This past Thursday our oldest daughter, Megan, turned sixteen years old. For this very special occasion in her life David wrote a letter. When he handed it to me to read I had no idea the emotions that would overwhelm me as I read it. I literally was weeping out loud as I thought of the love that he had for her and more important the love that her heavenly father has for her.
Here are the precious words that my husband communicated to his oldest daughter- I pray that these words would change and shape you if you are a teenage girl, a dad, a mom or anyone waiting for God to provide someone to love you the way you deserve to be loved......
About sixteen years and seven months ago we got some bad news on our second visit to the doctor. It seemed like you might not make it through the pre-born portion of your life. I went into full prayer and action mode – calling everyone I knew for prayer and racing around Dallas TX to find the right medicine that the doctor had prescribed. At this point we didn’t know if you would be a son or a daughter, but this was the first instance I can remember of what it felt like to be a dad and have a child whom you love with a fierce intensity. I’m so glad you arrived safe and healthy. As we brought you home from the hospital a new clarity started to grow – it wasn’t just about becoming a dad, it was about being a dad to a daughter. And I remember whispering to you a phrase that I have said thousands of times since, “I’ll always love you.” It was sixteen years ago, but it is easily today.
One day, if God allows, you will know how deeply a parent loves a child. It is an irrational but unmistakable force that beats through the heart of a parent. But you will never know how intensely a father loves a daughter. A father’s love is tough for me to describe. It is a combination of strength and softness that sometimes is confusing, unless you are the dad – because you know what it feels like and how genuine and pure it is. A father’s love hovers over the delicate treasure of his daughter’s life in both strong and soft ways. This is why sometimes I’m so “over-the-top” about any influence that would come in your life and at the same time I can be a “pushover” when it comes to giving you what you want. But a loving dad knows that a daughter thrives inside a safe barrier – and that barrier is who I am. I am a preserving force trying to counteract the millions of forces that are constantly trying to destroy the innocence of your life at every stage.
In twenty-two years of serving others in ministry, I have seen many women weep with a deep ache when they look back on their life and cannot see or feel the protective barrier of a father’s love. It is a deep, painful cry that is filled with regret and sorrow. Girls need dads. And when that force is not felt, there is a cruel reality that invades. The worst thing a dad can do sometimes is nothing. And yet that is what our world wants to relegate us dads to – worthless, uninvolved, uncaring and unimportant. I have a unique vantage point, where I can see the brokenness of young ladies who have been deprived of this force. They are vulnerable (but seemingly strong) young women who seek self-worth in the affection of a young man – having never received it from a dad. The soft, powerful force of a dad’s love shakes the cruelty of the world from a daughters heart and makes an enduring impression on her life like no other influences can. It is amazing what showing love at eight does for a little girl when she is twenty-eight or thirty-eight. It builds a confident foundation for that girl to stand on for the rest of her life.
The first sixteen years have hopefully been fun, full of experiences and joys that you will always look back on and smile. They are foundational and not insignificant, but I have formed the majority of these years. The next sixteen years will be an adventure of you launching out and into your own experiences… a season that forms the rest of your life. You will face the challenge of turning your deep childlike faith in Jesus, that I have led you to, into a mature trust of God that is forged as you decide to trust him time after time. The pursuit of purity, that you have begun, will need to grow in intensity as the pressures of our culture press in on you. And your beautiful, selfless heart for “the least of these” in our broken world will face the challenge of getting crowded out by the million other opportunities (both good and evil) that will be presented to you.
You don’t fully grasp it now, but some day in the middle of some difficult days, you will discover what I have been doing for all these years. The words that I whispered to you for many years will come back and in the depth of your pain (and sometimes in the middle of your free fall) you will suddenly feel this foundation beneath you – soft but strong saying “I will always love you.” I know you love me and I know you respect me more than any other man on earth. However, I haven’t been molding your delicate heart all the years to chase after me, but to run with purpose to our God. My leadership is intended to just give you a small (and imperfect) glimpse of the incredible power that is over all things, including you. I know our God will catch you – softly but with unmistakable strength.
When that time comes, my love that leads you to His love will be my absolute greatest gift to you. A picture of a powerful and tender-hearted God, which I have revealed to you interaction after interaction and pursuit after pursuit, will come and catch you. My own love, however incomplete and imperfect, will make more sense to you in the new understanding of His complete and perfect love. In that moment, my hope is that you would say, “God is so good, He loves me always” followed by “Thanks, daddy!” And I will be content with my love seeming small as you are swept up in His relentless, overwhelming love. You are not mine… you are His. And I will rejoice as you worship Him because you know Him and you have tasted and seen that He is good.
I hope that my care for you brings you a clear understanding of the love of our Savior. Unconditional. Tender. Sacrificial. Consistent. Present. I hope that my true affection is a contrast to the multiple deceptions that masquerade as love in this world. I hope that the sight of your daddy in all-out worship of Christ gives you the courage you need to raise your own heart up in praise for everyone to see. I hope my authentic and transparent confession of my own sin and weakness will drive you to the feet of Jesus when you see your own sin. I hope that you will not simply mimic my faith, but truly embrace Jesus Christ as the central focus of your own.
Sweet daughter of mine, please do not settle. Love Christ completely. And then love a man who loves Christ more than you – and loves you more than himself. Be attracted to tenderness, self-restraint, sacrifice, consistency and humility. Love a man who does not fear your emotions but fears our Lord. Don’t marry a boy… no matter how old he is. Do not fall for the first young man who shows you attention. Rather, follow a man who imitates the love and grace of Jesus.
I am sad about the general condition of the average young man (and I’m working hard to improve this as a father your brothers). I regret that the average young man knows more sports trivia than scripture, understands more gaming than managing a budget, and treats a gun or a dog with more respect than they do a lady. I realize a godly man is hard to find. But find it. Or better yet let him find you. Lose yourself so deeply in our God, that to find you, he has to seek Him. Otherwise you will spend your life raising the man you hoped you married. The church and this world are filled with boys masquerading as men. Let them pass. Trust God. And wait patiently.
The man you are looking for is not a boy. He is a servant. He cares for your needs more than he does his own. If I am at all the man I claim to be, I hope you can look at your father’s love for your mother and know what I am talking about. I hope your heart will recognize it when you see it, because you have grown up with it and it is familiar to you. The man who will lay down his life for yours, you can gladly give yourself to him. The man who sacrifices himself is easy to serve sacrificially.
I have only intended my love to serve as a high-water mark in your heart. No love except Christ’s love will rise above mine. This way, when a man – whom I pray for often – comes along and exceeds your father’s love, you will willingly and gladly give him your heart. And I (secretly desiring to shoot him and bury his remains in an undisclosed location) will lovingly pass on my treasure to that man.
This ring is a symbol and a reminder of my protective love. And on that day, when my love is surpassed in your heart by the love of another true man, we can both rejoice as you gladly give your whole self to him. On that day you will enter into a whole new experience of discovering the love of Jesus Christ and who his bride is in response… and you will receive another ring. Until then let this ring guard you and prepare you to be fully ready to embrace all the blessing that our perfect heavenly father long to lavish on us.
I will always love you,
I can't wait to see the perfect ring that she and David pick out together- I look forward to the years seeing it on her hand. I also pray for the day it is removed. The day that I see this faithful loving father give our daughter away to a man who exceeds David's love for my precious Megan!