The last few months have been a little crazy for the Seavey family. Keri and Jeff never imagined that they would watch their son Daniel Seavey make it into the Top 24, let alone Top 11, on the popular American singing competition series known as American Idol.
I know Keri as-- wife to Jeff, a senior pastor and church planter, mom to four children (Tyler, Christian, Daniel and Anna), women's ministry leader, biblical counselor, speaker, and writer who blogs regularly for the Biblical Counseling Coalition and who has written about parenting for The Gospel Coalition.
I asked Keri if she'd be willing to share from a mama's perspective-- what God has been teaching her through this process and how God is using this incredible adventure in their lives.
While most of us will never face the challenges (and excitement) of their specific experience, many of Keri's parenting struggles and prayers are ones that as moms, we can all relate to...
1. How did Daniel end up auditioning for American Idol? What is the backstory to ending up in the Top 24 and now the Top 11?
Keri: Daniel has wanted to audition for American Idol since he was a small child. We watched the show for many years as a family. He has also always been a very musical child, playing instruments by ear since he was about five.
When the auditions came through Portland, OR on a bus tour, Daniel made the choice to go with his youth group on a missions trip to Mexico where he helped build a home for a homeless family. We were very proud of him for the decision he made. Because of that, we made it a priority to get him to the San Francisco auditions. We let him audition for the experience and for fun, and he just kept making it through the rounds of auditions.
2) What have been some of the highlights so far in this experience?
Keri: It has been such a joy to watch Daniel learn, blossom and grow in many ways right before my eyes. With all of the opportunities that come from American Idol, he has grown as a musician and performer every week in different ways. Much of this growth has come from the example and encouragement of the other contestants. They all seem to genuinely love him and treat him like a younger brother.
He continues to learn how to courageously put his best foot forward under immense pressure and challenging circumstances (Hollywood Week's craziness, moving forward when you just don't feel like it, performing while sick). I have been so impressed with his positive, joyful attitude and determined perseverance as he rises to the occasion, realizing that "the show must go on." He has had a steep learning curve in learning how to conduct himself for interviews and live television. He has had to learn how to be respectfully assertive when trying to protect the shaping of his image. Daniel has been vigilant about aiming for humility throughout this journey.
I am very proud of how he has been dealing with his overnight popularity. He's learning the value of not "believing his own press" with respect to over-the-top praise or difficult-to-hear-read negative feedback. He is learning what it means to anchor his identity in who he already is in Christ, and not what people think of him or how they respond to him. It has been my profound privilege to navigate and grow with him through all of this. Daniel and I have grown so much closer as we have maneuvered through this together.
3) What have been some of the struggles? Dangers? Fears you've had for him going into this process?
Keri: Let me start by saying idealistically and in theory, I would never want my fears to stand in the way of opportunities and experiences that God ordains for our children. However, realistically, my son's experience with American Idol gave dormant fear a chance to sprout and grow in my heart. There are a plethora of obvious fears regarding the industry, success, and Hollywood. When Daniel made it through his first rounds, he began doing interviews and photo shoots at a dizzying rate. When my husband and I were alone in our San Francisco hotel room after a long and crazy day after Daniel had "made it through to Hollywood" I said, "I want to put Daniel in a basket and hide him far, far away!" My husband said something in response that is simple, yet profound. He said, "This is God's doing and His grace will be sufficient." This is gritty truth with teeth that has stuck with me and continues to stabilize me when I (often) feel weak-in-the-knees and panicky.
Yet, there is another fear I discovered in my heart that wasn't quite so obvious that manifested itself in the weeks prior to heading back to Los Angeles for Hollywood Week. While Daniel was picking, learning and practicing songs, I turned into something of a "tiger mom," standing over his shoulder, picking things apart, always reminding him to practice. One day, while Daniel and I were talking about a song, he reluctantly told me that I wasn't being too encouraging and that he felt pressure from me. After taking some time to think and pray about what he said, I confessed to him my fears (through tears).
Daniel had some health problems as a small child. He was severely underweight and couldn't keep much food in his system. It made him very weak and fragile. I took extra care with him, always wanting to protect him from getting hurt. And now I felt the same way with the American Idol experience. In my desire to protect him from getting hurt, I realized that I was trying to control what I thought I could, to ensure his safety and protection. If I could get him to rehearse enough, to work out all of the weak spots, he would not have to deal with hurtful, negative feedback or the "haters" whom I knew would be lurking out there, ready to pounce on my fragile, young son.
I was so afraid of him getting deeply hurt and not being able to recover. I was not trusting God with my son, but rather trusting my own illusions of control. I explained myself to him and asked for his forgiveness that day, which he freely gave. I asked him to pray for me to trust God more with his well-being. I also gave him the freedom to tell me in the future when "tiger mom" would rear her claws. I am so grateful we had this conversation early on as we now live with the reality of some of those fears, having to face some hurtful, negative feedback. We both are challenged weekly to continue to trust God, anchor our identity in who are in Christ, not fear man, or try to control the uncontrollable in life. I have learned over my parenting years and through this process that safety and control are myths anyway. God is sovereign, good and trustworthy and able to protect and provide for my son far better than I.
4) How have you seen God using this unique opportunity?
Keri: God has used this opportunity in more ways than can be enumerated. Personally, the heart challenges with fear and anxiety give ample opportunity to exercise our faith and find our strength in Christ. Missionally, and contrary to what one might expect, the opportunities for the Kingdom of God have been abundant! We have prayed with people, encouraged people, spoken truth to people, had spiritual conversations with many people, and have had the blessed opportunity to truly love people who are in many different places spiritually. It has been an incredible honor.
5) What are you praying for Daniel in the middle of all this and what can we be praying?
Keri: I pray that God's will would be done regarding how far we ride this crazy train! More importantly, I pray for Daniel's heart. My desire is that this experience with American Idol would be a means that God uses to help him understand and live in the reality of who he is in Christ. I pray that both the praise and criticism he receives would be light and inconsequential in comparison to the weightiness of the acceptance and love that he already has in Christ.
My son's name, Daniel, means "God is my judge." How fitting! I pray that as Daniel is judged weekly on his singing performance, that his true and deeper joy would come in knowing that the true Judge has based his love for Daniel on the perfect performance of Christ. Daniel does not need to perform for God to earn his love. He already has it by faith, because of the performance and merits of Christ!
I just want to thank Keri for sharing this experience with us and I pray, along with Keri, that God will continue to use this opportunity for their good and for His glory!
P.S. As of tonight... Daniel made it into the Top 9, so their journey continues. If you'd like to show your support, as he walks through these doors that God continues to open, you can find more information here.