Calling Strong Fathers [Book Excerpt]

The glory of children is their fathers.

—Proverbs 17:6

I don’t know why you picked up this book. Maybe someone recommended it, or perhaps your wife or a friend gave it to you. I don’t know if you’re examining it in a bookstore or skimming it while riding on a commuter train.

But if you are reading these words, three things are almost certainly true:

  1. You have a daughter you love.
  2. You are a conscientious man with a good heart.
  3. You desperately want to connect with your daughter and help her become a healthy adult.

It could be that your daughter is a teen or young adult who’s struggling. You’ve tried everything you can think of to help her. To date, nothing has worked. Maybe you’re at your wits’ end.

It could be that your daughter is still a young and reasonably compliant child—but she’s growing faster than bamboo in a tropical rain forest. And while you can’t shield her forever from every pain of life as she rockets toward adulthood, you want to spare her unnecessary heartache.

I don’t have to tell you our world is cruel to girls. Every day our daughters are exposed to ugly realities. The media assaults their worth. Peers and predators make them targets of verbal, emotional, and sexual abuse.

Often by the time a troubled, hurting girl shows up in my office, she’s depressed, addicted, infected (with an STD), or pregnant. Some of my patients have run away from home. Others are just waiting for the opportunity.

What’s the solution to this “daughter crisis”? It depends on whom you ask. Politicians call for more studies and new laws. Mental health professionals call for more counseling and empowerment programs. Women’s groups call for more sex education, birth control, and federal funding.

I’m calling for stronger fathers.

This is also the call of your daughter: “Be strong for me, Dad. Protect me. Teach me. Show me the way.” Girls think such things constantly, even when they can’t or won’t say them overtly. As wise King Solomon observed (in the verse cited above), the glory of a daughter is her father. In my book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know, I expressed it this way: “If you could see yourself as [your daughter] sees you, even for ten minutes, your life would never be the same” (pp. 4–5).

From experience, I know that when fathers don’t engage, when they fail to offer the masculine strength and guidance a mother is unable to provide, something goes wrong within the soul of a girl. I know this from thirty-plus years of practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine. I know this also from a mountain of scientific data. This is not an opinion; it’s a fact: girls get better and do better and are better when they are guarded and guided by strong, involved fathers. Conversely, girls don’t do well—they get lost and in trouble—when their dads go AWOL or become distracted.

No wonder the apostle Paul wrote this sobering warning in the New Testament: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart” (Colossians 3:21, NASB).

Heed the sacred warning: “Do not exasperate your children.” How does a father exasperate or discourage his daughter and cause her to lose heart?

I’ve seen this loss of heart happen in two primary ways: (1) when a dad is guilty of being harsh and making unreasonable demands; and (2) when a dad is guilty of gross inattention and neglect.

But I’ve also seen something else. I’ve seen fathers who nurture their daughters and enjoy great relationships with them. They do this by heeding the divine call to move strongly into their daughters’ lives. These girls are heartened, encouraged, and brimming with confidence.

The place to begin is with this essential truth: God is calling you. Being a father is a divine summons. This call transcends what I think as a doctor. It’s bigger even than what your daughter wants or needs.

Sadly, many men have difficulty hearing and embracing this high and noble calling. That’s because for decades fathers have been mocked and demeaned. Cultural voices ridicule your authority and deny your importance. Internal voices challenge your competence and suggest your efforts will be futile.

I want to encourage you to turn away from all that noise and listen to that other Voice.

Being a strong father is a high and holy calling, but it’s not a walk in the park. Being a dad is always tough, sometimes even terrifying. But like any great and worthy cause, when the risks are great, the rewards are even greater.

Late in life, Abraham was called by God to leave his homeland, go to a faraway place, and trust that his infertile, elderly wife would give him a son. He risked looking like a fool. But because he faithfully followed God’s call, the nation of Israel was born.

Moses was called by the Almighty to lead his fellow Israelites out of Egypt. He risked death, rejection, and failure. But because he went, millions found freedom and made their way to the Promised Land.

Paul was called to preach the Good News to people across Asia and Europe. He risked his reputation and his life, enduring great hatred and abuse for announcing a message of love. But because he heeded the call of God, countless people through the ages have found hope and redemption. Instead of choosing to make excuses, these men chose to make a difference. This is the mark of a great man.

Being “all in” when it comes to being a father to your daughter is as important as anything you’ll ever do.

Will you heed the call?

PRAY

God, there’s so much I don’t understand about being a father—especially being the father of a daughter. But I have to believe You entrusted me with this precious child for a reason. And the truth is, if I don’t step up to the plate, who will? If I don’t answer the call to guard her and guide her through life, who will? I don’t want to exasperate my daughter and cause her to lose heart. So please give me wisdom. And please supply courage. I want to be the kind of father who makes his daughter proud and who points her in the right way. Amen.

FLEX  YOUR  DAD MUSCLES

Take a few minutes and write out a list of your hopes and dreams for your daughter, such as:

  • I want my daughter to know at the core of her being that she is loved unconditionally by God and by me.
  • I want my daughter to value honesty and to grow into a woman of integrity.
  • I want to help my daughter become discerning when it comes to evaluating cultural ideas, invitations from peers, and potential friends and boyfriends.

Then make a separate list of the challenges your daughter is currently facing. For example:

  • My daughter is painfully shy and lacks self-confidence.
  • My daughter is struggling in school.
  • My daughter is beautiful and people only seem to notice and comment on her appearance.

Take your lists, review them, pray about them, and then set them as an action plan for your role as a father.

To read the rest of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters Devotional, purchase  your copy here.