This is part one of a series of posts on thoughts about parenthood. As we get ready to welcome our second daughter into the world on Tuesday, I have found myself reflecting on being a father to daughters and not only what that means in our culture but what it means as a Christian. What follows are some thoughts that have come to mind as I've reflected on being a father to daughters. There is a tremendous weight of fatherhood in general, but I think especially when you have daughters. Boys and girls are different. I always saw myself having boys for some reason, and when we found out that our first child was a girl, there was a wave of concern that I experienced. I am not, by nature, a tender person. Daughters need tenderness. I had anticipated teaching boys to be men, because at least I was somewhat more familiar with that, but now, I had to teach my daughter what to look for in a man as well as how to flourish in womanhood. I realized that she would take her cues from me as to what manhood, and more specifically Christian manhood looked like. That is daunting to say the least.
When I held Finleigh for the first time, there was a flood of emotions and thoughts that I didn't anticipate. I was honestly overwhelmed. As tears filled by eyes, I remember feeling an overwhelming love for this little girl that simply couldn't be expressed. She was my daughter. My little girl. At the same time, there was a barrage of thoughts that went through my mind. "I want to make sure nothing bad ever happens to her. I will do anything to protect this little girl. She is beautiful... she got that from her mama. What will it be like to walk her down the isle and give her away to a man as his wife? Will I be able to do that without sobbing like a baby? I wonder what she will be like? Will she like baseball? How can I possibly teach her everything she needs to know? How will I fail her, let her down, or hurt her? I can't believe that God gave this little girl to us... I hope we don't mess her up. How can I ever express to this little girl how much I love her? God... please bring about faith and trust in Christ and save her from her sin." Those were just a few thoughts that went through my mind.
As I processed these thoughts and emotions, and held my daughter and carried her for the first time for her to meet her mama, I was struck with the reality that I am totally inadequate for this task. I can't do this on my own, but, I have a father who can. For the first time, I understood the love of God for His children in a new way. I understood experientially for the first time the radical love He has for His children. A love that would drive Him to send His Son to die and claim them. And that was my only hope. My only hope is that God would do the work through me. That He would empower me and teach me what it means to be a father as I looked to His perfect example of fatherhood.
As we have been working through Romans, we have seen that God has revealed Himself in nature. He has revealed His character in creation. I would be willing to bet that my experience was not unique. That there are many others who are reading this that have experienced that wave of emotions and thoughts at holding your child for the first time. That experience is designed to point you to God. It's designed to show you His character. If we as sinful people can feel that way about our own children, how much more must God love and care for His children... perfectly. If I, a flawed human can want to protect my daughter, how much more is God, who is perfect and powerful able to protect His children? If I want to care for my daughter, how much more must God actually care for his children's needs. In that moment, I realized that my greatest aim as a father was to teach my child to trust me as a parable for her need to trust in Christ. She needs to learn that I am for her good and that I am working on her behalf. She needs to learn that I want her joy and that joy is found when she trusts and submits to me as her father. She needs to see my love expressed in my care, discipline, self-sacrifice and patient teaching. Don't we all need to learn that in relation to God in greater measure? Don't we all need to be reminded of God's care, provision and protection of His children? Of His self-sacrificing love and patient instruction of His children?
Do you see your relationship with God through faith in Christ in that light? Do you see Him as a perfect Father who is teaching you to trust Him more? While I have, and will fail my children, God never fails as a Father. He perfectly disciplines, loves, instructs, protects, provides and cares for His children. The question is, do you believe that? If you believe that truth of the gospel, it will transform not only how you live, but how you parent.