I have a confession to make: Being a youth pastor for several years left me afraid of having a daughter. I wasn’t afraid of bows, pink, frills or cheerleading. I wasn’t afraid of boys (I‘m an expert marksman), sleepovers, chick flicks or her emotions.
I was afraid of me.
You see, for years I had witnessed the power of a father in a young girl’s life. The power he has to crush her spirit and self esteem with the weight of his words or the pain of his absence. I witnessed how a young girl viewed God’s love and grace – or lack thereof through the lens of her earthly father. I had also witnessed a father’s ability to strengthen and empower a young girl with his love and attention. I’ve witnessed the beauty of a girl’s self image when her father had for years made her feel beautiful – till she knew that she was.
I was afraid of my power to hurt her. I was afraid of disappointing her.
It didn’t take long after having a daughter for my fears to be realized. She’s not even 5 years old and yet she longs for my approval, my time, my attention and my affection. Just a couple months ago in a silly fit of frustration I barked at her to go to her room because she wasn’t “doing something right”. Thirty seconds after I had sent her off crying I realized the horrendous jerk I had been and went to her room to apologize. What I saw crushed me. She was verbally assaulting herself. She was angry at herself that she didn’t perform.
I hurt her, but she thought it was her fault.
It was a revolutionary moment. I grabbed her and looked her in the eyes and told her she had done nothing wrong. Daddy was wrong – really wrong and really sorry. One thing I did not say to her was – “I’ll never do that again.” Because, I knew that I probably would. What made the moment revolutionary was my realization that I needed to start pointing her to a better Father, a father who wouldn’t fail her. I recognized that while I am doing my best to teach, guide, affirm, love and protect her – there is another One who can and will do those things without falter. I am not that One, but I know that One and my job is to point Rylee to Him. This doesn’t excuse me or remove the burden of fatherhood from me. Rather, it corrects and enables me to be a better father.
So, little girls…and big girls too – while it is instinctive and appropriate to look to your father, or your husband to be the man who will always be there for you – look just a bit further. Every little and big girl needs a hiding place to run to when she’s scared. Make it this one:
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7)
While I ferociously strive to be the man God’s called me to be for my daughter and my wife, I must do more. I must teach my girls to look and hold steadfast to the Father above – the One who never falters. The One who is the hiding place. The One you need.
Shane and Shane say this better in song: