About the Guest
Are your kids hitchhiking on your faith? Michael and Hayley DiMarco talk to parents about helping their children develop their own walk with God, rather than just mimicking them spiritually. Haley recalls a time when she believed in God, but chose to do as she pleased anyway. With hell most likely her future, she figured she might as well have fun. It wasn't until later when a young man shared Christ with her, that she truly began to ?own it.?? Similarly, Michael tells how his pick and choose faith left him lacking until a brush with the law had him re-examining what his life and faith were all about.
Michael and Hayley DiMarco talk to parents about helping their children develop their own walk with God.
Bob: Hayley DiMarco can point to two very distinct chapters in her life—“The Good Girl” Chapter and “The Bad Girl” Chapter.
Hayley: I was forever wondering what was going to happen when I died and was scared to death of it. That was part of my moral choices—is that I thought, “If I can be really good—if I can do everything that I’ve heard, through the grapevine, you should do—then, maybe, I’ll make it to heaven.” There came a point in my life when I said, “I just can’t do it!” There’s just a point, where you say, “I’m just—it’s too much work!” So, I said to myself: “I’m going to hell. I’m going to have fun on the way.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, October 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Michael and Hayley DiMarco join us today. We’ll hear about the third chapter in Hayley DiMarco’s life—the chapter where she made her faith her own and where she went from bad girl to God’s girl. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, we have talked, many times, about the fact that the teen years can be years when the water gets a little rougher—when the traps—that’s the metaphor you’ve often used—that there are traps laid out for our teens. They need to learn to navigate around them or else they are going to get wounded.
I guess, I’m thinking about the movie that’s coming out this weekend—the movie, Grace Unplugged—because it tells the story of a young woman—a teenager girl—who decides to pursue her dreams, regardless of what her mom and dad want for her. Life does not go well for her when she makes those choices.
Dennis: Yes. The Bible is such a raw, real book because Proverbs talks about snares—talks about David and Bathsheba. It paints humanity, warts and all. In fact, one of the most famous stories, of all, in the Bible—that Jesus told was about the prodigal son and his father’s love for him. I think, as we take on the assignment of raising kids, at some point, you have to take a step back and go: “Now, where are we headed here? What’s the purpose of this?”
These children start out as hitchhikers on your faith, as a parent. Your goal, as a parent, is not to raise them to adulthood, still on your coattails. You’ve got to raise them to adulthood so—by the time they get there—they have begun, in earnest, the process of developing a faith of their own.
And we have a pair of people with us in the studio today, Michael and Hayley DiMarco, who, I think—they are nodding their heads—I think they agree with me on this because they’ve just completed a book called Own It. Welcome back to the broadcast.
Hayley: Thank you.
Hayley: It’s good to be back.
Michael: Thanks for having us.
Dennis: You guys agree with that—don’t you—what I just said?
Michael: We do.
Dennis: I mean, as parents, our goal is for our children to independently have their own dependence upon Jesus Christ.
Bob: Well, and it’s interesting, too, because you’ll hear a lot of people give a testimony in adult life. Here’s what—if there is a most common testimony, this is the one I’ve heard most often. You are smiling. You know what I’m talking about.
“I gave my heart to Jesus when I was”—fill in the blank—“seven,”— “but I really didn’t make it my own…” “I really didn’t…”—whatever—“I really didn’t do this…” or, “I came back around,”—there does seem to be something going on, in the progression of a child’s life, where there is a point that faith locks in and becomes substantial, rather than secondary. You know what I’m talking about?
Michael: Absolutely. I think that the key to—especially, the teen years—the years of spreading the wings, leaving the nest, or—gulp—rebellion—is parents will live in fear that their child—
Dennis: Yes, that’s exactly right.
Michael: —is not getting it—is not on the same boat.
Dennis: I was talking to a dad, the other day. He was talking about a conversation he’d had, the night before, with his daughter about doubt. This dad said, “I was delighted that she told me about her doubt—about her faith in God.”
Michael: That’s refreshing—
Dennis: Isn’t it?
