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