Fathers and Daughters

If He so chooses, God speaks through rock music.I’m not sure John Mayer had that intention in mind when he recorded his song “Daughters,” but it spoke to me in a very spiritual and relational way not too long ago. This song is written from the perspective of a young man who is in a relationship with a woman who is the love of his life; he just can’t seem to convince her that she is worthy of that title. He says:

I know a girl/ she puts the color inside of my world/

But she’s just like a maze/ Where all of the walls all continually change/ And I’ve done all I can/ To stand on her steps with my heart in my hands/ Now I’m starting to see/ Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me/

He loves this girl. But as much as he loves her, needs her, tries his best to be her everything, he just cannot seem to figure out what it is he is going to have to do to get her to return his love and trust and affection. Now I’m sure that no man in this room has ever felt like the woman in his life is a maze whose walls move, but in that last line, he gives a very good observation that every man in the world should notice:

Now I’m starting to see/ Maybe it’s got nothing to do with me.

In the chorus, he gives an invaluable life lesson to all fathers and future fathers:

Fathers, be good to your daughters/
Daughters will love like you do.

He then says:

Girls become lovers who turn into mothers/
So mothers be good to your daughters too

But that’s another topic for another writing. This truth about fathers and daughters is something that we overlook in our culture today. In a time of feminism and the empowerment of women, we have forgotten that little girls need their daddies. It’s not enough that we are taught to be strong and independent and freethinking. A woman’s very self worth is found in the approval or disapproval of the men in her life. Daddies are the first men in our lives that give us a sense of security and protection. He is the one that confirms our femininity—or destroys our self worth and creates a world of insecurity.

An example of this can be found in the story of Susan. Susan had spent all afternoon getting ready for her first school dance. Being the typical tomboy, she had never really been interested in dresses or makeup or high-heeled shoes, but Susan had begun thinking these things might not be so bad. In fact, she even felt good in her new dress and was excited about the thought of putting on her mother’s makeup and being a “real woman.” She fought with the foundation, nearly poked her eye out with the eyeliner, and had to try twice to get her lipstick on straight, but when she looked in the mirror, she knew her persistence had paid off. She went downstairs and asked her father, “How do I look?” Her father looked up from his paper, smirked and said, “Who hit you in the eyes?” Susan said that she remembered running back upstairs in tears and locking herself in the bathroom and vowing that her first attempt at her new feminine look would be her last.

That one brief and, in her father’s mind, teasing moment shaped Susan’s view of herself for years to come. Why? A father’s approval or disapproval of his daughter shapes a girl’s image of herself. Whether you know it or not, you hold tremendous power over your little girl and her own self worth. Even if she doesn’t let on, your opinion is of vital importance to your daughter, no matter how young or old she it.

Our songwriter discussed this in his second verse:

Oh, you see that skin?/ It’s the same she’s been standing in
Since the day she saw him walking away/ Now she’s left/
Cleaning up the mess he made.

Often that mess ends up being her life. But this is such a depressing thought. What can we do to keep this from happening? There are some very easy ways. Love her, hug her, tell her she’s beautiful, never tease her or make fun of her, even if she’s tough and she can take it. Even those of us who are as tomboy as they come still have the hearts and emotions of little princesses. Be observant and do the little things that she doesn’t think you will notice. When I was in the sixth grade I tried out for the varsity basketball team at Ooltewah Middle School. I was so nervous about it because I was only in the 6th grade and I just knew that I didn’t have a chance of making the varsity. It didn’t help my nervousness that I knew my dad lived and breathed basketball. Lucky for me, Coach Crawford was no dummy, and he didn’t think it wise to be cutting a 5’8″ eleven year old, so I got to call home that morning during homeroom and tell my mom that I had made the varsity basketball team. When I got home that afternoon, I got off the bus and was greeted by a large cardboard sign that said, “Congratulations Rebekah” with basketball and confetti drawn all over it. It was taped to our garage door. My dad knew how important that was to me, and he encouraged me to go for it even when I didn’t think I could make it. And when I did make it, he made sure I knew how proud he was of me. Now of course, I was a 6th grader and was way too cool to ever let my dad know how much it meant to me, but 14 years later, I still have it.

My dad goes the extra mile like that now. A few months ago, he and Kevin Smith had the opportunity to have a boys’ night out at a Titans game in Nashville. Of course, since it was a boys’ night out, Dad asked Joseph to go with him. This of course left me fuming, because Joseph doesn’t have a Titans jersey with his name on the back of it; but I do. But dad called at half time to tell us just how good their seats were, and he asked me if there was anything he could bring home from the game for me. I told him he could bring home Drew Bennett, who is the Titan’s beautiful wide receiver. That was of course my sarcastically impossible request just to let him know I was still furious that I didn’t get to go. But when I left to go to work the next morning, a felt team flag was lying under my car keys on the table, and on the team flag was a huge picture of Drew Bennett. My dad brought Drew Bennett home for me! This isn’t to make anyone else feel bad, or to give you the impression that my dad and I have a perfect relationship. In fact, the 14 years between those events were tumultuous to say the least. But he has always gone the extra mile to make sure I knew that he wanted to be the most important man in my life.

