusting, and extremely insecure. Not the insecurity that comes in waves of life like “she has better hair than me.” No, this was an insecurity of the highest order. I felt no security in the one and only person I loved my whole life. The one and only person who, despite my downfalls and shortcomings, I loved immensely, and never, not once, did I question His love for me. But today was different. The four walls of my closet were closed in around me as I sobbed, sobbed. Before that day, I am not sure I  truly ever felt anguish, and there I lay in the fetal position on the floor of my closet, certain that God forgot about me and questioning if there was such a God, and if so, how can He be good?

For this post, the details are not exactly crucial as to why or how I ended up in such a place, not to mention the story is not mine alone to share, so for that reason, I will spare “the why or how.” More than likely, if you live long enough, if you let people into your life, and if you immerse yourself into the lives of others, you will experience your own “how and why.” We are imperfect people, living in an imperfect world, doing life with other imperfect people, and Satan exists to divide and destroy. Destruction is the breaking ground of his house, and many times, we take up residence on a hollow foundation without even knowing it.

Back to the closet floor.

For the first time in my life, I questioned the one who gave me life. Are you real, God, and if so, then are you really good? Talk about darkness. The door of my closet creaked open, and I remember burying my head even further into the heap of clothes that laid all around me not wanting to let anyone into the atmosphere of my pain, but there was one (well, not actually just one) who refused to grant me solitude. My husband, led by the Holy Spirit, ever so gently picked me up off the floor and held me in his arms, much like a child. He began praying over me a prayer that will forever and ever be etched into my mind.

God, I am calling on your promise; in your word, you tell us that if we will resist the devil, he will flee from us. We are calling on your promise right now in the name of Jesus, so that we may see your goodness again.

This was the moment God watered the drought of my soul with his presence, and as my dear husband prayed, the tiniest fragments of light began to come into view. Hope began to emerge because where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. I could literally feel the relaxing of every single muscle in my body. It was the beginning of a long process of healing that changed the course of my life — beginning being the operative word here. Beginning.

About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the foundations of the prison. At once, all the doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.

EVERYONE’S CHAINS CAME LOOSE!

Don’t you see it? Praise is the conduit for freedom. Praise on the mountain top is an overflow from the praise extended in the valley. The praise at the dawn of day is possible because the Lord brought us through the darkest part of the night.

What God began in Zach and me all those years ago on the floor of our closet was and still is producing the fruit of praise. We can praise Him in our freedom because my husband led our family to praise him in our prison. We can unabashedly dance with college students and sing to the top of our lungs today because in the darkest moments of our lives, when I was ready to bail, the husband of my youth carried on the mantle of faith when I was much too weak. Praise God. Praise God.

So here comes the curveball; actually, it is the title of this blog, so it should not come as a surprise. There are many of you reading this who currently are in a dating relationship or praying for the Lord to send that special someone your way. For those of you who are dating, ask yourself this question: will this man worship with me when I am on the floor of my closet? Will he lead me in worship when the butterflies are gone, when the bills pile up, and when I no longer have a six-pack? Ask yourself — do it. Will he lead me in worship when my faith grows weak? Will he lead me in worship in our darkest hour?

Well? So, in the words of the punk rock band, The Clash, Should I stay, or should I go now?  Do not justify, and do not overanalyze. You know the answer.

To the lady in waiting, be content to wait for a man who will worship with you on the floor of your closet.

To the married woman who is thinking it is much too late, who fears that she made the wrong decision all those years ago, and feels certain that her husband will never lead her that way: take up the mantle of Faith — you be the one. Love him in his darkest moment. Worship with him through his unbelief. 1 Peter 3:1-6 says, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your simple pursuit of the Lord, even in times of darkness, has the power to change the life of your spouse.

Midnight is one of the darkest hours of the night but is also the BEGINNING of a new day. Praise Him in the darkness, so you can dance at the break of dawn.

Jill Dasher is a blogger and speaker who is passionate about sharing the message of being known through authentic community with God and each other. She resides in Asheville, NC with her husband Zach and four children. In between sunset hikes and camping weekends she works alongside her husband running a media company.

Follow Jill on Instagram @jilldasher

Parenting

Parenting

When Zach and I were dating and riding around in his 1982 yellow Grand Marquis, we dreamed about our upcoming marriage. Once married, our dreams and conversations consisted of what our kids were going to be like. And then, just like that, they were here. We talked about how cute they were and how little sleep we got, but obviously, they were going to be geniuses, so it was worth it.

Now that we are in the throes of shepherding children through middle school and high school, our conversations shifted a bit. Zach described it perfectly as we drove off to the airport a couple of days ago for a work trip. Neither of us wanted to go because, well, we are in the “all-hands-on-deck” phase of parenting that nobody prepares you for.  Zach describes it as the “Whac-A-Mole” stage. Do you remember that game? Yes. I realize that I just aged myself.  It was a Chuck E. Cheese favorite; the head of a mole popped up through a tiny hole, and you “whack” him with a “Thor-like” mallet, and then do it all over again as they continue to pop up through holes randomly. That is what I feel like sometimes navigating a child through adolescence while attempting to remain connected to their heart. Just when you think you have conquered one “molehill,” another emerges through the surface. Holler if you hear me!

