Monday, November 17, 2008

Of Dads and Daughters

During my three-and-a-half years of blogging, I don't remember a post as touching and penetrating as the one that follows. I found it via a link on Megan's blog. As a father of two daughters, the story that follows and the depth it displays defies the ordinary. It is an honest peek into the mistake of a daughter and the ways of her father who's certainly been molded by the Heavenly Father. The following is a picture of the father I long to be:

Last week a friend of mine was admiring the small sapphire ring that I wear on my right ring finger. It was a gift from my parents in honor of my high school graduation and it was given to me as a reminder that even though I would soon be leaving the physical covering that they provided I was still under the spiritual covering of my family, and more specifically, of my father. Although the ring itself is quite lovely, there is another reason that I continue to wear it to this day. That ring is a reminder of a very personal part of my testimony and I feel like God is leading me to share it here.

When I was a freshman in college I did something that I could never undo and that I very quickly came to regret. I was in a relationship with a boy who I thought I loved. And even though on some level I think I always knew that he was not the one for me, I chose to give him that part of myself that I knew was meant for my future husband alone. I still don’t really know why I did it. I guess I was afraid of losing him and I didn’t really trust that God had a better plan for my life. The relationship ended soon after and I was left completely devastated. I felt so ashamed, so stupid, so much like a cliche. I could not believe that I had so easily given away something that I had always viewed as sacred. Because my mother and I shared a very open relationship, I confided in her about what I had done. She of course was heart broken for me, and because she and my father also have a very open relationship she did not feel that this was something she should keep from him. I can still remember the sinking feeling I had in my stomach when she told me that he knew. My father is so self disciplined and so unlikely to make a self destructive or emotionally based decision. I had always thought that he and I were so alike in so many ways but I knew that he wouldn’t have made, had not made, this mistake. And yet on some level I still felt like I needed him to know.

I have tears in my eyes every time I think about the way my father handled that situation. He could have chosen to ignore it. We could have both pretended that he didn’t know, or he could have just passively avoided me until the awkwardness of the moment wore off a little. God knows I wouldn’t have blamed him, in fact I might have even been relieved. But that is not what my father did. Instead he invited me out to dinner just the two of us. I cannot tell you how nervous I felt that night. Picking at my french fries I tried to imagine what he might say, what he might be thinking of me at this very moment. And then he began to speak. He did not shy away from the subject we had come here to discuss. He did not blink. Instead he looked me right in the eyes, and he told me that he loved me. That what I had done in no way changed the way that he saw me. That he wanted me to know that I was still under his covering, and that I would continue to be for as long as I remained a single woman. The entire conversation probably lasted no longer than 15 minutes and yet the profound effect that it had on me will last a lifetime.

My father may never know the full impact of what he did for me that day. Little by little from that point forward my concept of grace and redemption expanded. The grace that he extended to me was unexpected, undeserved and almost beyond my comprehension. I slowly began to understand that my worth was not based on what I did or did not do, but rather on the love that had covered me since the day I was born. It was a love that pointed me to the greater source, that was rooted firmly in the divine. It gave me the strength to walk away when I was later faced with the opportunity to enter back into that same broken relationship. And three years later, I felt the far reaching implications of that grace that keeps no record of wrongs when I saw the untainted joy in my father’s eyes in those private moments before he walked me down the aisle to meet the man who was to become my new covering. I am convinced that only the love of a father can cover that depth of shame, and extend the kind of grace that transforms weeping and brokenness into joy and a raised countenance.