Michael: —because most parents, that we encounter, freak out—
Michael: —when there’s doubt—when there’s that late-night conversation, right before bed, and the parent’s—
Dennis: “Sweetheart, you can’t—no, you can’t feel this.”
Michael: Right. “I can’t let you go to sleep until”—
Hayley: Yes—“we figure this out.”
Bob: —“resolve this.” Yes.
Michael: You’ve known our daughter since infancy—
Michael: —that’s been coming and going from your studios. It was probably two years ago, when she was five, that she asked Hayley—really, to extend bedtime because she knows the way to extend bedtime with Momma is—
Dennis: Don’t they all?
Michael: —to have spiritual discussions.
Dennis: Oh, there you go.
Michael: Yes. It’s not: “Can I have water? I’m thirsty.” She’ll go spiritual. So, Addie said, “Momma, I just can’t understand how God is self-existent.” [Laughter]
Bob: Your five-year-old?
Michael: Welcome to our world.
Dennis: It’s in the genes.
Michael: Oh, yes.
Dennis: Some kids get it; you know? They got it from their parents; right?
Michael: Yes, that’s the curse. It’s like a familial curse.
Bob: So, what did you do? What did you do, Hayley, when Addie said—
Hayley: Well, my first instinct is—like you just said, with every parent, “Oh, no!” because she just accepted Christ, in her four-year-old way—
Hayley: —the year before. I’m like, “Oh, no! Now, she’s having doubts.” My first instinct was to panic and say, “No, that’s not true,” and to explain it again—self-existence. But I said: “Well, I can understand that. We all have doubts. That’s a hard thing to understand, and God is so big. It is hard for our brains to wrap ourselves around it, but you’ve seen our lives and you know what we believe. So, I’m not going to tell you what you believe. It’s something you have to decide.”
And the whole time I’m like—“You have to decide by yourself. I trust that you’re going to make a good decision, but you know where I stand. I’m here. You can ask me anything about God, and I’ll continue to tell you what I believe to be the truth.” She said, “Okay, well, I’m going to have to think about it for a while.” I said, “Okay.” And then, I went to my room; and I prayed—
Bob: —and got out your Grudem—
Hayley: —and prayed and prayed.
Bob: —and opened it up for self-existence.
Bob: “How do I explain this?”
Hayley: We’ve had a lot of talks since then, and she’s grown a lot. I think that’s still a stumbling—that’s a hard one.
Bob: Well, it’s interesting because one of the themes of the movie—of Grace Unplugged, the movie that’s coming out this week—is a theme of a daughter who begins to question. Mom and Dad aren’t entirely comfortable with it. She’s really been faking it—you know—kind of playing the game. In fact, I had to wonder, “Hayley, as you watched her in this movie, were you flashing back to your teenage years?”
Hayley: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, because that was me. I mean, I moved to L.A. to have my career. [Laughter] I did. I did. I was going to be an actress.
Dennis: At what age?
Hayley: I was 20—21.
Hayley: Yes. Yes. Now, I could really relate—
Dennis: Were you raised in the church, then?
Hayley: No, I was not raised in the church.
Dennis: So, you weren’t faking religion, at that point?
Hayley: I wasn’t—I believed in Jesus—I just wasn’t raised in a church. That’s a whole other story; but I did say, “I believe in Jesus.” I did believe who He was, and I prayed and all those things. I didn’t have any training. I didn’t have parents that trained me. So, I kind of created my own kind of faith.
So, going down—I saw her moving to L.A—and I saw how easy it is to let the world tell you what you need to do and how you need to get ahead. When you’re the person, defining what’s important and where you need to go, rather than allowing God to do it, I saw the pitfalls in her and could relate very much.
Bob: You thought, “Been there. Done that”?
Hayley: Yes, yes.
Bob: At the same time, you were wrestling, in your own life, with what would happen to you if you died; right?
Hayley: Oh, yes. Oh, definitely. [Laughter] Yes, because I didn’t have a lot of education. I didn’t have a lot of—my parents didn’t reveal to me any faith or teach me any. I was forever wondering what was going to happen when I died and was scared to death of it. And that was part of my moral choices—is that I thought that, “If I can be really good—if I can do everything that I’ve heard, through the grapevine, you should do—then, maybe, I’ll make it to heaven.”
