• Dana L. Butler

the thing I thought I’d never do {or, the core cry of all my soul-cries}

The thing about coming ridiculously alive inside is that the more His life and freedom course through to every last corner of my soul, the more I feel afraid.

I know the verses, too, about how God has not given us a spirit of fear, and I’ve heard it said more times than I can count that if you’re afraid, you’re not in faith.

And sometimes I agree with that latter statement.

But a lot of times? I don’t.

I’ll try and explain. Kind of.

Over the last couple of years, surrendering to His life on my insides has looked like doing things that fly in the face of human opinions that’ve made me tremble in terror.

It has looked like the deconstruction and slow reformation of paradigms on marriage and parenting and ministry and Christian spirituality, and it’s looked like barely, in small ways, beginning to actually speak from those still-being-reconstructed places of my soul.

It’s looked like disagreeing out loud with people to whom I’d previously been afraid to speak my mind.

It’s looked like writing vulnerably and leading worship with my heart on the outside of my body and unveiling depths of my soul via my own mouth into a microphone, and it’s looked like loving people so deeply, so fully, my insides physically throb with the ache of it.

It’s also looked like navigating a really rough, really long season with my family, and this bit isn’t by any means over yet. Not even close.

I will share more details as soon as I’m able — I promise — and for now will let you in on this piece:

Parenting in this season is more daunting, feels more intimidating on a day-in, day-out level, than it ever, ever has, in the history of all my motherhood-ness. Foster-parenting included.

The nitty-gritty of my day-to-day is quicksand sometimes. Is this grueling marathon of just-keep-putting-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other. And breathe. Now repeat.

Stan struggles too, mightily, under the weight of this season, and I find myself thanking Jesus over and over again for the unity of our marriage, for our similar conflict-resolution styles, for the grace Jesus gives us to press in toward one another when circumstantial pressure and stretching might otherwise pry and pull us apart.

We are in every bit of this together. Stan and I. The kids too. All four of us.



There’s this word, y’all. This made-up, compound word that’s etched itself into my core, into my soul’s foundation, more and more over the last year or two. Through all the shifting and sifting of my insides, my paradigms. Through all the mundane things, and the brave things I’ve had to write and sing and say and do as I’ve surrendered to all this ridiculously undignified, transformative Life that’s pulsing and pounding its way through my veins.

Through all the terrifyingly vulnerable unfolding.

It’s the cry of my heart — the core cry of ALL my cries, really. Because the journey with Him IS the destination and the destination IS the journey, and more than I want to accomplish this thing or that thing, and more than I want to “arrive” at this level or that physical or spiritual place — what has become my One Thing, the goal of EVERY facet and season of my life, of all I endure and all I conquer and all I just barely survive by the stretched-thin skin of my teeth — it’s this:

To know His heart along the way.

Intimacy. Trust. Surrender.

It’s Jesus, let’s just be together in and through it all, and would you just form Yourself inside me, deeper and deeper, more and more fully, whatever it takes?


I differentiate between a “spirit of fear” and the fear that’s a natural, human emotion, associated with doing things that are vulnerable as you-know-what.

And sometimes, like I said, I agree with the idea that fear is the opposite of faith, but more often? I think the combo of human fear + dependent faith can be the most breathtakingly beautiful tension.

So, so, SO often anymore, my prayer is along these lines: Jesus, I am so scared. I’m scared of what the future holds, and I’m scared I’ll hurt my kids’ hearts today, and I’m freaked completely out to live and lead and pour myself out yet another day with my soul SO exposed, and I’m scared to love people with all this crazy, fiery love, and how in all of heaven and earth and hell can I do my next day or hour or breath apart from You?

Whom have I but You? Whom have I– ?!?!

See, human fear is a gift when it propels and compels me into the heart of the One Who is the whole Point of all of this, anyway. And when I view it as a gift, lean into Him, know His heart expanding inside my own and His strength perfected in my utter, desperate weakness? I’m not bound by the fear. It keeps me aware of my need. Keeps me dependent. Humble. Leaning.

But it does not hold me captive.

I’m moving forward. One foot in front of the other.

This is faith. It’s trust.

It’s leaning and surrender and forward motion.

With Him. 

Which is the whole point.

The destination is the journey. And it’s how we do the journey, or rather with Whom, that most deeply matters.

And the paradox is that He does want to take us to “the next level,” and He does have external accomplishments in store for us and He does want us to grow, to progress in our faith and freedom and life-in-Him.

But all of those goals come secondary to, and as a byproduct of, His primary desire, which is intimacy with us along the way.

Just form yourself inside me, Jesus, as we walk tight together.

And when my eyes quit straining to see what’s up ahead, to discern the future, to figure out my ultimate calling or purpose or how all these scary, uncertain things are going to turn out in the end — and turn instead to meet the gaze of the One holding my hand as I walk this road with all its twists and unforeseen turns? Then and only then am I sustained as I weather whatever storms come my way, and whatever soul-surgeries His hand has yet to complete inside me.


Back to that word.

It’s Lockstep. 

My cry. My heart’s desperate need. My One Thing.

To do each leg of this journey tight in step with Him. In unbroken companionship. Moving to the beat of His heart. Constantly aware of my need.

To be all I am and do all I do from that place.

So many facets of my life anymore provoke that human kind of fear, that fear that presses me into His heart, into awareness of my need.

And this word, this cry has become so core to who I am, core to how I have to live, that y’all?

You may think I’m certifiable…


I needed it on my skin.

Never in my life had I dreamed I’d get a tattoo. I’ve done piercings and stuff, but tattoos are so… permanent. Gah! Not to mention — pain. Ouch.

But on the days parenting has felt so overwhelming I’ve struggled to get out of bed, and on the days I’ve led worship or spoken and have been terrified yet again, and on the days I’ve been shocked and scared by the way I’m wired for unrestrained, undignified love — I’ve looked down at my wrist and ached to see this word there. My core cry. My life’s one purpose, from which all else flows.

The place I have to proactively abide if I’m gonna do anything He puts before me to do. If I’m gonna live this scary-crazy-alive life that I know that I know I’m made for.

I did it, y’all. A week ago Saturday.

For so long, this one-word prayer felt too personal, too intimate, too between me and Jesus to share with any other human. But with its appearance on my skin comes the invitation to share a bit of its story, as people inquire… and to share it with y’all, my friends who walk beside me here.

I’m including a link to the song from which Lockstep jumped out at me and rooted itself on my insides. If you’re still reading, I am hugging you massively in my heart… and also inviting you to take a minute and listen.

So much love to you all, my friends. Truly. I’m forever and ever so very, very thankful for you. Thanks for receiving my story yet again, for being a part of my journey.

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