Happy New Year! Over the course of the next eight days we will be counting down the eight most-read articles from 2019. We hope you enjoy reviewing the posts that resonated with our readers; for a list of the top fifteen check out our newsletter here.
We had never met. I hadn’t held her in my arms, seen her beautiful, bright blue eyes she got from my wife, heard her belly-laugh, felt her hand wrapped around my finger, seen her dance with joyful abandon. On the ultrasound screen there was nothing but a grey and black profile of my daughter with her hands gesturing near her mouth, a little girl seemingly singing from the womb. And yet, the feelings I had were those of an Enneagram 8 dad coming upon stores of love in his heart he never knew possible — protection, provision, a fear of loss, and a deep sense of duty.
I had thoughts I hadn’t anticipated and, up until that point, had never thought in my life:
“I’m going to hate every boy she brings home.”
“I’m going to have to give her away one day.”
Earthly fathers either reflect the love of the heavenly Father or our own need for his love – at our best, we reflect both of these things at once. Our girls always have a Father who is better than we are, yet he chooses to call us to the responsibility of being the earthly fathers of his daughters. As someone early in the process of being a father, here are a few things fathers are called to biblically.
Both the Cultural Mandate (Genesis 5:1-3) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) require fathers. You were made to reproduce, to multiply both biologically and spiritually. Before you get too excited, consider that reproducing is (super) fun for a while, then its (super) hard.
That a father is meant to reproduce may seem like a point so obvious it doesn’t need repeating, but it can’t be assumed for a few reasons. First, our cultural moment places our highest calling on our careers, at the expense of children. Second, the number of Christian children who abandon their faith in college or their twenties is likely a failure of parents and churches to reproduce disciples. Consider a few recent Babylon Bee headlines which comment on these failures: “After 12 Years Of Quarterly Church Attendance, Parents Shocked By Daughter’s Lack Of Faith” and “Congregation Prays Graduating Senior Be Protected From Basic Secular Arguments They Never Bothered To Prepare Her For”.
Fathers are one of God’s instruments in the making of biological and spiritual daughters. Dads, you are called to this weighty vocation with your daughters.
Bless & Protect
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent… If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:11–13)
Fathers are meant to give their daughters good things. As Jesus says in Luke 11, if we want to bless in simple ways, how much more does our Heavenly Father want to bless in profound ways?
We tend to function between the extremes of spoiling or depriving. As we navigate what blessing looks like, we need the wisdom of the Bible, our wives, and community. As God the Father wants to bless his kids, so earthly fathers are to bless theirs. A question that is both convicting and motivating for me is this: “Is my dad good?” I hope my girls will answer that in the affirmative now and later in life.
But Jesus also says that fathers withhold and protect from bad or harmful things. If we want to protect our children from things which are obviously harmful, how much more does our Heavenly Father want to protect us in profound ways? We tend to function between free-range ‘zero protection’ or helicopter ‘over protection’. Two other questions I hope my daughters will answer in the positive are, “Was dad safe? Did dad empower us?”
Fathers are a means of blessing and protection for their daughters.
…we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them… For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. (Hebrews 12:9–10)
For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.(1 Thessalonians 2:11–12)
Discipline means instruction that is both corrective and formative. Holistic discipline instructs in wisdom and guards from foolishness. It is guidance and warning.
The conversation around corrective discipline ends up being louder in both our culture and homes so we tend to spend more of our energy there, but that can lead to an unhelpful imbalance.
Holistic discipline teaches while correcting. With our tenacious, aggressive, playful son-with-two-sisters, we continually have to teach him what his hands are for. When he hits a sister, breaks Legos they’ve been working on, or is unnecessarily rough with them, while we are correcting him we also talk about why God gave him hands. He knows now, by four years old, that God gave him hands to love, protect, build, and serve. So, when he is harming, he is not loving or protecting; when he is breaking, he is not building; when he is taking, he is not serving. We do a similar exercise with the girls and their words since they tend to lash out with words.
Set an Example
… like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:10–12)
Setting an example is probably the most terrifying of the responsibilities of a father because the kids are always watching. You can teach your daughters all you want, but they will catch more of what you dothan what you say. There are few things more heartbreaking and convicting than to hear your own harsh words come out of your daughter’s mouth or to watch your own unloving actions get played out in real time through their little frames. And there are few things I’ve been more proud of than seeing them take things my wife and I have tried to instill in them and run with them.
The best example you can set is to repent and ask forgiveness from your kids. To admit sin, weakness, failure, foolishness – to own it to them and show them you need Jesus’ grace, forgiveness, and love as much as they do – is the best thing you can do for them. Biblical counselor Paul Tripp describes a family as three communities: sociological, theological, and redemptive. Any Mormon, Muslim, or Hindu family can be sociological or theological. What should make a Christian family distinct is the redemptive community of sinners and saints who share the same last name.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.(Psalm 103:13–14)
Love shows compassion with patient acceptance. God loves without wishing that the other was someone that he or she is not. As Luther said in the Heidelberg Disputation, “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.” We never want to base our love of our children on the expectation that they had better grades, made better decisions, were like our friend’s daughter, or weren’t so socially awkward.
Consider the way Jesus looked at Mary Magdalene at the Pharisee’s Varsity Team dinner party. Writing about this passage, Zack Eswine asks these haunting questions: Had any man ever looked at her like Jesus had? Was Jesus the first and only man who ever looked at Mary with eyes that didn’t lust, didn’t demean, didn’t want anything from her but simply loved her?
As a father of daughters, I hope I can love them in such a way that they know what it is for a man to love them for who they are, in weakness and strength, with their flaws and beauty. I do my best to enter into what they enjoy even when it’s awkward – which means I just drove our minivan singing Celine Dion at high volume with them. I want to be the first person to hold them when they’re hurt, to hug them when they come home with a note from the teacher. Our prayer for them every night is that God would help them to know how greatly they are loved by Him and us, right then and there, good day or bad.
The thing is, fathers, the only reason you can endure to bless, protect, discipline, set an example, and love your daughters is because you have a Heavenly Father who has done all this – and so much more! – for you.