Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

Guest Blogger: Gordon Dasher

Gordon Dasher is married to Jan Robertson Dasher and is one of the ministers at WFR Church in West Monroe, LA.  He teaches at the church's second location, oversees the college ministry, and leads a house church.   He is also a writer (dearstruggler.wordpress.com ) who writes about his wifes journey with early onset Alzheimer's Disease.  His goal is to allow God to teach him how to be joyful in this relationship with Christ in the midst of this terrible disease and to encourage others to allow pain and suffering to lead them to find real purpose and meaning in the name of Jesus.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, Gordo?  

Would it be graduating from college? Nope, I majored in English, for crying out loud.  How about trying to earn a living for the fam? Wrong again.

No, without a doubt, the most difficult task I’ve ever undertaken was raising kids.  

In the beginning I thought it would be different. Before they were ever born, before they were ever conceived, I had this idyllic video that I replayed in my head - over and over again.  There I was with my kids - two boys and a girl - and we would be on the beach playing frisbee.  Or they would be burying me under the sand and building sand castles on my belly (in order to get a cheap jump on the elevation for the tower). Or maybe we would be in the woods hunting deer - or in the mountains hiking the Appalachian trail together.

And all the while, I would be imparting nuggets of wisdom, and they would be writing it all down in little leather bound notebooks that they would keep forever so that they could refer to them later on when they had questions about life.

Yes, I was going to be one awesome father.

Then the day of my first child’s birth came.  My heart was pounding inside my chest as Doctor Mobley chanted to Jan - “One, Two, Three - BREATHE!  NOW PUUUSSSHHH!”

Finally, out popped a wrinkled, wet, slimy, 5 lb. 10 oz. blob of beauty.  I was in love.

Dr. Mobley smiled, held out my new daughter before me, and asked me, “You wanna hold her?” 

“Oh, yes! Yes! Yes!”

The nurse gingerly retrieved her from the doctor’s arms, and placed her in mine. My heart beat a bongo rhythm in my chest.  Sweat ran in torrents down my neck and back. A thought blasted through my skull into my brain, What if I drop her? What if she shatters?  I was filled with wonder, awe, and fear simultaneously.  It was the most amazing experience of my life.

Until...and you’re not going to believe this...until she pooped on me.  That’s right.  Nine months of accumulating foul and disgusting waste in her intestinal track, and she released it all on me. Talk about a mood killer.

A lot has not gone according to my initial plan, but don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my three children for all the tea in Winn Dixie.  I not only love them, I adore them and all of the goodness they bring to my life...especially the grandkids.  All eight of them.

But raising kids?  It was no picnic.

For one thing, my video was a hoax.  I don’t know who sold me that thing, but I never got the feeling at any time that my kids were paying a single bit of attention to a single word I said...unless I said, “Who wants twenty dollars?” Sometimes, my relationship with them seemed to be antagonistic, at best.

But what about now?

Truthfully, Jan and I marvel at how they turned out.  They are all faithful to God in a very serious way.  Furthermore, they married the most amazing partners I could have ever imagined who walk with them as they pursue God.  And to top it off, they are incredibly purposeful about raising their own children to follow God and pursue him as Lord and Savior.

So I’m saying they’re perfect? Hardly! Sometimes I still shake my head at their stubborn natures.  Or the way my sons hold me down and grab my fat rolls.  I hate that.  But overall, I’m in love with them.  And I’m proud of how they turned out.

So how did we do it?  To be honest, I don’t know if I could give you a formula.  Maybe because there isn’t one.  We heard all of the trendy advice of 1976-1984.  Be consistent! Put them on schedules! Give them responsibility! Don’t ever criticize them!  Speak softly! Let them have some say in family decisions!

We violated every single bit of junk hippie advice we heard.  Not on purpose, mind you.  We were just too undisciplined to follow through with any of it.

In our house (and I’m not all that proud of this), there were outbursts of anger, temper tantrums (mostly me), financial issues (my fault) and arguments between Jan and me.  You name it, we did it. The only things we weren’t guilty of were drunkenness, cursing, and marital unfaithfulness...well, I might have cursed once.

No, our home was not idyllic. Sometimes it was a mess. 

So how did it happen that you raised such awesome kids?

To begin with, before they were conceived, we prayed for them.  We prayed for their hearts to be pure before God.  We prayed for them to marry Ben, Jil, and Jessica...maybe not by name, but by character.  Then when Jan was pregnant, I would place my hand on her belly and pray for them all over again.

“God, I’m a flawed and wicked man, but I plead with you to protect this child from Satan’s strongest attacks.  I pray for you to protect their hearts.  And strengthen Jan and me to raise them up to love you.”

That was the start of it.

Then we imparted the word of God to them.  At night when we put them to bed, Jan would sit in the closet with the light on and teach them the Bible.  Every night.  Without fail! Seriously! 

We talked about God as we rode down the road.  We talked about Jesus as we rode to school.  And we let them know that we were jacked up people - their mom and me.  We taught them that God is a reliable Father who never breaks a promise. And we never sugar coated anything.

And for certain, we disciplined them when they needed it. Oh yes, I probably could be arrested for it now.  That’s right, we loved our kids enough to spank them or put them in a month-long time-out.  Some of our friends, and most of the culture then, disagreed with us, but we were convinced that God’s word was right about this.  

And I hardly ever trusted them.  When I did, I usually got burned.  Kids aren’t truthful by nature. I’m so sorry if that offends you.  That part of their brain that controls impulse behavior isn’t even fully formed until they are well into their twenties.  You can’t trust people who don’t have all their brains, can you?  I’m not being judgmental - I’m just quoting hard scientific fact.

But mostly, we simply loved them.  We played with them.  We wrestled - boys against the girls. We played practical jokes on Mom. We did stuff together.  We went to the river and fished and hardly ever caught anything, but we were together.  

Mostly we just relied on the promise, “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when he is old, he won’t depart from it.” If not for that, I might have been the worst father ever.

It was hard work, and we made plenty of mistakes, but I don’t regret a single minute of it.  I just wish I’d had an instruction manual before I started.  

I think it’s pretty cool that God can guide completely imperfect parents who sometimes set bad examples, often make mistakes, and frequently respond to their kids in completely inappropriate ways and use them to raise God-seekers. That’s the only part of rearing children that we did on purpose - God led us to seek him (imperfectly) and to convince our children that the only purpose in life that lasts for an eternity is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

I thank him for that. I truly do.

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