To the Fathers

This is a testimony that I wrote and gave at a Father-Daughter banquet early last year. I think it is appropriate to honor my Father right now by sharing this. May it be an exhortation and encouragement to you as well.

The photo to the left of my sister Jordan and Poppie was taken a couple of years ago on the Baton Rouge barge dock downtown. I had it printed and framed for Fathers day that year.

Good evening –
I don’t think there’s anyone here that doesn’t know my sister, myself and my Father – or “Poppie” – as many of you affectionately refer to him. What some of you may not know is that I am the 5th of 6 daughters – 6 daughters who were raised in a ONE bathroom house. I think it would be fair to say that my Daddy has had his share of experience raising girls!

I want to testify tonight about the difference that the words of a Father can make to his daughter. Right now you are “the man” in your little girls’ life. I can only imagine the great weight of responsibility that comes with parenthood. But I want to encourage you to take advantage of this small window of opportunity that’s been given to you to endear yourself to your little girls.

My Father isn’t perfect, and I don’t believe he would have me give you that impression. But I want to share with you some of the things he has done, raising us, that have made a lasting impact on my life. My sister and I, like most little girls, loved to play dress up. We spent hours in our room playing with makeup, veils, crowns and frou-frou dresses. When we dressed up we would wait in the front yard for Poppie to get home from work so that we could show off our handiwork. We were rarely disappointed. He would tell us how beautiful we were – even if we had mascara on our noses or lipstick out of line. It didn’t matter that our dresses were 5 sizes too big and stained with kool-aid. In this way he earned our constant affection and devotion. We knew we were pretty because “Poppie said so!” and he was the final word.

As we grew older the dress-up sessions were a little more serious. We came home from shopping excursions with Momma to show off our purchases. No matter what he was doing Poppie would pause to look at all the new things and give his approval. But it never really mattered what we wore. We always knew that we were beautiful – inside and out- because He took every opportunity to tell us so. Countless times he spontaneously looked at one or both of us and said something like, “I am so blessed to have such pretty girls who love Jesus SO much.”

The consistent affirmation we received has had lasting repercussions as we’re entering adult life. Today, as a young woman who has been taught to be modest in all things – protecting the eyes of the young men around me – I feel confident that I can go unashamed to my father after purchasing something and ask, “Hey Pop, is this immodest? Do you see any reason that I should return it?” And I trust that he will give me an honest answer, looking out for my best interest, and helping me guard my virtue. I have learned to value his opinion first as my father, but also as a man.

It should be no surprise that in our culture media plays a part in shaping the image that young girls strive to achieve. But I’m here to tell you that fathers have a vital role in shaping who their daughters aspire to be. It’s almost cliché to say this; Your words as a father hold the power of life and death. I cannot explain why I want it, and I can’t get rid of the desire for my Fathers approval. As a child, I craved his laughter. I would put on the most ridiculous antics and tell him endless knock-knock jokes just to know that I put a genuine smile on his face. Conversely, because I crave his approval, his criticism or correction strikes deeper than almost anyone else’s. To this day there a few things that humble me as much as the stern voice of my Father. Without even knowing or meaning to, a Father can inflict lasting wounds on his daughter through harsh criticism – especially of her appearance. But the knowledge that her father is proud of her, that he values her, no matter how many opportunities she’s given him for disappointment, can be the core of confidence for a girl of any age.

Let me give you an example. I was not the most popular girl in middle school. I was awkward around boys, I had frizzy hair – and I was the “goody-two-shoes”. I particularly remember one day that my dad dropped me off at school. He joined hands with me, praying briefly as he always did before letting me go. As soon as he looked up at me he tugged on one of my pigtail braids and said, “I love it when you wear your hair like this. It makes me feel like you’re still my little girl who isn’t growing up too fast.” That simple statement made my day! I walked through the gates of the school grinning from ear to ear and joined my friends. The first thing one of the boys said to me was “Why do you wear your hair like that?? It looks so stupid. You look like a little farm girl.” I couldn’t have cared less. What that silly boy thought about me paled in comparison to the glowing approval I’d just received from my Father. And those boys knew it. As a result they were terrified of my “precious Poppie”, who despite his 6’4” frame, is a big teddy bear. They knew he had my heart. He spoke words of encouragement and affirmation and without even knowing it my Father protected me from seeking the attention of other boys. He spared me so much heartache and insecurity through his uplifting words.

I look back and I know that because I was secure in my fathers’ love and affection, I didn’t need the affection of any other boy. I didn’t go seeking the attention that so many girls do – and they come back with broken hearts that they’re too ashamed of to turn to their Fathers. Please – take every opportunity to share with your daughters how beautiful each of them are. Be sparing and thoughtful with criticism. I know for some of you this may not be easy. The Word of God says that “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” It is vital that your daughters hear your heart for them. It can, and it will make a lasting impact on how they view themselves for the rest of their lives. Because if you don’t say the things she needs to hear from a man, then she will find someone else who will…

Allow me to note that your little girl will never grow tired of hearing your heart. Just last week I got a voicemail from my Poppie. He was just calling to tell me – with tears choking his voice – how much he cherishes me and how proud he is of the godly woman I have become. He left a similar message on Jordans phone. I have no idea what prompted this, but it made me feel incredibly cherished. As a single young lady without a date in sight, I still need to hear those words from my Father.
I want to take this opportunity to say Thank You to my Poppie. Thank you, for your fervent prayers, and your constant encouragement that has helped me become a woman who is growing in character. I love you.

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3 thoughts on “To the Fathers

  1. Dag, yo.I've had the strangest inclination that I'll have daughters for the longest time, so i'm just getting ready for it. Posts like this help. I find it amazing that his encouragement towards modesty actually helped you be more modest not begrudgingly but out of an actual desire to be modest. It's something I find lacking in the Christian community. Also, that was my big takeaway from my trip to Pittsburgh, a conversation with a Muslim girl from Kuwait where we were actually able to talk about intelligent things undistracted because she was covered everywhere but her face.http://afterfb.blogspot.com/2011/03/lessons-from-cultural-interchange.html

  2. Sweet Rebekah! I miss my dad. He died 36 years ago…how much I have missed, but oh boy, how much he has gained being with the Lord!!!! I thank the Lord He has given you such assurance with your earthly Father but more important is your heavenly Father. I see so many women who are in such a hurry to get married when they havent been "married" to Christ first…..you are precious. love MJ

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