This is the part where I give the daughters a hard time. Mr. Mayer addresses the reason for this tumultuous time in his last verse:

On behalf of every man/ Looking out for every girl
You are the god and the weight of her world

At first, I was a little skeptical of that line: “You are the god and the weight of her world.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how true that is. Dads should not be our gods, but when we are little, when our personalities are forming and being formed, our fathers shape how we see God. Genesis 1:27 says that both men and women are created in God’s image, which means that God possesses both male and female characteristics. He is the perfect parent because He is as tender, nurturing, and compassionate as He is firm, upright, and powerful. But because we refer to God as our Heavenly Father and not our Heavenly Parent, we often try to squeeze God into the mold that we have formed in the shape of our fathers. When we are young, our parents are our sole caregivers. We need them to provide everything for us. In the ideal situation, our parents enable us, as we grow older, to look less to them for our every need and look more to God for those needs. But unfortunately, our parents are not perfect and they are not always able to make that transition for us. That’s when our perceptions of our fathers can skew our perception of our Heavenly Father.

That’s what happened with me. I allowed my perceptions of my father to create misconceptions about God. When I was young, I thought my dad could do no wrong. He was the larger than life superhero that swooped into people’s lives in time of need and made things better. He was the rock people leaned on, the counselor who provided advice, and the teacher that lovingly corrected and taught people the truth. But as I got older, I began to see that most people only contacted my dad in times of need. When someone died suddenly, people called my dad. When a spouse walked out, when a child was arrested, when someone had made poor life choices and had hit rock bottom, then they called my dad. I began to see that people only needed my dad in times of crisis, and this shaped how I saw my dad as well. I began only allowing him in my life in times of crisis. “Dad, I overslept and am late for school.” “Daddy, I overdrew my checking account—again.” “Daddy, I really don’t want to go out with so and so tonight. Can you tell me I can’t so that I don’t have to tell them I don’t want to?” Other than that, I didn’t see why he needed to be in my life. I even began learning to do things for myself so that I didn’t have to bother him. I thought there were too many other people in crisis that needed him that I only needed to “bother” him in times of crisis.

I began looking at God the same way. Why should I go to Him with the little things in life when there are famines and wars and divorce and drug use and abusive parents? I began to let my relationship with God slip away because I didn’t want to bother Him with my little everyday problems. It has only been the last few months that I have begun healing those relationships not only with my spiritual father, but also my physical father. I recently read in a counseling book that “God as our true parent is not only concerned with the spiritual aspect of our lives, but he is also interested in the more mundane facets of our existence.” God is interested in our everyday, boring lives in Chattanooga, TN! He is interested in what I did at work today, He wants me to tell Him how ticked off I got at what my friend said, He understands how I could care less about working out today.

Have any of you allowed your perception of your earthly father cloud your view of your Heavenly Father? If you have, think about this: we often see God as the powerful, disciplinarian that sits in the clouds waiting to strike us down when we do wrong. On the other hand, we see Jesus, the Son as the loving sacrificial brother who hears our petitions and speaks on our behalf to the Father. While it is true that Jesus prays on our behalf when we don’t know what to pray, we must also remember that in the Trinity, Jesus and God are one in the same! Read through the Bible and find passages that describe Jesus. God as our father is loving, compassionate, kindhearted, tender. My favorite passage about Jesus is Mark 10:13-14 “And they were bringing children to Him so that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked the parents. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.'” This is a picture of our heavenly father. He desires us to be like little children. He wants us to crawl up in His lap and tell him all about our day. He loves us no matter what, and wants desperately to be a part of our lives.

But you might be saying, that’s all good, but I’m an adult, so what is there to do to heal the relationship with my dad? Like God, it’s never too late to come home. Dads, if it’s been a while since you’ve done it, tell your daughter that you love her, tell her that she’s beautiful, hug her when you see her. Do those little things that make women feel special. And daughters, don’t think that your dad isn’t interested in what’s going on in your life. Unless you play golf in the PGA or drive a stock car, he might not necessarily understand what’s going on in your life, but that doesn’t make him any less interested. Tell him about your work, your family. Ask him for advice, even if you don’t need it. We are self sufficient, independent women, but dads like nothing more than to feel needed.

So let him know that he is still needed.

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