Jackie Hill Perry: Your Home. Holier
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Jackie Hill PerryJackie Hill Perry is a writer, poet, and artist whose work has been featured in the Washington Times, The 700 Club, Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, and other publications. Since becoming a Christian in 2008, she has been compelled to use her speaking and teaching gifts to share the light of the gospel of God as authentically as she can. At home she is a wife to Preston and Mommy to Eden, Autumn, and Sage.
When it comes to your vibe at home stemming from your inner person does your family see God’s face? Jackie Hill Perry gets real about taking holiness home.
Jackie Hill Perry: Your Home. Holier
Jackie: It was a couple years ago that I had to make the decision: “How I treat Preston is indicative of what I believe about God, literally.” And so it’s like, “I can’t talk crazy to him and think that God doesn’t care. I can’t dishonor him and think that God doesn’t care.”
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on the FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: Well, there’s a hymn that I heard in church, growing up; I think probably all of us have. I don’t think, as a kid, I ever sang it—I just listened to it—but it was Holy, Holy, Holy.
Ann: Yes, I didn’t go to church, hardly ever, growing up; but that is the only one that I do remember; I liked it.
Dave: I’ve just heard a recording of our audio engineer, Bruce Goff’s little girl, Estelle Goff, at about 2 or 2 ½ years old, singing the lyrics to this. I think our listeners: you have to hear this.
Estelle: “Hody, hody, hody, Lord God is mighty, early in the morgig our song shall rise to Thee.”
Ann: That is the best! It’s the best; she can really carry a tune too.
Dave: That is precious.
Ann: So sweet!
Dave: And she is singing, whether she knows it yet or not, a deep theological truth and understanding about the character of God: He is a holy God.
We’ve got Jackie Hill Perry back with us today to talk about the holiness of God. Jackie, welcome back!
Jackie: Hey, y’all.
Dave: What did you think when you hear that little girl sing that song?
Jackie: It’s precious.
Dave: Isn’t it?
Jackie: And just what a memory that is.
Dave: You’ve got—what?—four kids?
Jackie: I do.
Ann: You are in it!
Jackie: I am. It’s beautiful; especially because, one, I never knew I would have this many children. [Laughter] But I also didn’t—you know—you never know if you’ll end up married and with children, especially with the background that I have. So it feels like a really big gift that God has given me.
Dave: Yes; and somehow, in the midst of being a wife and a mom, you write a book about the holiness of God: Holier Than Thou.
Dave: How does the understanding of God’s holiness impact what we just talked about—you being a mom; you being a wife—in your family?
Jackie: It impacts everything; namely, that we know that we are holy when we are bearing holy fruit—so self-control, patience, kindness, joy—
Dave: I thought you were talking about bearing kids; and I’m like, “They’re not very holy!”
Jackie: No, they’re not. [Laughter] If you thought you were holy, you know, just have some kids.
Ann: That is true!
Jackie: —or just babysit them. [Laughter]
Dave: Right; true!
Jackie: And you’re going to see how sinful you really are. [Laughter]
Ann: And so to bear fruit during that time—
Jackie: Yes, like, they challenge you to actually live up to what you say; you know?
I think one of the things that convicted me, a lot, when I was studying for this book was when I was reading about how God is a judge; and therefore, He will and does judge sin; and how people tend to think that the Old Testament God is the super-vengeful God, and that the New Testament God is the super-gracious God. But then, I was looking at the Old Testament; I was like, “No, God has actually been incredibly patient with all of us.”
One, none of us should be alive! We’ve all been sinning since birth. But then, you have Israel—God judges Egypt, when He could have judged Israel—but He just chose to show grace. And I thought to myself, “God has been so patient so as to leave room for repentance, yet I am incredibly impatient with my children.” I thought about it: “If God was as impatient as I am, I wouldn’t be here.” I don’t know—that messed with my mind—"I just need to mimic God, even in His parenting of me,”—if that makes sense.
Ann: Yes; and what I would do, in my parenting, when I wasn’t exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. I mean, think about that, as a mom, with young kids: love, joy—
Ann: —peace, patience—just those right there!