Remaining connected to their heart transcends past the boundaries of obedience into a place where they genuinely trust that you have their best interest in mind. This is where it gets a little dicey because, while it is easy for me to assess the actions of my children, their hearts are not visibly measurable. In fact, it is quite possible for them to behave perfectly within the framework we designed, and yet, their hearts can be so far away from us. This is one of my greatest fears as a parent; yes, I confess I am quite fearful that I am going to mess up my children completely. Can I just begin by confessing that? Are there any other parents out there who live with this fear?

Fear is something that has overwhelmed me at different stages of life, probably the most debilitating destroyer that lurks beneath my seemingly confident front. However, it is not just any type of fear that claims anxiety over my life; it is misplaced fear that keeps me from moving. Fear that is dependent on my performance or ability. Fear that is characterized by “what if” statements and comparisons. Fear of how others will perceive me, my children, or our home. This type of fear is really a self-absorbed fear that only graces the surface of my life and has no power to produce fruitful living. It also has no ability to produce Godly offspring but instead has a paralyzing effect over my family and my parenting.

This is the type of fear that I am daily, sometimes hourly, having to submit over to my Father. A fear based on the thoughts and viewpoints of men. One that finds faux contentment as long as all appears to be right but refuses to seek out the heart. You see, the love that I so desire from my children is many times not mirrored in my own relationship with my heavenly Father. I came to realize that, in many days of my own life, I am choosing to live for my King but refusing to give Him my heart, all the while pleading for the heart of my own children.

I cannot tell you how many times I say to my children, “You do not have to tell me what you think I want to hear” and then turn around and tell Jesus precisely what I think He wants to hear. Why do I do this? Probably the same reason my children do. Yes, my children are flawed; gasp.

Could it be that we struggle, believing that God can truly love us just the way we are? Can he really love the broken parts of us; the unkind part of us; the part of us that struggles with jealousy and discontentment; the part of us that so often seeks our own glory and praise?

God, can you really love the not so lovable parts of me? Wait, don’t answer that. I’m afraid. And since I am not confident that you can, I should probably just keep those hidden, right?

But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord’s love is with those who fear him and his righteousness with their children’s children. (Psalm 103:17)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Prov 9:10)

Fear is not our enemy; misplaced fear is our enemy.

Misplaced fear is a fear that is driven by our desire to please men. This fear leads us to a life of hiding. This fear keeps us from trying new things and pursuing dreams because, well, what if the world will not approve? This fear causes us to turn inside ourselves and keep everyone at an arm’s distance because we are almost sure that we will be rejected in some form or fashion.

Misplaced fear leads to death. The fear of the Lord leads to life. Abundant life.

But what does it mean to fear the Lord, and how is that different from the fear that results from my desire to please men?

Scripture defines it for us in Proverbs when it says: The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride and arrogance, and the evil way, and the perverse mouth, I hate (8:13.)

First, the fear of the Lord is to hate what he hates. He hates evil, more particularly pride, arrogance, the evil way, and a perverse mouth.  When our fear is misplaced, we inevitably place ourselves in the position of manager.  Yep, in our arrogance, we actually think we can manage our sin better than God.  Why not just fold to the apparent fact that He is God and probably knows better?  Pride. As managers, we are too prideful to take that trust fall.  “It’s too humiliating,” we tell ourselves.  So, we manage, we hide, and therefore, we are miserable.  This leads to the evil way of hating the good around us because it reminds us of our misery.  So, we gossip, slander, and hide behind sarcasm and cynicism.  Sounds horrible, right?

Fortunately for us, there is a way out.  It’s simple.  Place our fear, not on the approval of men but the Glory of God.  We fear God and respect his ways.  In other words, we resign as the manager.  We walk humbly with our good, good Father.  We trust him, and we live.

Yes, I realize this post began about parenting, but once again, it turns out that the Lord is still working on me. He is still whacking away at my own “molehills.” Perhaps the greatest lesson that I can teach my children lies within the admittance of my failures to a God that I trust is good and has my best interest at heart.

Perhaps it is in this understanding that we can begin to move past behavior modification parenting to a Spirit-filled child who does not need to perform to seek my approval but instead realizes that they indeed are safe to be a work in progress still.

Jill Dasher is a blogger and speaker who is passionate about sharing the message of being known through authentic community with God and each other. She resides in Asheville, NC with her husband Zach and four children. In between sunset hikes and camping weekends she works alongside her husband running a media company.

Follow Jill on Instagram @jilldasher

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