August 17, 2011

An Open Letter to My Daughter

by Byron Yawn

(And a Veiled Exhortation to Christian Fathers and Young Adult Christian Men Everywhere)

Dear L.Y.,

In a box somewhere in the garage there is footage of the two of us. Although it’s lost in storage, it streams in my memory. I am holding you. You fit neatly in my two hands. My heart fits perfectly around your little finger – small as it was. It is a long time ago. It is the embodiment of that worn out metaphor we reach for to describe fathers and daughters. “Tied around fingers” or something like that. Clearly, I am entwined. I’ve always been. Quietly, I bend down and whisper something to you. It’s hard to make out what I’m saying on this fuzzy old tape. But, I know exactly what I said. I’ve been saying it for fourteen years. You have heard me say it in word and deed every day since. “You will always be this child here in my hands. I will never leave you nor forsake you. I love you.” It is fourteen years ago, but it is easily today.

One day, if God wills, you will know how deeply a parent loves a child. It is the bottomless vein in a parent’s heart. But, you will never know how intensely a father loves a daughter. It’s hard to put into words. It is a mixture of strength and softness unique to this bond. A father’s love hovers like a citadel over the untouched treasure of his daughter’s life. (This is why your dad acts like a suspicious sniper around you.) A daughter thrives within its safe barrier. A father’s love for his daughter is a preservative against a thousand ills seeking to infect the innocence of her life.

Is it any wonder ladies are reduced to tears as they look back on the landscape of their life and cannot see a father’s sweetness? It is a deep regret… and needless. Girls need dads. Neglect here is cruel. The worst thing a dad can do sometimes is nothing. It seems I counsel the ubiquitous broken young lady on a weekly basis. She is the lost young woman who seeks self-worth in the affection of a young man – never having received it from dad. Hers is a deep pain. Tenderness is a sublime power in a father’s hand. It is amazing what time spent showing love at eight does for a little girl when she is twenty-eight. It builds a confidence as few things can. It is a foundation set deep in the heart.

You do not fully realize it now, but one day in the midst of life’s many hardships you’ll see what I’ve been doing all these years. You’ll see what I whispered to you many years ago. In the darkness of your pain, you’ll reach down and suddenly feel a foundation beneath you. I know you love me. I know you respect me more than any other man on this earth. But, I have not been turning your heart to me all these years, as much as to My God. My leadership of your life is intended to provide you the slightest glimpse of His awesome power over all things, including you. I know My God will steady you.

When the time comes you will sense a steadfastness you had not sensed before. There in that moment, His love will be my greatest gift to you. A vision of a mighty God, which I have painstakingly opened to you conversation by conversation & tenderness by tenderness, will come up and catch you. My own love, incomplete and imperfect, will now make sense in the infinite shadow of His. You will bend down quietly before your life and say, “Thank you, Daddy. God is Great. He has neither left me nor forsaken me.” Your earthly father will be content in being overshadowed by your Heavenly one. You are not mine. You are His. I will rejoice from within the cleft of His greatness as I watch my daughter worship from knees I once put Band-Aids on.

I pray that my care for you brings into sharp focus the love of Our Savior. Unconditional. Sacrificial. Patient. True. Serving. Consistent. Present. I pray my sincere affection is a contrast to the many deceptions that parade as love in this world. I pray the sight of your father in broken worship of Christ gives you the courage to raise your own heart up in praise before mankind. I pray my transparent confession of sin and weakness will incline you to retreat into Christ’s righteousness at the sight of your own. I pray most earnestly that you will have not merely copied your father’s faith, but sincerely found the Lord Jesus Christ as the supreme object of your own.

Dear child, do not settle. Love a man who loves Christ more than you – and you more than himself. Be attracted to tenderness, lowliness, self-restraint, consistency and sacrifice. Seek that man who carries the imprint of our Lord’s cross upon his life. Love that man who does not live in fear of your emotions, but in fear of your Lord.  Don’t marry a boy… no matter how old he may be. Do not fall for the first young man who comes along and shows you attention. Rather, follow that man whom comes along and resembles the unconditional grace of your Lord Jesus.

