The Challenges of Freedom
About the Guest
You've graduated, and the next chapter of your life is about to begin. Michael and Hayley DiMarco, founders and publishers of Hungry Planet books, reminisce about their own launch at 18 into the big, wide world and tell what they should have, and could have, done better, as they embraced their new-found freedom.
Michael and Hayley DiMarcoHayley and Michael DiMarco form Hungry Planet books. Since their first book hit the shelves in Fall 2003, Hungry Planet has published more than three dozen titles and, as of 2011, sold over 1,000,000 books. Their newest title, Die Young: Burying Your Self in Christ, is a challenge to readers to die to self and live for Christ, in ways that are completely countercultural. On their own, Hayley and Michael are award-winning, bestselling authors. Hayley is the author of more than thirty...more
You’ve graduated, and the next chapter of your life is about to begin.
The Challenges of Freedom
Bob: Graduation from high school is still a long way in the future for Michael and Hayley DiMarco’s daughter, but Michael and Hayley are already planning for that day. One of the key lessons they’re trying to teach their daughter is how to handle inevitable failure and sin.
Michael: We want our relationship with our daughter to be one where we create a culture in our home, which is centered around learning how to rebound from sin, instead of having a relationship—a parent/child relationship—where it’s all about sin-avoidance and sin-concealment because we’re afraid of the consequences. We want to be the first place that she comes when she messes up.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, August 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about what moms and dads can do to make sure their sons and daughters are ready for “independence day” —a day of freedom, temptation, and opportunity. Stay tuned.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I’ve been thinking about that moment when a son or a daughter graduates from high school and then heads off to whatever is the next chapter of life. I’ve been thinking about it because our son is about to head off to his next chapter of life.
Dennis: Dare we mention that this is the last?
Bob: This is the beginning of the empty nest for us.
Dennis: This is the last Lepine arrow to be launched toward the target.
Bob: I don’t know who is feeling more like liberation is on the horizon? [Laughter] Whether it’s him or me! Both of us are kind of looking at it as the next chapter of life— for Mary Ann and me—but also, it’s the next chapter of life for David as he heads off to college.
Dennis: Well, I’ve got a great resource for David as he heads to college. This would be great to put in his hands as you kiss him, and probably cry a little bit, and pray over him as you launch him, in this case, toward college.
Dennis: I’ve got a resource here that Michael and Hayley DiMarco have written—
Bob: Now let me just get this straight. When you say you’ve got this resource for David, are you saying you’re going to give it to him?
Dennis: Ahh. Well, I could do that. Do you think it would be better coming from me than from you?
Bob: I’m just trying to figure out whether I’m going to have to buy it or whether it’s a gift from you. I don’t want to go home and tell Mary Ann, “Dennis promised to give us this book,” and then have you renig on it.
Dennis: I’ll spring for it!
Bob: Just checking!
Dennis: In fact, I’ll even get the authors to sign it—
Bob: Wow! Alright!
Dennis: —because they’re right across the table! Michael, Hayley, welcome to the broadcast.
Hayley: Thank you.
Michael: It’s good to be here.
Dennis: Michael and Hayley DiMarco work in a ministry called Hungry Planet. Hayley is the founder and Michael is the publisher and creative director. If you’ve ever seen any of their books, you know they are a great tag-team couple. They are talented and extremely gifted—a number of best-selling books. They live in Nashville with their daughter. They have written a book that would be great to put in the hands of your son or daughter as they pull out of the driveway and head off to Independence Day—that’s the name of the book.
I want to start the broadcast—I think this would just be kind of fun and interesting—
Michael: Oh, no!
Dennis: We’ll start with Hayley; and we’ll go around the table clockwise here: What was your independence day like for you? Take us back there when you went to college/ to work.
Bob: You’re talking about high school graduation? Is that what you’re talking about?
Dennis: Well, it’s really not high school graduation. It is as you pulled out of the driveway and left home on your independence day, which is just around the corner for a lot of our listeners, like you, Bob, with David. Hayley, do you remember it?
Hayley: Yes, mine was kind of gradual because when I graduated from high school, I stayed home for the next year. I went to a university right next to us—saved a little money, stayed home. That was kind of, you know, slowly moving away from my mom. It was not until sophomore year that I moved to the big city on my own. That was like a dream come true. I had planned for that my whole life—getting out of that small town and getting to a big city.
Dennis: Was it emotional?
Hayley: Well, yes. My mom and I were very, very close—still are. I cried for the first hour, driving away; but once I got there, it was awesome. I will say that, for me, it was challenging because I wasn’t really taught some of the things we’re talking about in this book—what it meant even how to live on my own. It was just like it happened one day—I was in the car and I was gone. There I was! I was just beside myself.
