(And a Veiled Exhortation to Christian Fathers and Young Adult Christian Men Everywhere)
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.
1 Corinthians 2:2