I read in a book recently about people striving for affirmation because they didn’t get that from their fathers when they were young. The exact quote was, “When your dad yet again fails to register any appreciation for an accomplishment that means a lot to you, remind yourself what his dad must have been like” (Thanks for the Feedback).
And my heart ached at the thought because I can’t imagine that kind of pain. I can’t imagine it because I’ve never known it.
Granted, my father is not perfect – and he’d say that himself. But what he’s never failed to do my entire life is encourage me. Although we kids would laugh about how he’d say, “I haven’t said this in awhile, but I love and appreciate you” – because he said it all the time – we needed to hear it. We might have brushed it off as a “Dad-ism,” but it was building strong bonds of affection and trust that made our childhoods secure.
Dad has always told me he was proud of me. No matter what I did, he was there to cheer me on – basketball games, theater performances, college graduations – he was there with a smile and a hug and those words that are so valuable to a child’s ears – “I’m proud of you.”
He has also been faithful about writing me notes of encouragement with Bible verses or calling me on the phone to say that God laid it on his heart to pray for me. And it’s not a coincidence that those calls and notes came when I needed them the most.
And of course, one of the most poignant of those times was the night I had my heart broken. He knocked on my bedroom door, came in, and just held me and cried with me.
A man like that – a man who can weep with his daughter, who can cheer on her shows and games, who can call her just because she needs to be encouraged – that kind of man gives a gift of incredible worth to his daughter.
The gift of confidence and value.
When a father tells his daughter she is beautiful, she learns to have confidence in the way she is made.
When a father is there for her at her events, it tells her that what she does is worthwhile.
When a father takes the time to encourage his daughter, she knows that she has a champion and someone to rely on.
When a father tells his daughter that he is proud of her, she begins to take pride in herself – and she will never forget his words of affirmation.
She comes to know her worth in Christ because he reiterates it to her. She comes to know that she has value and that she doesn’t have to go looking for that in the cheap promises of men who mean her no good.
She learns the love of her heavenly Father because her earthly father reflected that to her in his words and actions.
So many studies have shown that girls with absent fathers are more likely to have teen pregnancies or unstable relationships later on in life – because they didn’t have that foundation of love and trust set by the first man in their lives – their fathers.
A few years ago, during the month of February I was doing different things to demonstrate love, and one of them was a note to my father with this quote on the front:
“If I know what love is, it’s because of you.”
And it’s true – because all my understanding of what love should be from a man has been first demonstrated by my father. Dads have the most beautiful opportunity to demonstrate to their daughters the sacrificial love that they will need to look for in a relationship. They have the chance to show them what a godly man is – a man searching the Scriptures daily, down on his knees in prayer, spending time daily with his family.
My dad gave me that incredible gift, and I don’t ever want to take it for granted, especially with the scores of broken families and absent fathers in the world today.
If you are one of those people with an absent father, this post most likely feels like a slap in the face – like I’m flaunting my great gift of a dad when so many don’t have that. That’s not at all what I meant it to be, because my heart does ache for your loss.
But rather, I write this as a tribute and thank you to my father, and as a challenge and thank you to all dads out there everywhere.
It’s hard to be a dad, I know. It’s hard when the kids are little and stubborn and need spankings constantly. It’s hard when they’re teens and think they know better than you and argue all the time. It’s hard when kids are ungrateful for your sacrifices and don’t see that you’re making the best choices for them.
But it’s all worth it. It’s worth it, because even if they don’t recognize it at the time, you are instilling into them the worth and value that they will grow up to embrace and then use for good in the world.
My daddy sacrificed a lot for his family. But he did it because he loved us, and he loved the Word of God, which formed all the decisions that he made. And because of that love and sacrifice that both he and my mom gave to me, and by the grace of God, I am the person I am today.
Not perfect, but a girl who has quiet confidence, deep joy, and an exciting purpose for life.
Thank you, Daddy, for giving me that gift my whole life. Your love is something I will forever cherish.