Bob: “Now, what do I do?”
Hayley: Yes. I literally didn’t know. I didn’t know how to cook. I didn’t know how to take care of my house. I didn’t know how to get around—I moved to a big city. It was a challenge—it really was!
Dennis: So that was your biggest surprise?
Hayley: Oh, yes! Living was the biggest challenge for me. “How do I survive?”
Dennis: Okay, Michael, what about you?
Michael: I remember it like it was yesterday because my whole life—I just wanted to move out. My parents—I loved them. They did their best—well, I don’t know about that. [Laughter] They really seemed to be trying hard.
Hayley: They thought they did their best.
Bob: Well, look what happened! [Laughter]
Dennis: I was getting ready to say that! I really was, but I was holding back.
Michael: I couldn’t wait to move out, even though I had a university that I was going to attend in my hometown, as well. Within three weeks of my high school graduation, I had moved out. I moved into a two-bedroom apartment with three guys. We were just jammed in there like sardines. It was just scary! It was like walking a high wire without a net; and it was awesome because I was lord of my domain—even though my domain was like a 12-by-12-foot bedroom.
Dennis: Biggest surprise?
Michael: The biggest surprise was how little I could live on and how unhealthy I could eat on a limited budget. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, we’re going to skip Bob because Bob still lives at home with his mother. [Laughter]
Bob: That’s terrible!
Dennis: I’m kidding!
Bob: That is terrible.
Dennis: What about you, Bob?
Bob: You know, I’m just sitting here thinking about the summer after ninth grade. I went to a leadership training program at a camp. I was there and at the end of our leadership training program, they said to some of us, “If you’d like to stay and work in the equipment shed, we’d give you room and board.” I wound up staying the whole summer. I didn’t make any money, but I stayed at camp all summer.
The next summer I went back, and the next summer I went back, and the next summer I went back. Honestly, those summers at camp were kind of my unplugging, in a gradual sense, so that when graduation came, and I spent the summer at camp, and then I went on to college, it really didn’t feel all that consequential to me.
It was kind of like I had been emotionally unplugged from home. I was the last one. It was just Mom, Dad, and me. I had kind of been living in my own world throughout most of high school. I got to college, and I waved goodbye to Mom in the parking lot, and walked into the dorm room. Life went on kind of like it had been going on.
Dennis: No bigs, then. No big emotional—
Bob: The big surprise for me was—I had a great group of friends in high school and had been in a good high school environment. The big surprise was how hard the adjustment to first year of college was—how lonely I was, how unplugged I was, how unprepared I was for that.
Bob: That was back in the days when long distance still cost something. It wasn’t just free on your cell phone.
Bob: I remember running up significant long distance bills just to stay connected to my old friends because I hadn’t made new friends yet.
Dennis: Yes. For me, I can still remember standing in the—our driveway wasn’t asphalt. It was chat—white gravel. I had probably shot at least 9.5 million hoops on that driveway, growing up as a boy.
Bob: Dribbling in the gravel?
Dennis: Dribbling in the gravel.
Dennis: Hey, it was where the basketball goal was.
Bob: No wonder your skills were what they were.
Dennis: No doubt about it! No doubt about it. [Laughter] But I was going away to a junior college on basketball scholarship, by the way. I remember my mom and dad standing in that driveway. Even now, it could conjure up a bunch of emotions because he seemed particularly tall and she seemed small.
It’s just kind of freeze-framed in my mind. It was a powerful emotional moment—getting in my four-door Impala, with everything I owned in the back seat to go to junior college, pulling out of the driveway, and waving goodbye to my parents. It was a big deal—a big deal!
My biggest surprise was my mid-term grade point average. [Laughter]
Bob: Yes? It was a good thing it was a basketball scholarship and not an academic scholarship; right?
Dennis: Oh, hey! Let me tell you, I turned things around and turned it into a 2.1. [Laughter] It was a massive turn-around at that!
Bob: I have to tell you— now, having been at the other side of that independence day—dropping off four kids and about to drop off a fifth one at college—it had significantly more emotional impact on me, on the other side, than it did when I was being dropped off.
Bob: As the parent letting go—I’ve told a lot of people this—it was much harder to pull away from college than to walk a daughter down the aisle and give her away in marriage.
Dennis: Well, in a sense, it is independence day! It’s game time!
Dennis: All the lessons you’ve taught them are right there; and, Michael, that’s why you wrote the book; right? I mean, you outline three issues that come with independence day: freedom, temptation, and opportunity.
Michael: That’s right. One of the main reasons that I wrote the book was I wanted to write a book that I would have read—not just that I needed to read when I was a senior, graduating and going into college, but a book that I would want to read because I didn’t like to read much when I graduated—my grades showed it!