I am so sorry about the condition of the average young male. I regret that they confuse lust with love. I am saddened that they are more proficient at gaming than at balancing a checkbook. I cringe that they know more of sports trivia than doctrine. I apologize that they know better how to handle a gun (which is completely respectable in one sense) than how to treat a lady. I know godliness in a man is hard to find. But, find it. Otherwise, you will spend your life raising the man you thought you married. The church and this culture are filled with boys masquerading as men. Let them pass.

The man you are looking for is no boy. He is a servant. He cares for your needs above his own. If I am at all the man I claim to be, you may look at your father’s love for your mother and know what it is I’m describing. You should be able to recognize it when you see it. That man who will lay down his life for yours is the type of man you can easily give yours to. The man who sacrifices himself is easy to serve sacrificially.

By God’s grace, I have only intended my own love to serve as a high-water mark in your soul. None except Christ’s love for you will rise above mine. This way, when that man – whom I pray for everyday – comes along and exceeds your father’s love, you will willingly give him your heart. And I (secretly desiring to shoot him and bury his remains in an undisclosed location) will lovingly pass on my treasure to that man who stormed the fortress of a father’s love with a weapon as meager as a servant’s apron.

Your Dad

1 Corinthians 2:2

Byron Yawn

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Byron is the senior pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville. His newest book, What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him, is a guide for parents and pastors who seek to raise men of God.
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  • Charlie Frederico

    Byron,
    I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have read this veiled exhortation. I have three daughters. My oldest is 13. She becomes more beautiful to me everyday and her glory is my deepest joy. The thought of, I have to confess, giving her to a man, did not even cross my mind yesterday as we went for an early morning walk together. But now, I won’t be able to get it out of my mind. It is not like I have never considered it before. But, your wording here hit me hard. Thank you for refreshing me in seeing my young ladies in light of the profound emotions and thoughts that accompany the relationship of a father to his daughter.

  • kpl

    Deeply moving…………grieving that I never had this kind of fatherly love by my earthly father(s) – one being mentally incapable and the other a betrayer – but rejoicing that my Heavenly Father is omnipresent, and omnipotent and He loves me far better than any man on this earth could AND that my daughter has a father who loves her in the same way you have so beautifully described. My prayer today is for your daughter, my daughter and all of the young women in our church.

  • Erin Dillard

    Very Powerful and Moving Byron!! So beautiful how you are able to put to paper your heart!

  • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

    I’m speechless! I thought the ability to write beautiful prose and poetry died with Keats, Sheely, Wordsworth, Byron and Frost (I love poetry). How truly wrong I was. This is unbelievable! And please, don’t mind me, when I am **deeply** moved by “anything”, I always over express myself. Can’t help it! Just me.

    This blog is proving to be the highlight of my day.

    Are we allowed to share this, providing we give your name?

    Thank you,
    Mary

    • Byron

      Share away. My daughter gave me permission.

  • Tim

    From one Dad to another, you got this one exactly right. From a former geek (or not so former, maybe) where’d you get that picture of me in my tux on prom night?

    Cheers,
    Tim

  • http://twitter.com/SpencerDeBurgh Spencer DeBurgh

    Byron,

    Thanks for sharing this. So well written and wise.

    And, seriously, we should begin arranging something between my youngest son and your daughter. I will have my people draw up a contract and call your people.

    • Byron

      It will cost you many cattle my friend. Many.

  • Paul Luedke

    Hear hear!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500913290 Anh Truong

    LOVE.

  • Jerry Smith

    Thanks Byron for ths article and I can now share it with my granddaughters.

  • Ryan

    Byron,
    Thank you for directing a young father about what he needs to teach his daughter.

    RH

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  • Anonymous

    Your last line is the most painfully beautiful sentence I’ve read in a very long time.

    • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

      The entire article is a master piece. I have sent it to almost everyone on my e-mail list. I told them, be fore warned because goosbumps and tears are sure to ensue and bring the strongest of men to their knees.

      • Mary Elizabeth Tyler

        Make that forewarned and goose bumps. I don’t think my word program works right, when I make a change and save something, it doesn’t always take.

  • Thomas L

    Moving on so many levels.
    Thanks.
    How is the new book coming?