Ann: Those are hard to attain, apart from abiding in Jesus that John 15 [mentions].
Ann: But what I would do was—I would think, “It’s not my fault! It’s my husband’s fault,”—[Laughter]—because I would think, “If he was home, and if he was helping…” It’s amazing how the enemy gets us to shift from ourselves to something else that’s causing the pain in our lives. And I think, for me, that was my go-to; I would just shift the blame right onto you [Dave].
Dave: As I listen to you, it’s no different for a dad—we do the same thing—maybe, even more impatient. I think it’s so easy to think, “Okay, I can focus on the holiness of God; but I’m living around unholy people, and I’m unholy”; so we live in that—
Dave: —rather than this; we go horizontal rather than vertical.
Dave: Especially in our homes—sometimes the hardest place to live it out—because it’s so daily.
Jackie: You know what’s so super-helpful, though, about the home? It’s that, I think when you are a Bible teacher, especially, you can spend so much time knowing Scripture that you somehow think your knowledge of it is synonymous with your living of it.
Dave: Preach it!
Ann: It’s so true.
Jackie: I feel like my home is always a reminder of what I actually—like who I actually—am. It’s like—
Ann: It reveals who you are.
Jackie: You were talking to the Wilsons, all good and fine; but when you got home, you had an attitude: you got all sharp with your husband; you were super impatient—that’s who you really are—not necessarily just your articulation of the truth. I think that’s the interesting kindness of God, really, is to use our home to show us our hearts.
Dave: That is a good truth!
Ann: Yes, we spend so much time taking care of the outer, physical self that we are. What would it look like—
Dave: —and showing the world the best version.
Ann: Yes, we show the world this version of ourselves. I’ve always had this thought, since I was in my 20’s; I thought, “What would we look like if the world saw our inner person?” We would take way more care of our soul—
Jackie: That’s true.
Ann: —and our spirit. We would be spending time with God all the time.
That revealed to me, like, “Oh, that means I care more what the world thinks about me than what God thinks about me.” I’m thinking, “Why don’t we want to spend time with this God?” If you told me, “Ann, do you want to spend time with this holy, holy God?” I would say, “No,”—the holiness part.
That’s why I’m amazed, Jackie, with you writing this. I feel like you paint such a beautiful and clear picture of what holiness is; because that God feels intimidating, like I’m not enough, like He would judge me like no other; even in Christ, He would judge me. The picture that you paint of the holiness—the beautiful definition of it—is way better than anything we would want.
Jackie: Yes; I mean, God is both far and near. In His holiness, He is transcendent—He is set apart; He does exist differently than us—but He also has come near to us in Christ, which is all the evidence we need that He wants to be known by us. You know, like He’s Immanuel. It’s a faith thing, at the end of the day: I really do have to have the faith that God really does love me, and that He is not lying when He says it.
Dave: Well, it was interesting what you said earlier, that I don’t think I’ve considered it this way: “Who we are at home is who we are.”
Dave: It’s so easy to think, “No, no, no! Who I am out in public, as a preacher—who I am on that stage and in the lobby—is who I am.” I put so much time into that image.
Jackie, you probably don’t know this—but our listeners do, so I won’t go into details—but there was a night, years ago—our kids were little—as [her] pastor, Ann literally said to me, as we were crawling into bed: “You know, I so wish the man who led our church lived here.”
Jackie: Oh, my goodness,
Dave: That’s what she said, and I knew exactly what she was saying.
Ann: Jackie! Now, she doesn’t like me anymore.
Jackie: I’m sorry; I didn’t hear that episode when y’all said the story. Were you joking?—you was mad?—you was frustrated?
Dave: I wish she was joking!
Ann: No, I have to defend myself here. [Laughter]
Dave: Defend yourself?
Ann: Terrible! Like why would I say that; right? Bad timing!
Jackie: But I mean, it’s convicting. [Laughter]
Dave: It was for me!
Ann: I shouldn’t have said it the way I did, but I watch him—here’s what I said—“I watch you; man,—
Dave: It’s the public/outside.
Ann: —“you lead like crazy! When you pray, I want to be on my knees! You inspire thousands of people; it’s incredible!”