There came a point in my life when I said, “I just can’t do it!” I see this—“I’m not”—and I saw that in Grace—in the movie. There is just a point where you say, “I’m just—it’s too much work.” So, I said to myself: “I’m going to hell. I’m just going to have fun on the way. I’m just going to live it up because I’m not good enough.”
Bob: So, you went from a childhood basic expression of faith to a rejection of faith. When did you make your faith your own? When did you own it?
Hayley: I was in my 20s. I was driving limousines in Portland, Oregon, and cussing like a sailor—although I didn’t deny my faith. I said I was a Christian, but I didn’t act like it. There was a Christian boy there that was very cute. He told me: “You know, it doesn’t make any sense. You say you’re a Christian, but you don’t act like one.”
It was at the point—when I told him about the thing—“I’m going to hell, and I’m going to have fun,”—he said, “Do you know this verse?” He showed me Romans 10:9, “If we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord, you’ll be saved.” That was the point. That was the one thing I needed to hear—where I went, “What?!”— that—“What? That’s it. That’s as easy as it is?” He said, “Yes, that’s as easy as it is. That’s your answer—it’s Him, not you.” That was my moment, where I—everything—I dropped it all, and everything changed.
Dennis: And to that person, who is listening to us right now, who is faking it or who is, as you guys say—borrowing it, or renting it, and doesn’t own it—what would you say to them?
Michael: Well, I would just say something that they already know—deep down—and that is: “It’s wholly unsatisfying to have kind of a Frankenstein faith, where you pick and choose what parts you like, and what parts you accept, and what parts you believe—then, you discard the others because it’s empty.” When a faith is someone else’s—and you borrow it or you’re just renting it—as Hayley did—where she felt like she had to pay her way through her faith, until she figured out she couldn’t afford it. So, she just gave up—it’s a cruel sentence.
Dennis: That’s well-said.
Michael: It’s a cruel sentence; and there is freedom, that is available to everyone, freely. We don’t deserve it. We can’t earn it. We can’t afford the mortgage, but the mortgage has been paid.
Bob: You had, what you call, a pick-and-choose faith growing up. Your spiritual formation was a mixed-up kind of a spiritual quagmire; right?
Michael: Yes. Yes, a quagmire was my middle name. Really, what it led me to—was the same point that it led Hayley—was just this realization of, “This isn’t working!” Really, it’s that point where you become—well, you really reach the end of yourself—that God says, “Finally, I can make something out of this.”
That’s when God takes over because—in the movie—the beautiful thing about the movie is—we encounter so many people that—especially, now, that we are relocated in the South—in Nashville—in the buckle of the Bible Belt—we encounter so many people that grow up in the church. They know the stories. They know Noah. They know Jonah. They’ve got all of that down; but really, what they end up doing is living a life that’s not theirs. They are living their parents’ lives. They are living—they are living a life that they’ve just kind of manufactured.
When you own your faith, when—just like the character, Grace, in the movie, after reading the book, Own It—she has this revelation that: “This has never been my own,” and, “It can be my own. It can be a relationship and not just a list of rules.”
Dennis: One of the things I know you all talk about in your book is that, if you really own your faith, it’s truly going to cost you. I’ll illustrate that from my own life.
When I was in the book of Romans, as a 20-year-old, and began to understand the love of God, poured out through the person of Jesus Christ, and that He was chasing me down, I remember nausea. I remember being sick, at my stomach, thinking: “I don’t think Christianity is a bunch of do’s and don’ts, but this decision is going to cost me myself.” I look back on that decision—that I fought through the nausea. I did have a strange thought that, “If I did give my life to Christ, that I would have to wear black, and get on a banana boat, and go to Africa or something.”
Dennis: You know?—become a missionary. It is interesting that I ended up being in ministry, at the end of it all; but when the Hound of Heaven is after you—whatever He’s calling you to deny, whatever He’s calling you to give up, whatever ownership the world has on your soul or your own flesh—it’s worth it.
Michael: That’s a great visual because I just pictured—there is an age where you hear the Hound’s barking—but then, there’s that moment where you get treed. [Laughter] And I pictured you, in a tree, going, “Alright, you got me.”
