I wear a lot of hats and answer to a lot of titles, but few are worn more proudly and answered to more quickly than dad. Being a dad is heart-wrenching and heart-warming. It provides craziness and clarity. Loving my kids and trying to faithfully raise them reveals my weaknesses and also the strength that comes from God in those weaknesses. It is the toughest job and the highest calling, and while there are many brilliant dads out there with degrees in counseling and psychology, I’m not one of them. I’m just a regular guy trying to raise 2 sons and a daughter while still getting his dirty clothes off the floor.
This week, my daughter has been sick. At times, while she’s been on the couch or in the bed sleeping, I’ve watched her and thought about how quickly she’s growing up. I’ve thought about our Valentine’s Day date, our tea parties and our bedtime dances. I’ve also thought about things that I want her to know deep down in her soul. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but here are 4 things that I pray my daughter never forgets:
1. The beauty that captivates me can’t be captured.
We live in a culture that is camera crazy. We shoot videos, take selfies and even take group selfies called “ussies.” We’re so camera crazy that we’ve invented the term “ussie” which is beyond stupid and should never be uttered out loud. We duck face, fish lip, and try almost anything to get noticed by a lens somehow in hopes of making it big somewhere. We hold up models on the cover of magazines as models of who we should be. We dress like them, talk like them, walk like them, and at times, throw up our food after we’ve eaten like them. We’re obsessed with outward appearance, and you don’t need to be.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
In fact, when I stop and watch you, the beauty that I see in you that captivates me is a beauty far deeper than any lens will ever see. It comes from a heart filled with joy, with grace, with life. It bubbles up and overtakes a bad hair day. It spills out in a real life LOL – the kind when your mouth spreads so wide it almost hurts and you think you might look silly but you don’t care. The real beauty – the kind that the Bible speaks about in 1 Peter 3:4 – never fades and can’t be overcome by acne.
You’re beautiful when you dress up and when you dress down, because YOU are beautiful. And your dad is captivated by it.
2. Don’t chase a fairy tale; create one.
All around you the culture is screaming for you to do whatever it takes to find love. From reality shows to articles in magazines about how to find your prince charming, you’re being bombarded with a very dangerous message: fairy tales are true. But they aren’t, at least not the way we think of them.
For starters, they don’t just happen. This isn’t a 2 hour chick flick. This is real life, and in real life there isn’t a soul mate out there whose existence will magically make love easy. Loving someone and being loved by someone requires a lot more than an orchestrated soundtrack and a computer-generated sunset to walk into. It takes 2 imperfect people learning to love each other toward perfection, and that takes the real 4 letter word that a lot of people aren’t willing to do: W-O-R-K.
Fairy tales don’t come true because you meet your soul mate. They come true because you fall in love with your mate’s soul.
So don’t fall for the lie that fairy tales just happen. They don’t. But you can have one if you’re willing to go all-in over a lifetime to love one person deeply, honestly, and, well, soul-ly. Do that, and more than likely, someday you’ll find yourself looking into the eyes of someone who sees you – the real you – as he whispers the words from Song of Solomon:
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. (Song of Solomon 4:7)
Cue the violins and fire up the CG sunset.
3. If you ever become a statistic, you’ll never be a number.
We live in a fallen world where bad things happen to good people all the time. I wish it wasn’t true and that there was some way that we could love Jesus enough to make ourselves immune to it, but there isn’t. In fact, the last time I checked, 1 in 3 women will be sexually abused during their lifetime (source). If that statistic isn’t scary enough, consider this one: every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted (source). There are other stats out there that paint a horrific picture for your generation, stats that break my heart. 70% of teenage girls see drug use as a good way to deal with problems (source). 50% of teenage girls admit to unhealthy practices for maintaining what they think is an acceptable weight (source).
As your dad, numbers like that shake me to my core. Some of those girls made bad choices that led to them being a stat. Some of them had horrible things happen to them. I know that I am doing everything I can do, along with your mom, to surround you with the unconditional love that you need, and yet I also realize that so did a lot of the parents of the girls represented in those statistics.
Let me promise you this, and never doubt it as you grow: you are more than a number to me, and there is nothing that you could ever do – or have done to you – that will change that.
Make no mistake. When I read these statistics, I want to go to the Liam Neeson school of butt-kicking to make sure that I can protect you from every sinful act that could ever happen to you. But at the end of the day, I realize that even Mr. Neeson wasn’t able to keep his girl from being “taken,” and while that could leave me feeling helpless, it instead motivates me even more to make sure that you never forget this last thing:
4. My job as your dad is to give you to your Father.
As much as we joke about how you won’t date until you’re 40 and marry until sometime well beyond that, we both know the truth: someday you’ll be leaving. There will be a day when I will wake up and walk past your room on my way to make the coffee, except on this day, I won’t make it to the kitchen. Instead, I’ll lean against the door frame of your room and remember.
I’ll remember the snacks we ate under the tents you made with your blankets. I’ll remember the mornings when I’d wake you and sneak you a sip of my coffee. I’ll remember the nights that you would jump up in my arms and we would dance around the room while I sang to you:
I’m dancing with a princess all over the floor.
How could I have thought that I needed more than this?
To dance with a princess.
To dance with a princess.
Who’d have believed a man like me
Would dance with royalty?
I’m sure that I’ll cry on that day (heck, I’m crying now as I write this), but they won’t be tears of regret, because I’ve been preparing for that day your whole life. I’ve known since the day you were born and put in my arms that this was a temporary gig and that my real job as your dad was to give you back to the only Father who can really love you and protect you and nurture you more than me.
And I can’t begin to tell you how thankful I am that your Father allowed me to be your dad.
I love you.