Dave: “But then, you get home…”
Ann: And that’s when I said, “I wish that guy lived here!”
Ann: Yes! And I know what happens—because I do ministry—you’re tired when you get home.
Ann: You just want to rest; this is your place of rest.
But poor Dave!—wouldn’t that be the terrible thing to hear, getting into bed?
Dave: Well, here’s how I responded—I responded just great—I said, “I know other husbands; they’re lousy! You got a really good husband! I’m better than most husbands I know!”
Dave: But here’s what I was/I was believing this lie. That’s what made me think of this, when you said this [is the wrong perspective]: “Who I am out there is who I really am,”—no! The truth is—she pointed out who I really am—if I’m not leading and inspiring my own wife and kids, that’s where real life is.
That’s the question—it is, in my world, easier to be that man out there; it’s harder to be that guy here, but that’s who we really are—“So how do you live it out at home?”
Jackie: I think, for me, knowing that God cares about both—like He cares about who I am at church, who I am at Kroger®; and He cares about who I am at home. It’s like we’re performing for people out in the streets; but at home, we let our guard down. “No, you have to work at this too,” “Why?”—because God cares.
One thing that’s always in the back of my mind, for me, is: I would hate if, when my children are older—18, 17, 19/20—and they say, “My mother was not the Jackie Hill Perry that you guys know.” That would just break my heart, and I know it would govern even how they do their faith. Because they would have divided lives, too; because that’s what I modeled. I don’t know, but I’m convicted.
Dave: We all know this: “As a parent, we are modeling for our children, at three years of age and at eighteen years of age, our view of God. They are catching it no matter what we say or teach; they are catching it.” So to understand this holiness of God, as a beautiful attribute of God that draws me rather than repels me, the question, as a parent, is: “What view of God am I transferring down to my legacy?”
Ann: I mean, I think, as a young mom, I used to feel the pressure of that: “Oh, I’m responsible!” How are you doing that, Jackie?—you’re in the midst of discipleship in your home.
Jackie: Yes, very naturally. [Laughter] I used to compare myself to, you know, the people who have family worship every other Thursday. They sit down and go through Habakkuk with a five-year-old and talk about Amos. I was just like, “I’m a little too tired to do all of that.”
I think my children are getting discipled just as we flow. For example, my oldest, who is seven, when I take her to school, we listen to The Jesus Storybook Bible. I might ask her questions—but it’s also 6:45 am —so I might not! But she got some of His Word in; you know what I’m saying? We pray every night before bed—but my three-year-old—it’s as simple as: “Say, ‘In Jesus’s Name, Amen’ when you’re scared”; you know? Like she’ll have nightmares: “Just say ‘Jesus,’” “Jesus!”—alright; that’s discipleship: I’m teaching [her] where to go when [she’s] afraid. It’s very casual—but I don’t know if that’s bad or good—that’s where I am.
Ann: I think it’s an overflow of your life, and that is discipleship.
Dave: What about in your marriage?—because I know, sometimes, that’s where it’s really hard.
Jackie: How does holiness look in my marriage?
Dave: Yes; you know, how do you share that with Preston?
Dave: How does that look?—because I know it can be easier, sometimes: “I’m modeling for my kids.”
Ann: That’s true.
Dave: But in marriage, it’s like raw!
Dave: Like, “I don’t like you! You don’t like me right now.” The holiness of God is not, you know, on the front of my mind.
Jackie: Yes; man, my relationship with Preston is the bigger challenge; because it’s so united, and close, and important. I think it was a couple years ago that I had to make the decision that: “How I treat Preston is indicative of what I believe about God, literally.”
Jackie: And so it’s like, “I can’t talk crazy to him and think that God doesn’t care. I can’t dishonor him and think that God doesn’t care,”—that’s actually the fruit that I’m bearing, and so I think that’s one.
But two, having a/creating a safe space with each other: “I want to be a place that you can confess and feel safe about that, and vice versa. I want to be a woman, who will bless you, and inspire you, and pray for you. I don’t want you to be fearful that coming to me means, you know, getting some shame dumped on you.”