Dennis: “I’m surrounded.”
Bob: You said that that often happens when you come to the end of yourself. For a parent, that’s a pretty scary thing because: “What is that going to mean for my son or my daughter? How far are they going to have to fall? How bad is it going to have to get? Are they going to have to be in Portland, driving limousines before God will rescue them?”
Michael: Or “…in a jail cell?”
Bob: Tell the listeners about your story.
Michael: Well, it was a long time ago that I was here and shared about it; but I did my running on my own for so long that I had developed just a coping mechanism of—a medication, if you will. Some people find it in drugs, or alcohol, or even sex. Mine was gambling. I had run my way through relationship after relationship until the point where, I would just gamble, just to medicate—to numb myself.
I was sitting at a blackjack table, after taking money from my work to extend my gambling between paychecks. I was looking at $1,500 on this blackjack table—that I had in play. It was the first time I ever prayed in a casino. For the first time, I prayed. I said, “God, I don’t care what you do—just get me out of this.” I lost every hand. That $1,500 went away.
I had to go back to work—and I was a great liar. I was a great concealer. Someone—miraculously, that day, supernaturally—said: “Hey! What’s the deal with these cash requisitions?” In a moment of just crystal clarity, I just looked up, and I said, “Well, they are bogus.” That took me to jail—where I had my Chuck Colson moment—a Gideon Bible—Second Corinthians 5:17. It was just—it was just—boom!—the beginning of me owning my faith.
Now, did that mean that I was perfect, at that point; and I didn’t make any mistakes or bad decisions, from that point on? Absolutely not, but that’s when my faith became real—where I said: “This is my Savior. This is my identity. Me—doing it my way—me, living life trying to control what I want to control—that doesn’t work.”
Bob: When we talk about believing, I think there is a difference between believing and trusting. Now, I say that—and I want to be clear because, honestly, if you really believe, trust is tied to that—but I think we have a whole bunch of people who say: “I believe the facts. I believe the data. I ascribe to this;” but if you’re believing doesn’t produce trusting, then, it’s not really believing. If you say, “I believe Jesus is the Resurrected Son of God,” and that doesn’t alter everything about your life, what do you really believe?
Michael: And the Bible testifies to that—“Even the demons say that it is so.”—
Bob: “Believe”—yes; right.
Michael: —So, that’s not owning your faith. That’s acknowledging that faith can exist.
Bob: So, we may be talking to folks—whether teenagers, grown-ups—but folks who would say: “Yes, I believe in God. I believe—I pray. I go to church.”
Dennis: Maybe, they are hearing the Hound of Heaven and He has them treed, right now.
Bob: Up the tree. What’s the difference between what they are doing—that, “I believe in Jesus,”—and the trusting that alters the rest of their life, where they really own their faith? What is that?
Hayley: One of the things that we often say to people—and it sounds harsh. So, everybody just get ready. Sit down, wherever you are. Pull the car over. If God isn’t changing you, then, He hasn’t saved you because believe—when you truly believe, your life is going to change. Things will continually change.
Dennis: That’s right.
Hayley: It’s not just that you change once and, “Oh, I’ve changed.” There is a daily, “Oh, my goodness!” where you recognize sin—you work through it. You are: “Wow!” Then, there is another one. Then, there’s another. There’s just—we’re continually changing when we are growing. It’s a dead plant that’s not changing. In order to grow, we must be changing.
Dennis: Hayley, that person, who is listening to you right now, and goes: “You got me. That’s me. I don’t want to live like this anymore.” Maybe, she felt like you did—“I’m headed to hell, and I haven’t cared,”—but you know—recent circumstances—maybe, this broadcast has interrupted their lives and they are ready. Take them, by the hand, and introduce them to Jesus Christ and how they can establish a true belief, like Bob was talking about, that does result in trust and transformation.
Hayley: Well, I—probably, the first sense is an overwhelming sense of guilt. When you come to this point, you think: “Oh, man! What an idiot I’ve been,” or, “How did I miss this?” or, “How much have I messed up, and why would He want me—after all of this?” So, there has to be an understanding of the purpose of guilt.
