This is one of those "been-a-long-time-coming" posts. I remember calling my dad's cell phone randomly while working in Texas several years ago and just saying, "Thanks, dad. I know this may not make sense, but I just need to say thank you for doing what you do and being who you are."
I was spending all my days with college age students at work and some nights with the junior high youth group girls. Over and over and over again I heard about broken homes, a spirit of distrust, and a very real longing from these girls to know their fathers and be known by them.
I'm a fixer by Nichols nature, but as I listened to these stories one thing was certain: this was out of my league.
In every case, every 12-year-old and every almost-20-something, I searched for words and came up speechless. Now, several years later, the stories are piling up like postcards from similar destinations: despair, loneliness, anger, betrayal, pain, and sometimes hope. Those are the ones I like best - the hope ones. The others are ones that make my heart hurt. Those destinations are hard to explain, but they seem to keep arriving at my doorstep.
Tonight, during our Bible study on God's design for women, my heart broke again for all the girls in my life who have a hard time picturing God as a loving Father. If a father is someone who is silent and distant... or two-faced and secretive... or always offering empty promises, then it is hard to picture God's role as our Father much differently.
Oh, this hurts! In the French film Amélie, the little girl's father is a doctor and her mother is a headmistress. They are each particular about different things, but neither very particular about showing affection to their one daughter. One scene read almost exactly like one of my sad story postcards. Amélie, who looks about 5, sits like a statue while her father takes her heartbeat. Her face is emotionless, but the narrator informs us that she, like every girl, wants nothing more than to be hugged by her dad. Since he keeps his distance, she longs and treasures this yearly checkup - where he always finds her heart rate abnormally fast (due to her excitement in being near him).
Almost daily, I am reminded that I have no answers. Nothing I can say today from my mind or heart will hold up tomorrow and will certainly not pass through the many worlds separating me from the home lives of the girls who are so precious to me. I know of only one thing that is true always and it's the unchanging Word of the Lord. I know without that infallible Word, all of my words will fall flat.
As long as I'm on the subject... there are a few things I wish Dads knew. John Mayer's song, "Daughters," scratches the surface of the longing a daughter feels to be loved by her dad, but (not surprisingly) it isn't strong enough.
Fathers, be good to your daughters daughters will love like you do
It was simple enough to capture the attention of a whole crowd of daughters who wished for what this nebulously suggests, but I wish this song spelled out specifics.
- Be transparent about your first and greatest Love. For many daughters, your faith is a secret. You might go to church or you might have a Bible, but your ideas and convictions are as hidden and elusive as treasure on a child's treasure map. It's okay to be somewhere in the growing stages of your faith - in fact, it's refreshing for us daughters to know you haven't "arrived" yet. When your daughter can see you admit you need God, her heart and tenderness toward you will grow, but more importantly you will have pointed her gaze to the Father that never fails.
- Love your wife. One of the greatest ways you can love your daughter is to love and serve your wife. When they see you honoring, protecting, partnering, laughing, enjoying, and living in a way that reflects God's design, they will be confident as you lead the family AND you will give them an excellent example of a husband. (This is especially important in those years where you cannot relate to your daughter. When nothing makes sense, love your wife well and I promise your daughter will see it!)
- Choose to be around. Your daughter will feel special that you've decided the best place for you to be in that moment is with them.
- Get personal. Some of my favorite memories with my dad are simple ones that we shared while we did chores together on the farm or as we drove out to a football game or prepared our animals for county fair. Every discussion doesn't have to be deep, but if you open up first then you'll gain your daughter's trust and she'll likely reciprocate (even if it's not right away).
- Encourage, praise, love the God-honoring things your daughter does and push her in those things to be excellent. I'll never forget my dad's insistence that I study that little spelling book in preparation for the elementary spelling bees. My dad still types on the computer with his pointer fingers and English wasn't his strongest high school subject, but when he found out I could put letters together in the right order, he was going to make sure I did it excellently. Those little things (though I assure you I didn't love them at the time) made his love for me so obvious.
- Be gentle. Your daughter will appreciate well-placed words and respectable silences.
- Be good to your sons, too. Your daughters are smart. They will see the way you are leading and guiding your sons. Right now they are probably making mental notes in their heart about whether their dream man will act like the father and brothers in their lives. Many hold desperately on to the hope that it can be different. If they have to rely on Hollywood, they will be hoping for something unhealthy and unrealistic. But she's got a front row seat for what a man should look like, so show her!
I don't know where all this came from, but it is so my heart to encourage men to be men as God created them. I just read this blogpost the other day and it's a slightly different tangent, but with the same bottom line - that men would be true men.
let LOVE fly like crazy