I don’t know; I guess that’s how holiness is—it’s just being loving, really—that’s the essence of holiness; it’s love.
Dave: Yes, really.
Ann: I mean, what you just shared is beautiful. That’s what we all long for. I’m guessing you guys don’t do it perfectly.
Jackie: Absolutely not!
Ann: No couple does.
Jackie: And I’m incredibly traumatized, so that’s a thing.
Ann: What do you mean?
Jackie: I think when you—coming from a home of fatherlessness and sexual abuse—that complicates the way I love and my ability to receive it. I think holiness gets real weird when you want to love, but you don’t want to be vulnerable. Not being vulnerable means: my guard is up, meaning I’m more mean; I’m more irritable; I’m more hypervigilant in all the things.
Ann: And that’s how you know your guard’s up?
Jackie: Exactly. And so it makes holiness, as it’s expressed through me serving my spouse, harder, where it’s like, “Oh, it’s not just that I need to die to sin; but I also need to be healed.”
Ann: Do you feel like God has helped you in getting to know Him and be healed?
Jackie: Oh, yes! Yes, I’m being healed. I don’t think I will ever say that I am healed.
Jackie: I think therapy has been instrumental in my ability to be a freer woman in my relationship with my husband.
Dave: And what you said, I think, is so key! If I want to die to sin, I have to understand my healing. If I’m not getting healed, I’m not going to, long-term, die to sin. I’m going to keep going back, even though I’m free in Christ and a new creature, I won’t understand: “Why do I still battle this?!”—I haven’t dealt with the junk!
Jackie: Yes, because so many of our sins are coping mechanisms that we’ve developed from sins against us. I think we have to identify: “Why am I responding to this this way?” You might have to go back to when you were four or five, and you were rejected, or you were abandoned, or abused; it’s like, “Oh, I need to deal with this thing, so that I’m not triggered by things I shouldn’t be triggered by.”
Ann: What would an example be for you? Can you think of something?
Jackie: Anytime I feel controlled, I buck against it. It can be something as small as Preston comes in and says, “Give me a kiss”; that triggers me. [For] some people, that’s cute!—
Ann: No! I totally—
Jackie: —“He wants to give me a kiss! Whoop-de-woo!”
Dave: That triggers you?
Jackie: For me, it’s, “Oh, you want to control my body!” Because I’m a person, who was sexually abused.
Jackie: So he and I have to work through: “I want to give you a kiss, but we’re going to have to reframe the way you get it!”—you know?—“because I don’t feel safe right now.” That’s a thing.
Ann: So to have that conversation is the most important part—
Ann: —well, besides God coming and healing—but to have that conversation; otherwise, you’d have just rejected him.
Ann: And then, he would have felt hurt; he would have withdrawn, and you would have done the same.
Jackie: Yes; or you need to be in community with people, who can identify that for you.
Ann: Yes, yes.
Jackie: Because some of our pain is so suppressed that we don’t even realize why we’re becoming so defensive.
Jackie: You need help to say: “Your husband just wants to kiss you. Why are you mad?” And it’s like, “Huh! I never thought about why I’m mad every time he wants to kiss me”; you know? I think having good friends—who are observant, who are prayerful—who will be able to spot those things for you is also a really huge deal.
Dave: And good friends in a community, where you feel the freedom to share the vulnerable/to share the weakness.
Ann: It’s safe too.
Dave: Because I think there’s somewhat of a misconception of: “If I’m around a holy God, and around holy people,—
Dave: —“you hide everything”; because that diminishes the holiness of us and of God.
Dave: So we fake it!
Dave: But the picture you’re giving us of God as—holiness is beautiful—means: “No! I want to bring that to God. He’ll receive it in a way that I feel beautiful.”
Jackie: Yes; He won’t reject it; He will beautify it.
Dave: Well, I listened to Thirty Minutes with the Perrys, your podcast, where you and Preston talked about the porn struggle—
Jackie: Oh, yes.
Dave: —in your marriage, which was so good and raw. You know, as you think about the holiness of God, and the holiness in a sacred marriage—to be able to struggle, as a couple, through that—help us understand how that conversation reveals the holiness of God.
