I’ve been told more than once that I’m shockingly normal.
Not because I have three heads or a third eye or a tail, but because my dad wrote books about strong, godly families and people are curious to see how his strong, godly daughter turned out.
I tease my husband that my childhood dreams of becoming a world-renowned author would come true the minute I committed to a tell-all book. What was it like growing up in the “perfect homeschool family.” How holy am I as a result of it?
The answer is, I grew up in a wonderful, imperfect family. And I could be holier.
I really am pretty normal, apart from being a huge dork. But when people ask me if there’s anything about my upbringing that I regret, that’s when things get a little weird.
A Movement I Regret
I’ve already written about the stay-at-home daughter thing. It’s not something I talk about really often, frankly because I’m really embarrassed by it.
I’m not embarrassed by the fact that I chose not to move out until I got married. I’m not perfectly content with it either, but I’ll write about that in a moment. I’m embarrassed because I consider making staying home until marriage into a righteous movement instead of one valid option among many is a mistake that has caused myriad ripple effects of shame and insecurity in so many lives. Including my own.
I’m no Josh Harris but I relate to so much of his I Kissed Dating Goodbye reflections. Writing books at twenty, when life is so much simpler than it will be at thirty, is a perilous undertaking. I wish I hadn’t.
The Decision That I Had
My relationship with the entire stay-at-home daughter phenomenon is complicated.
First, it didn’t start with my parents. My dad is not an abusive, overbearing ogre who dictated every decision in my life until I said: “I do.” Whenever he preached at colleges — from Dartmouth to Cedarville — he would take me along and we’d talk about what I might want to do someday. As the back of my book declared, I used to want to go to NYU and study journalism or screenwriting. I wanted to experience all of the excitement and independence that life had to offer me.
Of course, I was fourteen — that was literally half a lifetime ago. Very few of us are doing now what we said we’d do in junior high. But my course wasn’t changed by a growing and maturing, but by the jarring new philosophy presented in a book I read, called So Much More. In it, the authors (who would later become dear friends), presented a picture of the daughter, not as an individual agent, but an integral part of the family dynamic. Why would I go off to college and do my own thing when I could become part of my family’s incredible mission in the world?
It got me. Hook, line, and sinker. And my parents — the first generation in while to have a strong, Christian family dynamic with a dad at home — thought that sounded just lovely.
The Decision That I Made
A few weeks ago, I told my mom that I hate how I’m not very assertive.
“Do you think we stunted that?” she asked. She’s still got seven kids at home, the oldest one of which was born around the time that I decided I wanted to stay home and prepare to be a homemaker.
I thought about that for a moment, then shook my head. “I feel like I’ve always been a timid person. Remember how I didn’t want to order food at restaurants for myself? Remember how I didn’t want to learn to drive? Dad forced me to get my license.”
I’ve been afraid all of my life. I have often lived in so much fear of making mistakes that I take the path of least resistance — the least threatening road. After I decided to stay home, it was my dad who pushed me to get an online degree: “You’ll wish you had it someday, even if it’s just to do some post-graduate work.” My mom pushed me into my first job outside of my dad’s ministry: “Keeping this house is my job, not yours. Live your life.” They walked me through the process of buying my own car.
My tell-all memoir would be really disappointing to a lot of people because although my parents were not perfect (although wonderful enough for me not to be bashing them in the streets, so don’t hold your breath), if they made any mistake that led to my lack of independence, it wasn’t holding me back — it was in not making me uncomfortable enough.
The Decision I Regret
Do I regret not moving out and going off to college like a normal person?
This is the first year in my life — ten years after I turned eighteen and didn’t hit the road — that I’ve felt like I can say yes, absolutely without betraying anyone.
As with purity culture, it was always weird to be the only black girl in the room. A lot of the decisions that I made after graduating were made in hopes of being accepted into a Christian subculture that I never quite felt accepted me. A lot of the decisions I didn’t make were the result of shame surrounding what I was allowed to want and who I was allowed to become. And a lot of the decisions were simply the easy thing for a fearful girl to do.
I’m married now. I’ve never lived alone. I’ve never made decisions for myself. I went from being a stay-at-home daughter to being a stay-at-home mom. And sometimes, that comes back to bite me — and my husband — in the butt.
The Decisions I’m Still Making
But, speaking of my husband, he’s the best decision that I did make. He equips me to make my own choices, even when I’m afraid. He deals with every growing pain that I should have had ten years ago and am just now having. He removes the shameful burdens that I’ve operated under for a good half of my life. He pushes me harder than anyone I’ve ever known, even when I fight back.
He’s helping me grow up. Not for him, like I always thought I should, but for myself. For the pursuit of holiness and wholeness. He won’t let me stand quietly in his shadow, and he won’t let me take the easy way out. He’s not concerned with the picture of perfection I learned to show everyone else. He rips off the bandaids, pulls the little cork out of the dam, and pushes me into the tsunami that I used to be so afraid of.
Sometimes, I can’t stand him for it. But when I’m not cowering in fear, I love him for it. And I love God for giving him to me, because he’s teaching me how to push myself.
We all make decisions that we regret making. Thankfully, we serve a sovereign God who really does work all things together for his good (Romans 8:28).
So, as I write about womanhood and growing up and breaking free, there’s some context for you.
I will always be normal. Kind of. But, hopefully, I won’t always be stunted in my growing and becoming. And, truly, because we serve a gracious God who is ever in the business of conforming his children to his image, it’s better late than never.