The house smelled perilously like the makeup counter at the mall. A terrific blend of scent that elicited in my nervous system a universal alarm:
DANGER! DO NOT ENTER.
The Frozen soundtrack resounded at decibels far beyond my comfort level. And in our living room were flowers, candles, and a stack of the biggest, fluffiest, whitest towels you’ve ever seen outside of a five-star resort.
I was in over my head. Way over my head.
It all started years ago when my little daughter, Abigail, had begun receiving regular foot scrubs from her very gracious Grammy on our summer visits back East. Abigail would lie back like royalty as Grammy morphed into a Mother Teresa/beauty salon professional amalgam, blessing Abs’ feet with scrubs, soaks, creams, and all sorts of feminine wonder from which I kept a safe distance.
Back at home in Colorado later that summer, tucked safely in the ruggedness of the mountains, the visions of those foot scrubs evaporated like a perfume sample in the magazine at the dentist’s office.
But then, during a quiet pause in our home on a Sunday morning, Abigail sprang the question. Turning to me with her big, ocean-blue eyes, she said, “Daddy, will you give me a foot scrub like Grammy does?”
She might as well have been messaging in Braille—it did not compute. I was caught flat-footed and speechless.
In the split second before I could calculate a self-protective reaction, I sensed the Holy Spirit whispering,
“Go all in.”
So, with that, I simply said, “You bet, baby.”
Little did I know what my “yes” would become over four years of wading into these waters.
One foot scrub turned into many. And from many came a lifestyle of relating to this little feminine creature entrusted to my care. Pedicures gave way to mani-pedis, which then bloomed into an unlikely apprenticeship in the ways of boutique nail salons.
Full disclosure: I actually created a Pinterest account at the coaching of some womenfolk so I could access better images for painting custom roses on Abigail’s five-year-old nails. But it didn’t stop there. Weeks turned into months, which turned into years. And I now find myself, with alarming regularity, studying YouTube videos of middle school girls demonstrating the ins and outs of hair braiding technique and design. The Flopsy, the Waterfall Twist… Fellas, let’s just say it is far more art than science. And I’m far more comfortable with a knife than a comb.
We were nearing Abigail’s seventh birthday when she asked if I would host a “salon party” for her and her best friend. Again, red alert rushed through my masculine soul. You know the sound of the infamous submarine warning blast…. it screamed in my head, “Ah-OOO-ga, ah-OOO-ga, dive, dive, dive!”
And again, in that holy pause—some micro space where I’m learning to let Jesus transform a reaction into a response—I heard Him say, “Go all in. We can do this.”
So, while my flesh was screaming “Dive,” somehow out of my mouth came these supernatural words: “I would love to, Abs. What a great idea!”
And so it began—dreaming, wondering, even naming: The Daffodil Salon.
We found an old frame for the sign Abigail and I created together. And let’s face it, if you are going pro, you might as well have the right tools…and they aren’t cheap. So cash from the hunting fund went to purchase a set of nail brushes that would make the Pinterest folks redder than their polish with envy. (Before long I’ll need a holster for all these weapons.)
The front room of our little suburgatory home was transformed into a place of beauty. And thanks to a last minute Mayday text to a father of three girls, I acquired the most essential ingredient: TIARAS. I mean, how could I forget?
A table for two was set, abounding with feminine delights. The bathtub was overflowing (literally—no one told me how little soap you need for a bubble bath!) with bubbly bliss, flutes of sparkling white grape juice at the ready, and candlelight all around. It was…glorious.
And late that evening, as I tucked her into bed, these were the words of my baby girl:
“Daddy, this is the best birthday ever.”
What more could a father’s heart ask for and receive?
Truth be told, I can’t imagine life without diving into the world of the feminine heart of my Abigail. I cherish touching the feet of my little princess, speaking the supernatural blessings of the Kingdom of God into her body and her soul, receiving the privilege of pouring out physical affection on her. I have found few things that matter more.
And here’s why.
Because my daughter has a question.
Often I miss it, my sight obscured by layers of distraction, routine, and busyness; other times it is camouflaged in her and only expressed in nuanced body language or the spilling out of pent-up emotion caused in part by my missing her heart. But still it is there. A question—questions—she is asking most waking moments of every day.
Am I worth my Daddy’s attention? What is my Daddy like? What is his heart toward me? Who am I to him? Is there something in me worth pursuing, knowing, exploring? Is there something in me worth drawing near to? Is there something in me worth spending his time and strength to be near and known and enjoyed?
And it is my holy assignment to answer these questions in a way the affirms her worth today and one day propels her on to a mature and expansive understanding of her True Father’s heart for her.
A thousand times, Yes.
The day will come sooner than I want when she will grow into needs that extend far beyond me. Not in the the sense that she won’t still need an earthly dad; rather in a deeper Kingdom reality she’ll need much, much more.
The greatest gift I can give her today is to model what the Father is like and then give her access to Him to be everything He promises to be.
All of us have learned the Father wrong. In some cases, as George MacDonald points out, “it would have been better not to have known Him, than to have learned Him wrong.” You don’t have to look far to see that in our world.
But as we ourselves seek to unlearn where we have learned Father wrong and instead learn Him as He truly is, as we receive increasing revelation of Sonship, becoming in experience the sons of God that we in fact already are, we have the opportunity to help our children learn Him more and more as He truly is.