Jackie: My brain goes to so many places; because I think what was really informative for me—is to recognize that, when Preston had the season, where he struggled with porn—that it wasn’t simply because he was lustful, but it was also because he was lonely. He was feeling rejected by me; he wasn’t receiving the comfort, emotionally and physically, that he might have needed. That’s not saying that I’m to blame; but it is to say that, because he was not expressing how he was feeling,as a man and as a human being, he was tempted in ways and went down a path that he should not have gone.
I think, for me to learn, “Oh, men are much more complicated than I’m giving them credit for,”—which is a reminder that he’s made in the image of God; you know?—"You are a very nuanced individual.”
I think the challenge was: “Okay, he sinned against me. I have two options: either I will sin against him; therefore, sinning against God by rejecting him or whatever,”—and I went through that season—"or I will be compassionate, and I will be merciful, and I will walk with this man toward righteousness and healing, where we can get back to a place of wholeness and health.”
I don’t know—I guess that’s what it was—it’s both of us having to trust God, not only with ourselves, but with the other person; because I can’t control what that man does, but I can help him.
Ann: That’s what we’ve talked about so often—the enemy: his plan and strategy—let’s say you have a spouse, who’s struggling in that area—his strategy—and I did this wrong for so many years—is that the enemy’s strategy is that we turn, and face each other, and fight one another. As I did that with Dave, when he had confessed, early on in our marriage, that he had struggled, then it became all about me, and my own fear of rejection, my own insecurities of not being enough. Instead of turning, together, to face the enemy, who was speaking lies and trying to divide us, I turned and started fighting with Dave.
Ann: And I think that happens, a lot, in the family. I like that you said: “Preston wasn’t expressing how he was feeling.” So often, in our marriages, we don’t!—because we hurt one another, and we pull away.
Dave: And we’re afraid.
Jackie: We’re scared.
Ann: So afraid to be rejected.
Dave: And I think we do the same thing with God.
Ann: We do.
Dave: And part of it is because we think His holiness is untouchable: “I can’t get near Him.
Dave: “And if I do, I have to show nothing but purity rather than my weakness/my sin.”
Dave: What you’ve revealed, even in your book, Holier Than Thou, is, when we become vulnerable, we see the beauty of holiness.
Dave: It captivates us!
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Jackie Hill Perry on FamilyLife Today. You know, Jackie’s got a good wrap-up on what pursuing holiness looks like in just a second.
But first, we haveFamilyLife’s president, David Robbins, with us today. David, tell us about what’s been on your heart as you’ve been thinking about these things.
David: You know, when I reflect on these past two days with Jackie Hill Perry, it makes me think about the generational impact of us—as husbands and wives; and moms and dads; and people in homes, living together in close proximity—processing what’s going on in our own hearts; processing what is affecting us that’s making us do the things that we’re doing—when we do that, and we really go there—and take that to Jesus and allow Him into the crevices of our lives with His grace and His truth—it ends up transforming us in a way that, not just impacts our home in this moment, but it impacts how a child grows up; it impacts the next generation. It ends up being a model for how we live out the gospel, every single day, in our homes.
I’m so grateful to be part of a ministry like FamilyLife that is about, not only impacting your home and other homes around the world, but impacting legacies, generation after generation. I just want to thank those of you, who are partners of FamilyLife—who give financially—to be able to get truth like we’ve heard today to more homes so that the grace and truth of the gospel can transform more lives.
Shelby: Yes, thank you so much for making what we do possible, here at FamilyLife, to impact generations. When you do partner with us, we’d love to send you a copy of Jackie’s book, Holier Than Thou. It’s our gift to you when you partner, financially, today with us. You can give online at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Okay; now, here’s Jackie on how you can pursue holiness.
Jackie: To pursue holiness, I think, is to attempt to live out our original design.
Genesis 3, they’re hiding from each other and God. And we’re always reenacting that! I think holiness is pressing against this need to hide/to be afraid; but to actually, “No, let me embrace freedom!” And that’s a scary place to be, but it’s a good place to be. I have to believe that God is the One, who will, ultimately and finally, protect me. I can’t protect myself; I’m not that good at it.
Shelby: On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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