  • Melea

    We pray and pray that our boys will one day grow to be godly, Christ-loving men, not boys who are proficient at video games. Thank you, Byron, for this thought provoking reminder, that although we don’t have a daughter, that we can seek to raise our boys to be strong towers for a young lady some day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carol-Stansberry-Margerum/1206867174 Carol Stansberry Margerum

    Have grown up many years ago under the “citadel” of a very Godly and loving father, and, I must say, not always being able to stand in a position of viewing it with appreciation (especially as a young teen), I can say now as a women that’s “all grown up” that there is nothing I appreciate more on this earth that what I have taken away from my relationship with my father. He daily demonstrated the simplicity and yet awesome power of “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” Would that more men recognize how there is strength in tenderness. Thanks for empowering men to be powerful through gentleness!

  • Parkerc2

    Byron, I love your heart dude…..”you had me at hello”…Thanks for your pastors heart and the shepherding of my soul.

  • Stacy

    You have penned words almost too beautiful to read. I know my daddy loves me…and maybe he loves me like this and just has never been able to express it, but the uncertainty of a love like this guided me down a path that has brought much pain and heartache to me and my sons. Yet God is my redeemer and I trust that He will use our pain to bring great things into our lives and unto His glory. Please pray for me as I try to single-handedly raise two teenage sons (16 and 14) into young men like you want your daughter to meet.

  • Stacy

    You have penned words almost too beautiful to read. I know my daddy loves me…and maybe he loves me like this and just has never been able to express it, but the uncertainty of a love like this guided me down a path that has brought much pain and heartache to me and my sons. Yet God is my redeemer and I trust that He will use our pain to bring great things into our lives and unto His glory. Please pray for me as I try to single-handedly raise two teenage sons (16 and 14) into young men like you want your daughter to meet.

  • Bljohnston

    Byron,
    Well done – – – one more time. A training manual from you, through my heart, to our son and his 15 year old daughter. Hold out for more than just cattle!!

  • Anonymous

    Just curious if your daughter has read this, and if so, what was her reaction?

  • Maenzajj

    Wow L.Y…you are one blessed daughter. Oh how I wish my da…
    I sure miss him.

  • Jane Leitholt Hall

    Thank you so much for sharing this, hope you dont mind I posted this on my wall

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  • Carissa

    This was bittersweet reading tonight. I just returned from visiting my Daddy and had a wonderful date with him. I am thankful that I have a Daddy such as the above (will be sharing this with him), and so very thankful that my daughter has a Daddy such as the above. However, I am painfully aware that my new niece, who was born while we were visiting, will not be growing up with her Daddy. He is lost, pursuing his own sin, and in desperate need of Christ.

  • Allen McPherson

    Bryron,

    These last few months it as been great to get to know you and our new church family here in Nashville.Thank you for your insights every Sunday and friendship toward my family and I. This blog is one of the best insights so far! My oldest is a girl and there is a very special kinship between a Father and daughter.I have been giving an assignment that I take very serious to raise a child made in God’s image. I hope I can reflect Jesus everyday to my girl! I started very young in her life to pray for her mate.I pray for all young men of God to reflect Jesus like a servant and soldier.
    God Bless. Talk soon. Allen McPherson

  • Mike Davenport

    a very sincere “thank you, brother; thank you very much”

  • Valerie

    So true. Enjoyed this very much, thank you.

  • Archiecollvins

    If only I would have had this very touching eye opener when I was a young father. It would have been a great guide to follow.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Byron –

    I had asked above whether your daughter had read this, and what was her response? I suppose I had a slightly different take on the letter than the other folks, and that could be because they know you and your family and understand this is normal Yawn family talk, and I don’t know you, so please take this with a 55 gallon drum of salt.

    To me, it read more like “An Open Prayer for My Daughter” than “An Open Letter To My Daughter.” If the former: fantastic, dead on, rock solid, amen, I agree and will probably print this out and put it beside both my daughter’s bedpost as a reminder what I need to pray for. If the latter…..well, I’m just curious her reaction? I gather she is fourteen, and I would think most young teenage girls would read it and be like, “Thanks Dad…..but can I pleeeeasssse get an iPhone?”

