The relationship between a father and a daughter is crucial to her emotional well-being and self-esteem. I don’t need to read any research studies (of which there are many) to tell me this is a fact. I see it reflected in my life and in the lives of women around me.
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The lack of a strong emotional bond with her daddy can have a life-long effect on a woman. That relationship is so important that it affects a woman’s view of her relationship with God.
I grew up with a father who was a frustrated perfectionist. He liked things to be “just so” and his way was the only right way to do things. Having seven children, you can imagine that rarely were things done to his specifications. This led to much disappointment and frustration for dad. He had a difficult time forgiving others and letting go of past mistakes. He struggled to express affection verbally or physically to those around him, including his family members. This combination of unforgiveness and lack of affection led to deep feelings of shame and unworthiness in his offspring. His children loved him and would have done anything to win an encouraging word from him, but he was incapable of communicating praise. It was a mark of his own brokenness, and I only bring it up to warn parents of the consequences to their children if they are modeling this kind of behavior.
You can imagine that my view of God was skewed for many years. I knew God loved me and offered forgiveness for my sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world (that means you and me!), that He gave His only begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever (anyone!) believes in Him (Jesus) should not perish but have everlasting life.” I understood that in my heart and I clung to that truth. Yet for many years, the slightest mistake or failure on my part would send me running in shame from God. I knew He must be disappointed in me and that I had proved myself unworthy of His love. Of course, that is a lie from the pit of hell, but I battled those thoughts for many years. Truth be told, I still battle those feelings sometimes.
My life radically changed at the age of 17 when I accepted Christ as my Savior and finally found peace and forgiveness. Almost immediately God gave me such a love and understanding for my father. God graciously showed me what a broken person my dad was inside. He didn’t know to behave any different than he did. Dad was from that generation of men who did not express their feelings. He was the strong and silent type. Even if he had recognized that what he was doing was wrong, he would not have known where to go for help, or dared to ask for it.
With God’s help, I was able to let go of past hurts and resentments. I worked hard for the rest of my father’s life to build a relationship with him. I called several times a week and traveled twice a month to visit for probably the last twelve years of his life. I wrote letters and notes. It took tremendous courage, but I began to hug him and tell him I loved him. He was stiff and uncomfortable at first, but slowly, he began to respond. I confess that for years, I cried each time he put his arms around me. We had many conversations about his life and work. I am thankful for every moment.
You may be wondering, “How can you say you never knew your father when you spent so much time with him?” You see, there is a difference in spending time with someone talking about their work and their life and having real conversation. Our conversations revolved around my dad and his work. Topics he was comfortable talking about. He did not initiate conversation. He did not ask about my life, my work, my passions, my kids. He didn’t really take the time to know me. It is a loss I feel to this day, but I chose to accept the relationship that my father was willing to give to me. I treasure the knowledge that in heaven our relationship will be the way God intended it to be.
If you are a father, please hear me when I say your relationship with your daughter is vital to her spiritual and emotional well-being. Let your relationship with your little one be such a reflection of God’s love and grace that she can’t help but be drawn to relationship with her heavenly Father.
Maybe you see yourself having made some of the same mistakes as my dad. It is never too late to begin a better relationship with your child. It may take time and work to build the relationship, but start today. Spend time with her. Offer encouragement and guidance. Listen. Pray together. When she disobeys or fails you, correct her and offer forgiveness. Your words and actions will have a life changing effect on your daughter and may determine her eternal relationship with God.
There is an old song that always makes me think of my dad. It is called, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew”.