S. Scott Willet
I remember when my oldest daughter had her first date. I was there. She was just under two years old, and I was her escort. Having been uncharacteristically away from home for a week, I knew she needed some special time with the man of her life. We went out for popcorn together, at the food court of a local department store. We shared a Pepsi. She was thrilled.
She goes on dates with me with some regularity now, although they cost a bit more these days. (A friend with a teenage daughter tells me that that trend will continue!) And since the Lord in his goodness and mercy has blessed my wife and me with two more daughters, it is now my privilege to escort each of these little ladies on occasions on which I aim to teach them how to be loved by a man.
It has already become a treasured family tradition that each of my beloved girls be graced with the opportunity to be with their father for an extended date on their birthday. This has come to include dinner at a restaurant, an overnight stay at a hotel with a swimming pool, and a visit to a prominent nearby tourist attraction. After months of anticipation, each one wears her favorite dress for me, dressing herself up in more than her Sunday best in a not-too-subtle attempt to gain my affection and approval. They succeed marvelously.
In all of this, I have come to know well and understand clearly the heart of a little girl. It is a heart shaped and formed by God to be loved-by a man. At this early stage in the life of my daughters, that means me. In the marriage counseling I give to others, I often note that the basic human emotional needs are rather easy to identify, at least in a simplified form. They correspond to the Pauline exhortations to husbands and wives found in Ephesians 5:22-33. While men have a normal "need" to be honored and respected, women typically have a natural "need" to be loved.
So it is for us husbands, that the duty assigned to us by Jesus is not to see that we are honored or to enforce our God-given authority, but rather to see that the partner in our lifelong marriage covenant is loved. Deeply loved. Treasured. Nourished and cherished. (I might add, with no selfish ulterior motives intended, what godly woman is there who would not willingly and joyfully honor the one who so treasures her very existence?)
So it is that I wish for my daughters to learn how to be loved by a man. And as they grow up, I do not wish for their tutors to be inexperienced or immature boys of their own age. During these early years of their development, that teacher in this greatest of life's classrooms should be their father. My goal is simple, that as I love them as they ought to be loved, they will not settle for anything less in a husband.
I wish with all my heart that my daughters will be enabled by God to go through their teenage years without the horrible female insecurities so characteristic of our age, insecurities that cause young women to seek affection in any male who will give them attention. It is those insecurities that cause women to endure rudeness and boorish behavior, or even violent and abusive mistreatment. Ultimately, it is that instinctive quest for male attention that can lead to morally inappropriate physical intimacy, and that can have lifelong, devastating consequences-all in a vain effort to be loved.
In that wish, and prayer, I know that I am a means of their sanctification. I know that I am commanded, with full acknowledgement of my own sinful propensities, to avoid provoking them to wrath (Eph. 6:4). And so, while my wife and I teach them the eternal truth that "charm is deceitful and beauty is passing" (Prov. 31:30), I give them my loving affection. I come home each day from my work to their hugs and kisses. And while I faithfully teach them about "the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Pet. 3:4), I affirm and stimulate their feminine beauty when expressed with the purity of modesty and genuine devotion.
The heart of a little girl is so easily exasperated, so easily frustrated. My own sinful harshness or inappropriate impatience brings out the worst in them. My neglect of them frustrates them. But my gentleness stimulates them. My attentiveness delights them. And my affection, while at times needing to be joined together with my fatherly discipline, provokes their own submissiveness and eagerness to please me.
So I let them please me! I delight when they bring me a glass of cold water when I have worked up a sweat working outside. I praise them when they rub my back after a hard day's work. I have them sit on my lap while I read to them each night before bed. I call them on the phone when I am away from home. I buy them modest gifts as the expression of my love. And I show them that I love their mother most of all, the woman who has made it her calling to teach these little ones by her own example what a godly woman is to be.
I have many hopes for my children, none greater than that they walk in the truth all the days of their lives. With an earthly perspective, my greatest hope is that each one be blessed by a man to whom I could hand over this responsibility to love so deeply. My prayer for each of my precious daughters is for a man to whom she could present herself as a suitable helper, whom she could love and honor with her whole body and soul as long they both shall live.
So I pray that there would be a father out there, in God's good providence, teaching his son how to be a good husband for my precious little one. I pray for that future husband, that he would well receive the gift that I am trying to prepare for him, so that he might nourish and cherish her and be willing to lay down his life for her, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her, "that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27).
The author is the pastor of Covenant Community Church (OPC) in Staunton, Va. He quotes the NKJV. Reprinted from New Horizons, May 2005.