I've Got It

By Jess Dager

Here’s a list of things my neighbors routinely see me doing…
  • Carrying 10 bags of groceries into the house by myself in one trip, despite the fact that my husband and children are all home and happy to help.
  • Racing in and out of the neighborhood to drive my kids to and from school, despite the fact that other families in my neighborhood also go to this same school and there is no need for me to drive every single day.
  • Loading enormous amounts of food that I have spent hours and hours preparing into my van, even after families from my church and students from the ministry have offered to either come and help me prepare or provide completely without my help. 
Here’s a list of things my children routinely see me doing…
  • Moving large pieces of furniture up the stairs by myself.
  • Doing chores I have previously assigned to them because I am annoyed by the way they have done them or I simply don’t feel like waiting for them to finish.
  • Saying, “Let me do that! No problem!” to someone in a sweet and carefree voice and then hanging up the phone and groaning loudly as I begin to understand I’ve bitten off more than I can chew by myself...again! 
In case you are having trouble picking up the theme, I prefer to do everything myself, my way, according to my schedule and without help or input from anyone else and to be seen as capable, independent and strong.

This has led to some pretty funny stories my family likes to drag out around the dinner table when guests are over. 

“Remember that time you had to make mac ’n’ cheese for 100 people? Remember how Dad came home from Nav Night at 10 pm and found you covered in flour and burnt white sauce? Remember how you didn’t actually have the right pots and pans to make such big quantities, but you didn’t want to bother anyone so you just made a bazillion small batches of homemade mac 'n’ cheese one after another ALL NIGHT?”

It’s kind of funny when we are talking about mac ’n’ cheese and an occasional unintentional all nighter. It’s another thing to chronically miss opportunities for fellowship, collaboration, and relief by guarding my independence and self-reliance so fiercely.

This summer I participated in an art journaling Bible study led by Ruth Knutson using Jerry Bridge’s book, Who Am I? Identity in Christ. The very first week we looked at the statement, “I am a Creature.” I know it was meant to reassure us of the goodness of being a dependent of our Lord who lovingly made us and cares for us, but my initial reactions were extremely negative. 

I was able to see clearly and unmistakably how resistant I am to relationships that involve dependency. I really struggle to admit that I need people. I even struggle to admit I need God. I feel overwhelmingly grateful to God for Jesus, but can see how often I say, “That’s all I need. I can take it from here.” 

I see how deeply this has shaped my prayer life, and how rarely I’ve sought the Lord for provision. I regret how it’s kept me from contributing beyond what I understand to be my own limits as I’ve rarely said “Yes” to opportunities I don’t believe I can do in my own strength. I often carry a sense of loneliness when I’m working on a task, recognizing how fun it might be to share the load with a friend.

The Lord has perfectly timed these newest recognitions of failure and the need for growth with my season of parenting. I am now the mother of three teenagers. The amount of control I have over my kiddos lives is at an all time low. There is a seemingly endless list of things I desperately need the Lord to do.
  • Protect them on the roads - because I can’t drive for them. 
  • Give them discernment as they are educated by men and women who don’t believe in you - because they don’t want me to attend AP World History with them.
  • Give them wisdom as they navigate relationships fraught with immaturity and social pressures - because even though I am pretty good at eavesdropping and stalking them on social media, I still don’t know all the he saids, she saids, they saids that they are facing. 
  • Let their growth spurt come soon so they can play basketball.
  • Let their growth spurt come later so they don’t feel uncomfortable with their shorter peers. 
And the list goes on and on and on.

God is also refining my feelings surrounding dependence. My kids are dependent on me, and it’s the most precious thing in the world to me. I don’t resent it. I don’t wish they would never, ever need me again. Our mutual dependence (and believe me, now that they are older and mowing the lawn and fixing the computers and opening the stubborn jars, it’s very mutual) create ties that bind us together. I am so happy to provide for them, and they feel loved by my provision. I know God is helping me reclaim that same sweetness in my dependence on Him, although I’m sure He’s not blown away by my progress as of yet. Just being honest. 

How about you? Are there any themes to the kind of failures you often experience, like mine that so often surround my independent streak? Are there any ways God might be using those failures to lead you to a deeper understanding of yourself or Him?

Jess Dager and her husband Ben have been on collegiate staff for 14 years and currently serve at the University of Illinois. They have 3 kiddos ages 16, 15, and 13. Jess enjoys reading, singing, and laughter. Her favorite part of working with students is watching God at work in their lives.

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