The Bible tells us that godly sorrow, which is another word for guilt, leads to repentance. We have to allow that feeling of guilt to lead us to repentance. In other words, to lead us to the point to say: “I have sinned. I’ve messed up,” but, in that moment of confession and repentance, to then, to accept what God offers. He says, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.”
We have to allow our guilt to be washed away—and not to live on it, and to continue to complain about it, or, “How did this happen?”—but to know that it is instantly gone. His death on the cross was enough to cover anyone’s sins. It doesn’t matter who it is. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. If you’ve killed someone, it’s enough to forgive your sins.
So, understanding that, I think, is crucial for all of us because it can be easy to just kind of see the light comes on and go: “But I’m not worth it,” or, “I’m not worthy,”—no, you are not worthy. None of us are worthy, but He’s worthy. He is enough; and He wants, today, to change your life. All you have to do is to say: “I’m up for that. I’m ready. I want to change; but I’m not going to be able to do it by myself. Only You—and You alone—can do it.”
Dennis: And it’s not the faith that saves you. It’s the object of the faith—
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: —that results in redemption. I just want to read this passage, Second Corinthians, Chapter 5, verse 17, “Therefore,”—
Bob: The one Michael read in the jail cell.
Michael: That’s right.
Dennis: —“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come.” Doesn’t mean you’re going to sprout angel wings and grow a halo; but it does mean you will experience that God declares you forgiven—right with Him—being declared, “Not guilty.”
Dennis: —and really, invite you into His family, and make you His son or daughter, and give you a mission, and finally, be used for how God created you to be used. That’s what it is all about.
Michael: Well, and we write about this, in the book, that owning your faith will save you, owning your faith will cost you, owning your faith will change you—as Hayley said—owning your faith will complete you; but ultimately, owning your faith will free you. Here’s the real reveal: “When you own your faith, it’s really God owning you. It’s really God saying, ‘You are my son,’”—
Bob: “Got you!”
Michael: —“’You are my daughter. You are treed!’” [Laughter] Like Zacchaeus, we just need to come down from that tree.
Dennis: And guess who is at the base of the tree?
Michael: That’s right.
Dennis: Jesus Christ. He is alive from the dead; and because He has defeated death, He has all the power He needs to save you.
Bob: Yes. If our listeners are interested—on our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, on the left side of the screen, under where it says, “Resource Center”—there is a tab there that says, “Two Ways to Live”. If you click on that tab, it will lay out for you, very clearly, the choice that is in front of every one of us: “Are we going to live according to our own agenda, or are we going to follow the narrow way that God has called us to?”
I’d encourage our listeners: “Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on the link, on the left side of the page, that says, ‘Two Ways to Live’.” It’s under the Resource Center tab. And while you are there, get a copy of the book that Michael and Hayley DiMarco have written, called Own It: Making Your Faith Your Own. The book is featured, prominently, in the movie that comes out tomorrow night—called Grace Unplugged. It’ll be opening in theaters all around the country. If you’d like more information, or if you’d like to see some exclusive clips that we have available, go to our website: FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, the turning point that took place in Hayley DiMarco’s life—when she owned her faith—a similar kind of turning point took place in Jennie Allen’s life when she prayed a prayer that she says was one of the most frightening prayers she has every prayed. It was the prayer that said, “God, we will do anything.” She shares her story in a book called Anything.
This month, we are making that book available to those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation to help keep us on the air in this city and cities all across the country. Your donations go to cover the costs of producing and syndicating this daily radio program. We appreciate your partnership with us so much. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make an online donation. Just click the button that says, “I CARE”; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can make your donation over the phone. Ask for a copy of the book—called Anything—when you get in touch with us. Or send a check and mail your request for the book, Anything, to FamilyLife Today at P. O.
Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. And our zip code is 72223. Again, it’s FamilyLife Today at
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And we hope you can join us back tomorrow. We’re going to talk with the writer, the producer, and the director of the movie, Grace Unplugged—Russ Rice and Brad Silverman will be here with us. And we’ll tell you more about the new movie on tomorrow’s program. Hope you can join us for that.
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 next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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