    One of my most influential mentors, who served as a children’s pastor for years before becoming a senior pastor, often quoted Sinclair Ferguson to parents, saying, “Tie more than one string to your child’s heart.” He was saying to connect with your children on multiple levels, spirituall of course, but also things like sports, hobbies, art, movies, traveling, or whatever. This of course assumes that solid Christian parenting is happening in the home, it’s just a reminder not to be “too spiritual” in family relationships, or worse, only spiritual. For what happens if – God forbid – the child does not get saved? What strings are left? Or does the relationship with the child end the moment he or she rebels? I think it’s worth considering for us Calvinists, since we know we just sow the seed but God causes (or might not cause) the growth.

    I guess what I’m getting at is, I didn’t see anything personal or particular about your daughter in the post? For example, if I’m writing a Father-daughter love letter to my 3 year old girl, I’m for sure gonna mention how much I love the way she uncontrollably giggles when Bambi stumbles and trips as he clumsily tries to walk across the frozen pond. I’m gonna mention how much I adore the way she sings off key in the backseat at the top of her lungs and does off balance balerrina pirouettes in the yard by herself for hours on end while her Mom and I crack up in the kitchen. She already has a great stride and I look forward to seeing whether she will become a great track and field runner, or perhaps a graceful gymnast like her mom. I know you have these connections with your daughter too, which is why I was curious those thoughts weren’t included if it’s a letter to her?

    I lead a young families/parenting class at our church. We have worked through all Ted Tripp’s material, and we have hosted a parenting conference with Bill Farley (Gospel Powered Parenting). I want to share this letter with our group, but would love to get your thoughts first, especially if you could clarify whether it was really intended as a prayer or a letter, and what her reaction was.

    Thanks!

    • Byron

      J – She laughed and cried and thanked me and then cried again. Then she text her friends on her Samsung Rumor Touch to have them read it. She’s heard it numerous times. My daughter and I are very close. I like my kids as well as love them. As a dad I’m engage with all my children on numerous levels. They know I love them unconditionally.

      I did not mention anything personal because I protect my daughter from the glass house of a pastor’s life. Needless to say,there are lots of particulars. But the post was not intended to offer principles of raising children, but the heart of a father who desires to raise a lady.

      But, one anecdote might suffice. My secretary had spent the majority of a day with my daughter. Dinner, etc. The next day she walked into my office and began to cry. She said something along the lines of “Thanks for being the dad you are to your children, especially your daughter. They love you so much. You take such care of their lives.” This woman knows me well and has a birds-eye view of my family. So, it was a tremendous encouragement to my wife and I. She walked out and then I cried. (I am a sinner saved by grace,) Then I wrote a blog entitled, “An Open Letter to My Daughter.”

      Any man can father a child. Only a broken man can be a father.

      • Anonymous

        HI Byron –

        Wow, thanks for sharing that is awesome, and totally validates this whole post.

        My boss died in April, and I was very close to him. He was an incredible man, and quite humble, but never really spoke much about parenting. But at his funeral, I heard volumes and volumes about what a great father he was from his three upper teenage kids, it completely blew me away.

        I’ve been wrestling through that experience a lot recently, having also seen households where a Father in ministry is very vocal about his parenting but the kids have nothing nearly as good to say about their Dads as the Dad has to say about the Dad. Not saying that’s your heart here at all, but do you get what I’m getting at?

        Thanks again…and based on the other comments I figured as much!

  • Heather M.

    I came across this link on a friend’s FB page. I can’t begin to tell you how beautiful this letter is. A copy of this should be given to every father along with their daughter’s birth certificate. I am the daughter that has lived in deep pain her entire life. Now, I have two daughters of my own and I pray, every day, that my husband can be the kind of father to them that I never had. Bless you for sharing this letter and know that your words have touched me deeply!

  • Keith

    “You are not mine. You are His.” The implications of these short sentences go far beyond that which I am able to understand. Understanding them in some frail sense, it seems, comes through walking through circumstances beyond our control, circumstances that a father would never design for his daughter, but circumstances our Heavenly Father providentially crafts in His perfections. So, we fathers do well to look forward to the certain day when “you are His” is eternally and perfectly fulfilled.

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