The other thing was—when we proposed this book to the publisher, they said, “Well, can we leave ‘temptation’ off of the subtitle on the cover? You know: Graduating into a New World of Freedom, Temptation, and Opportunity. Can we leave ‘temptation’ off because this is a celebratory time? Can we just leave that off?”
I said, “No!” because that’s one of the biggest things that our graduating students need to know about and they’re ill-prepared for—mostly, is that issue of temptation.
Michael: Everyone says they want freedom—they want the car, but don’t want to pay the insurance—they want the apartment, but they don’t want to pay the rent.
Bob: I remember my big “freedom” moment, my freshman year in college. I went to the movies on a Tuesday night.
Dennis: Kind of an “aha” moment for you?
Michael: A school night!
Bob: I just remember thinking, “I can go to the movies on a school night; and there is nobody here to say, ‘No, we don’t do that on a school night’.” [Laughter] I mean, I didn’t even care that much about the movie—what is was. It was just going to the movies!
There is something about that experience, as a young person, to want to say, “I can do things that I’ve never been allowed to do.” And, by the way, it was a foolish thing to do because I should have been back there studying; but I didn’t care whether it was foolish—I wanted freedom! I wanted to be in charge.
Dennis: You have just illustrated why my mid-term grade point average was where it was. [Laughter]
Bob: A lot of Tuesday-night movies?
Dennis: That kind of logic right there—of going, “Hey! I can. Therefore, I will!”
Bob: How does a student prepare for that because, Michael, there is a legitimate and a right sense of embracing, now, the fact that, “Yes, you get to make decisions that heretofore have been overseen. Now, nobody is watching. It’s yours to make.” How do we help prepare a teenager for that?
Michael: Well, in each section of the book, I talk about the upside and the downside. So, there’s an upside to freedom; and there’s a downside to freedom.
Michael: The upside is—you just outlined it—Tuesday-night movies. The downside is Tuesday-night movies.
Michael: It’s what goes with that—so, really, teaching young people that freedom isn’t about, “You get to do everything you want to do when you want to do it.”
Michael: Freedom is the opportunity to not be enslaved by what other people tell you—that you’re free to react how you want to react, but you’re not free from the consequences.
Bob: That’s part of the issue, Haley. I’m thinking, “Freedom without wisdom is dangerous.” You know? Most teenagers still have a little ways to go in the wisdom department.
Hayley: Well, yes, definitely. I think, maybe, we all do. The one thing that I thought about, when you all were talking about freedom and how excited you were—is that for some of us, the idea of freedom is frightening. That’s because—I would not have gone to a movie on Tuesday night because I would have been studying for four hours.
Hayley: I just wanted to make sure everything got done the way it was supposed to be done—and freedom? I thought, “Don’t bother me with that. I’ve got to obey the rules.” All of those things were more appealing to me.
Hayley: Freedom frightened me. That’s part of not having the wisdom to understand that freedom is part of our lives. It shouldn’t frighten us or consume us because it’s just part of learning the ups and downs of managing life. You’re going to fall and you’re going to get back up. There are going to be some tough times—which, I was afraid—I didn’t want any of those, at all.
That fear of freedom really paralyzed me. There were times when—I had a little apartment, kind of by the campus; and as soon as the sun went down, I didn’t go anywhere. I was scared to death! I would look out the window, “Is somebody going to shoot me? Is somebody was going to get me?” I was afraid to go to the store. I was afraid to get in the car—just consumed with the fear of freedom.
Dennis: You having said that, then—you’re the mom of a seven-year-old daughter—
Dennis: —zoom out 11 years. You’re in the driveway, and you’re saying goodbye. What do you want to have in place around these three issues of freedom, temptation, and opportunity—with your daughter, as she pulls out of the driveway?
Hayley: Wow! That’s a good question because Michael and I both feel that this kind of discussion really starts now. I know there are some parents, “Wow! My children are 18, and I haven’t really thought about this!” —which is why we have the book—but for people who have younger kids, this is an opportunity now to start to teach them how to make their way through these, before they even get to them.
What I want to have in play is that she’s already experienced this. She’s had little independence days along the way—that she has experienced the freedom to make certain choices and the consequences that go with those—that she’s had opportunity, while she was still in the home, while she still had us to fall back on, while she still had us to cry to.
Kind of like—Bob, I just thought it was fantastic—a light went off in my head when you talked about your camp experience. I thought, “That’s fabulous!” because it’s an opportunity for you to have those little mini-experiences—but yet, your parents are still paying for you—they’re still connected. I would want that. I would want this to happen now as we go.
Dennis: And you’re not threatened by a mistake that your daughter’s going to make?
Dennis: Because she’s going to make those.
