“Did you ever heard mission bells ringin’?
Well, she’ll give you the very same glow
When she speaks you would think it was singin’
Just hear her say hello”
– Frank Sinatra, Nancy (with a laughing face)
My daughter knows magic. I don’t know quite how she does it, but she can stop time and chase away nearly all the anxiety of my worrisome heart. Perhaps it’s something in her smile, in her giggle or the cautious, quiet way she lays her head upon my shoulder; I haven’t quite figured it out. This I know: I am spellbound and there is no escape.
There’s a special charm and delight to being the father of a little girl. You’re amusingly caught up in new and exciting ventures into an innocent and unknown world, adorned with hues of pink and lacy bows and stuffed animals whose voices you somehow know and are able to mimic with Disney-esque perfection. At least that’s been my experience.
For nearly all the first two years of my little girl’s life, we have been partners in crime. She runs to me when I pick her up from school, she copycats my gestures and expressions, and we even tend to share and find joy in the same, mischievous sense of humor that can drive her mother crazy in good ways and bad.
But recently, I’ve noticed a change. My wife assures me it’s just a phase, but I can’t help dwelling on the idea that this is just how it’s going to be. Suddenly, she seems to prefer her mother, she doesn’t want me to hold her and she looks annoyed and wearied at my attempts to play with her.
Of course, she’s still my little girl, and I still love her beyond words, but I’ll admit that there’s a part of me that’s wounded by the stingy affection of her two-year-old independence. Here’s the worst part—I have a hard time not holding it against her. It’s borderline petulant; I get a little pissy when she acts this way and I childishly want her to know that she’s hurt my feelings. The reason why is simple: I am not a perfect father.
I’m not a perfect father. I lose my temper at my kids, get annoyed at their behavior, am constantly telling them to “Be quiet!”, “Stop asking ‘Why?’!” and “Go ask your mother!” I get so frustrated, because kids are this grand, never-ending, self-reflective, fixer-upper project who have to be trained to say, “Thank you,” and somehow have programmed into their DNA the least convenient time to get sick. And this emotional manipulation game I’m playing with my daughter—what does that say about me?
I’m not a perfect father, but I have a perfect father. As a father, God is patient and unwavering with me through my stubborn, selfish rebellions and delights in me and pursues me even when I run from him. My daughter’s shift in her affection for me does not compare to my hot-and-cold affection for God, for He is infinitely deserving of all I would withhold. Here are some things that I remind myself when I consider the love of God as a perfect father.
God loved me before I was his child. Romans 5:6-8 “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God’s love made me his child. Ephesians 2:4-7, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
God’s love forgives me when I stray as his child. Luke 15:20-24, “And [the Prodigal Son] arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’”
God loved me before I was his child, his love made me his child, and he forgives me when I stray as his child. I’m still working through my daughter not showering me with affection the way she once did, and getting frustrated by both her and her brother’s behavior, but God’s patient, unwavering love for me reminds me of the love I am to have for them. I’m not a perfect father, but I have a perfect father.