Jeff Shaw, Director of Out of Darkness (a ministry of the Atlanta Dream Center), is our guest blogger. Jeff wrote this a few weeks ago and has since stepped into the amazing role of “Dad.” In honor of Father’s Day coming soon, we asked him to share some thoughts about raising sweet Oliva in the current culture.
In 2011, the Lord called me to start a ministry offering 24-hour help to individuals wanting out of the sex industry. To date, Out of Darkness has worked with over 1,000 victims. For six years I have seen the darkest of dark situations and the worst things people can inflict on one another, but daily I also see the beauty of hope and redemption.
Now there is another calling on my life. I’m 34, and my wife and I just celebrated our one-year wedding anniversary and are expecting our first child next week. Yep, that’s right. Next WEEK!
Just typing it now fills me with excitement, apprehension, and a host of other emotions. I only have one week to finish getting ready to be a dad! Is there even such a thing as “ready”? Can you ever ask enough questions, get enough advice, or read enough books to be confident about entering parenthood?
Oh, and did I mention we’re having a little girl? Olivia Anne. My heart melts just saying it out loud.
I am already looking forward to tea parties, princess dresses, soccer games, and daddy-daughter dates. But at the same time, I shudder knowing how cruel this world can be to little girls. Youth are bombarded by hyper-sexualized imagery, sexting, pornography, body-shaming, sexual pressure from boys, risk of sexual assault, objectification of women, and the list goes on.
The way I see it, I have two options – resign or fight. I choose to fight. Here are the six things I commit myself to in my quest to raise a strong, grounded young woman in a world that would just as soon devour her:
1. I will pray for wisdom.
I am completely incapable of raising Olivia in a positive and impactful way if I just rely on my own wisdom and strength. As long as I keep that reality at the forefront, I will keep depending on God. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB) And I know God wants to give me His wisdom! “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5 NIV) Praise God that if I trust Him with all my heart instead of placing my faith in myself, and ask Him for wisdom, He will give me everything that I need!
2. I will pray for Olivia.
I know that I am the product of my parents’ prayers. I was raised in a Christian home, attended a Christian school, and was very active in our local church. I made a decision to follow Jesus when I was 6 years old, but at age 13, I opened the door to pornography in my life. This set me on a course of selfishness, self-destruction, and the pursuit of worldly desires more than Jesus. Through it all, my parents prayed for me, the Holy Spirit continued to pursue my heart, and at age 27 I truly surrendered my life to the Lord.
I pray that Olivia will embrace the Gospel of the Kingdom of God at a young age (Mark 1:14-15); that her heart will be fertile soil for the Word to firmly take root and bear fruit in her life (Matthew 13:23); that she will delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1:1-3); that she will love the Lord her God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27); that she will have a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:17); and that she will not have a spirit of slavery, but a spirit of adoption in which she understands her unshakeable identity as a child of God (Romans 8:15).
3. I will foster intimacy.
One of the most foundational needs of every person is to know and be known. God said after He created Adam that it was not good for man to be alone, so He created Eve. When man broke intimacy with God through sin, God executed His plan to restore relationship and intimacy with us by sending His own Son, Jesus to die and rise again to pay the price for our sin. When we lack true, healthy intimacy, we seek it out in unhealthy places, counterfeits like social media, fleeting sexual relationships, and pornography. I want Olivia to know me and be known by me. Intimacy can only be cultivated through quality time together.
4. I will create safe space for openness.
It’s not a question of if Olivia will encounter things like pornography or sexual pressure, it’s a question of when. I want to foster a culture in our home where things are safe to discuss, questions are safe to ask, and issues and mistakes can be brought to us so we can talk about her heart and not bring shame. Where there is openness, shame and condemnation cannot take hold and enslave. After all, godly sorrow (conviction) leads to repentance and life, while earthly sorrow (guilt and shame) leads only to death.
5. I will constantly affirm.
The tongue holds the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18:21a) The things we hear most often largely shape our reality and self-perception. A child who is constantly told he is dumb is not likely to succeed in school or even have the motivation to try. I want to raise Olivia in an environment where her gifts, talents, and unique qualities are regularly acknowledged and celebrated. “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24 NIV) If my daughter is hearing the words that speak life to her at home, the false words of flattery spoken to her by people with ill intent will hold little power.
6. I will reinforce belonging.
In the work I do, I most often see women fall victim to someone who offers them a sense of belonging but actually means them harm. A vulnerable child treated as a beloved daughter, an adolescent with low self-esteem treated like a beautiful girlfriend, an often-abandoned woman given the promise of being made a wife – these are powerful ploys that can be used to elicit unfortunate outcomes. Olivia will always know that there is nothing in this world that will ever separate her from God’s love and that there is nothing she can ever do that will keep her from being my daughter. She will always be my princess, and I will always be her daddy.
By God’s grace, Olivia will be able to navigate this hyper-sexualized culture, and He will give me everything I need to shepherd her through it.
Jeff is one of my heroes, faithfully following God’s call on his life and leading many to true freedom in Christ. As I began my own journey in anti-trafficking years ago, he hired me to help launch Out of Darkness where the vision for TrueNorth began. Jeff and Haley, enjoy this new journey! And welcome to the world, Oliva. You are so loved!
Anne Kerr, Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project
TrueNorth is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to promoting sexual honesty and purity. Your financial partnership will mean true freedom for many. To give a tax-deductible donation, click here. Thank you.
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