Hayley: Well, certainly! We’re all going to make mistakes. “There is no one righteous, not even one.” The mistakes are part of life.
Bob: In fact, what’s the phrase I heard you use recently about just the whole environment that you want to be raising kids in—that acknowledges that mistakes are going to be made?
Michael: Well, we’re kind of crazy! We want our home and we want our relationship with our daughter to be one where we create a culture, in our home, where the whole culture of our home is centered around learning how to rebound from sin instead of having a relationship—parent/child relationship— where it’s all about sin- avoidance and sin-concealment because we’re afraid of the consequences. We want to be the first place that she comes when she messes up.
We want to help her learn how to rebound from sin because we all have sinned. We all do sin. We’re all going to sin. Where is it safer for your child to confess? Is it safer for your child to confess—at school or at home—in their living room or their first dorm room?
Bob: With a peer or with mom and dad?
Michael: Right, right! We’ve really had to hold back from the lessons that we learned from our parents, growing up—shooting forward to our independence days. I grew up in a military family. It was always the white-hot light of inquisition. When something was broken, “We were going to get to the bottom of it.” We’re trying to instill that in our home—not the inquisition [Laughter] —but the culture of sin-rebound.
Bob: In “sin-rebound”, you’re talking about learning how to confess, learning what repentance looks like—
Hayley: Learning what forgiveness looks like.
Bob: —what forgiveness looks like, and learning what the deeds, in keeping with repentance—what walking in grace looks like, moving forward.
Michael: The hardest thing for us is not inventing artificial consequences because that’s so appealing to us, as parents, to invent these—like go beyond to try and conjure up—out of fear of them making the same mistake or fear of them feeling like they got away with it. I mean, I drove really fast to get here from Nashville to Little Rock, and I didn’t get pulled over.
Michael: I’m not going to write my own fine and send it in.
Dennis: But you are confessing here on—
Michael: I’m confessing on internationally-syndicated radio—
Dennis: There’s probably a trooper listening.
Bob: I’m thinking, “If there are any Arkansas troopers or Tennessee troopers—”
Michael: One of my best friends is a Tennessee trooper.
Dennis: How fast were you really going? [Laughter] No, no. Don’t even go there!
Michael: The paint is still on the truck—so I wasn’t going that fast; but it’s that concept of being a safe place to come and confess—a safe place to get, not just law, but grace.
Hayley: I just want to add that part of that—and I think it’s part that a lot of us miss—is that we are very confessional ourselves. We’re not just talking about our kids telling us; but we are actively saying, “You know, I have to confess to you that I got angry at that instance; and I shouldn’t have. I should have treated you better in that situation.” We’re continually trying to confess—
Bob: You’re modeling sin-rebounding in front of your daughter.
Hayley: Yes. Right; right.
Michael: And that way, we’re going to be better prepared—we hope and we pray—to cast her off into her big independence day, knowing that she does have a safety net to come back to—that she’s not alone, that when she does mess up on her own, that there’s nothing so shameful that she could do that she can’t come back to us and talk.
Dennis: And to God!
Michael: Exactly! That’s the model.
Dennis: I mean, you’re talking about freedom, at this point—she’s not coming home to your house at the end of a day, where she’s made a mistake. She’s going back to her dorm room or to her own apartment, at that point. She’s got to deal with stuff with her God—her maker.
Dennis: That’s the hand-off you want to make with your children. As you guys were talking, I was thinking, again, about the imagery in Psalm 127. It says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.”
It goes on to talk about, “Blessed is he whose quiver is full of them.” The arrow was not designed to stay in the quiver. It was meant to be pulled out, by a warrior, in time of battle, for its purpose. All of us, as parents, have to go out to that day—that day where that child is launched toward his or her purpose. If the arrow doesn’t have the right feathers and the fletching to guide it, that arrow is in trouble—
Bob: It’s going to wobble; yes.
Dennis: —and that’s not what parents want. Parents want to release the child to a successful flight, toward his or her purpose.
Bob: You want independence day to be a solid launch day for a son or a daughter. Honestly, I think having these kinds of conversations and talking to other parents about this—but also interacting with your son or daughter around freedom, and temptation, and opportunity—maybe, reading through the book that you guys have written together.
We’ve got copies of the book, Independence Day,in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how you can get a copy of Michael and Hayley DiMarco’s book, Independence Day. You can find out more online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
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We want you to know we appreciate you listening. We appreciate you stepping up to make a donation. Those of you who have been supporting FamilyLife Today for some time, thank you for your support, as well. We appreciate all of you.
We hope you’ll be back with us again tomorrow. Michael and Hayley DiMarco are going to be here again. We’re going to continue talking about how we release our arrows and launch them toward the target of adulthood. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can join us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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