I guess that’s why I dusted off a suit and a neck snake I’d barely worn since the corporate days and found myself shaking it to Taylor Swift and flapping my wings in the chicken dance at the Daddy-Daughter Dance last Friday.
I only get one chance at this pony ride. Her deeper-than-words-perception of what the Father is like is forming every day, primarily through how Cherie and I choose to relate with her.
More than anything else in this world, this is what I want her to know through my actions:
“Abigail, your Daddy’s heart is made full by your beauty. You are not too much. And you are more than enough. I love who you are as a girl. I love who you will one day become as a woman. You are unquestionably worth pursuing. You are worth it for me to enter into your world. You are worth all the growing and stretching that requires in me. You are the delight of my heart, and you have utterly captured me in every way. You are the treasure of my life and you have my ‘Yes.’”
The storms will come, oh, how we know, and one day she will need a Daddy far greater, far stronger than I, a Daddy who is funnier, kinder, more generous, more courageous.
And on that day, my hope and prayer is that she will know in her whole person something true about His heart because of what she has learned of Him through me.
I feel so much like what I imagine Paul must’ve felt as he surveyed the gap between who he was and who he longed to be. I confess I am the chief among dads who have fallen short. Tears well up as I ponder how many times I’ve met her heart with shame in an effort to control behavior, with blame as a projection of my own pain, with silence in reaction to feeling overwhelmed, with paralysis as a response to the dread of inadequacy, and with stress as the fruit of my living as an orphan.
Much of the time I get it wrong.
Parenting is all frontier. As Dan Allender says, the inevitable truth is that our children raise us as parents.
So I’m clinging to a verse that John once confessed is the only resting place in parenting:
Love covers a multitude of sins.
But today is a new day, and my Father is with me: I am setting my heart to live increasingly conscious of how I am answering her question.
As one mentor and sage pointed out, a primary determining factor in sexual promiscuity among teenage girls is the presence or absence of a loving, affectionate father. The heart of a girl cannot go without her question being answered. And if I am not answering that question a thousand times over days, months, and years, she will have little choice but to take that question to other people and other things.
In light of that truth, I am moving toward my Abigail with ever-increasing affection. My hope is to fill her physical and emotional tanks so full with the real thing that she will be quick to sniff out the impostors that come her way.
Slowly, as I am receiving apprenticeship to Jesus in Kingdom living, allowing Holy Spirit to lead me in His utterly unique way, and being fathered into more and more life as a beloved son, I am becoming the kind of man who can reflect more of the lavish, delighting, strong, boundless, affectionate heart of my Dad to my daughter.
It’s not too late for you and your daughter. Whether she is four or fourteen or forty-four, move toward her. If she is old enough to understand with her heart, ask her forgiveness for ways you haven’t answered her questions about her worth in the ways she deserved. Ask her forgiveness for not more accurately representing the heart of her Daddy in heaven to her. Then ask her if you could come near, if you could spend more time together getting to know her, appreciating, studying, and exploring the depths and facets of her beauty and substance. Ask her if you could give her a foot scrub. Become a student of her heart all over again.
What is my Daddy like?
What is his heart toward me?
What is my worth to him?
Father, I deeply want to answer those questions for my daughter and for all my kids in a way that fosters experiential knowing of Your goodness, Your strength, Your kindness, Your pursuit, Your affection, Your intimacy, Your touch, Your care, and their inestimable worth to You.
I confess there are so many unfinished places in me that get in the way. Places where time and time again I am “so easily entangled.”
Often I find myself bringing to them a man who is so different from the form of Your true heart.
I ask for Your forgiveness, Father, for misrepresenting Your heart. I ask Your forgiveness for all the places where my own unbelief in who You are and who I am in You has choked out my capacity to receive love and offer it to my kids with delight and strength.
Father, I am asking You to heal my broken heart and set my heart free to love deeply and with wild abandon and delight.
I pause in this moment to remember and call to mind who I truly am in You.
I am Your son.
I am the apple of Your eye.
I am loved. I am safe. I am secure.
You are dedicated to my becoming.
You are at rest, and therefore I can be at rest as well.
Your resources are infinite and limitless, and You have made them ALL available to me today as Your son.
Father, would You grow me in the ways I need to grow so that I might receive Your love more deeply, and from that place, answer the question my kids are asking with the substance of my life in a way that reflects more and more of who You truly are?
Will You dismantle the fear, the “I can’t…”?
Will You tend to the shame, the “I’m not…”?
Will You identify the agreements I’ve made with lies about who You are for me and who You want to be through me?
Shine Your light and show me what those agreements are.
I agree with You.
I agree with who You are, Father.
I agree with what You want to do for me, for my family, and for my kids.
I agree with how You want to do it.
Show me. Heal me. Realign my wandering heart with Your favor and Your provision.
Contend with those who contend against me, Father.
Raise up a full canopy of protection over around all those you’ve entrusted to my care.
Help me see the questions my kids are asking. And help me, through union with You, to answer unreservedly with love.
Show me how to shower true intimacy, delight, and holy and appropriate touch. Show me how to bring Your loving tenderness and fierce strength on behalf of my daughter’s body, soul, and spirit.
I choose love. Show me what that looks like today.
You are the very best teacher and very best Father. I choose to believe You will guide me ever deeper into love, and You will give me every resource necessary to do it. You have my “yes” today.
For the Kingdom,
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