On Daughters and Fathers

"To her, the name of father was another for love” – Fanny Fern.

When I think back on my childhood, I stumble upon a precious trove of memories regarding my Dad. There were so many days I’d meander into Dad’s office, plop down on the recliner, and just talk. It was in that space, Dad listened to my concerns, joys, and frustrations; in doing so, he always brought me closer to Christ. Our conversations were laced with laughter and imbued with love. Even to this day, a trip to my parents’ often means a special visit to my Dad’s office. Throughout my life, Dad has always been there.

Much of modern culture cajoles fatherhood as absent-minded and useless, but my Dad is the opposite. He is present, loving, and wise. His steadfast example always highlights the goodness of manhood while his love for my mother and care for me made me first aware of the importance of femininity.

A good father is crucial to his daughter’s life. His headship within the household influences the way she views the world and her own worth.

Some years ago, when my now-husband and I were on the brink of messing up our entire dating relationship, I turned to Dad.

He wasn’t feeling well, but without complaining over his own cross, he offered to help me carry mine. He did so by telling me a story about a little boy. A little boy who falls over and hurts himself. A little boy who succeeds at something he was determined to conquer. A little boy, who in times of hardship and triumph, has one woman holding him in her heart: his mother.

“His mother is the one he runs to when he’s hurting; she is the one who encourages him and cheers him on. When he feels beat up, he knows he can rest his head on her chest. But when he grows up, and life gets hard, he’s alone. He hopes to find a woman he will call his wife, and he will rest his head on her chest when he’s tired and weary. She’ll be the one who is there for him – cheering him on and holding him when he’s worn out from battling the world. A good man knows he will only find tenderness like that from his mother and later from his wife.”

Dad gave me permission to quit trying to prove myself; my worth isn’t tethered to my accomplishments; it is bound to the love God created us in. Clinging to Dad’s wisdom, what seemed like an impossible predicament became simple. A few months later, I was engaged and even now, there are many moments in my marriage, I find myself recalling Dad’s words.

Love is a response to someone’s being – a recognition that it is so good the person exists, rather than some kind of utilitarian admiration. It doesn’t keep score, and it doesn’t count the cost.

Dad’s example of fatherly care and masculinity revealed the goodness of my own femininity: a gift that highlights God’s tenderness and can rebuild men’s souls.

Good fathers cherish their daughters because they reflect God’s own fatherly care. God who is everything, Creator of all, is also intimately our Father. He loves us into existence and cares about each worry and ache – trivial or serious – in our hearts.

The good fathers in our lives may not always be our physical dads; sadly, we are suffering a pernicious attack on fatherhood and many hold deep wounds regarding their dads. Nevertheless, the good fathers in our lives may be our priests, brothers, a dear relative, or friend. Maybe we find that fatherly guidance in the intense love and protection of St. Joseph, who did everything to keep Mary and Baby Jesus safe.

And of course, we always have it, in every moment, from Our Heavenly Father, who loved you and wanted you well before you were even born (Jeremiah 1:5).

In a society that is more critical of fathers than celebratory, let us make it a point to honor the good men of this world! Physical or spiritual, fatherhood is a reflection of God’s own care for us – a role that reminds us that it is good you exist and that you were made for love.

By Ann Burns, a wife and mother, and founder of The Feminine Project, www.feminineproject.com.


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