(This week I have a really special guest post for women in ministry Wednesday – my dad! I’ve heard from several dads that they hope they are doing ok raising strong daughters so I thought I would ask my dad his thoughts on it. Enjoy!)
On the evening of the day Kelly was born I drove home from the hospital, leaving her and her mother there. Before that day I did not know if my first born would be a boy or a girl. I never thought much about the whole thing until I got home from the hospital and I lay in my bed. I remember it so well. I remember being a little disappointed, not because I had an awesome little girl, but because I wanted my child to forge into the world, be decisive and bold, and make a difference. I wrestled with the thought of the reality that instead she would meet a young man one day, and she would follow his path, not her own.
It really bothered me thinking that someone else’s child, that might not even be born yet, would eventually come to control the direction and destiny of my child. I laid in bed for several minutes trying to comprehend all of it, and the Spirit of God whispered into my spirit. I can’t say that it was words, it was more feelings of affirmation, but that voice inside me said, “I am going to direct her life, I will fulfill my purpose for her life, I will design her life.” That revelation made the difference. From that moment on I embraced the pursuit of God’s plan, not a predetermined route, not an assumed route, but God’s plan.
From that moment forward I had a peace about her future. I saw her life as directed by God, and whatever path she walked would be God’s path for her, whether she walked it yoked with another or alone, it would be God’s path for her.
So, my assignment for this post, and the question that I am often asked is, how do you raise a daughter who is strong enough to barrel down the streets of Paris, or anywhere else, embraces a call to ministry, and faces the path chosen for her with grace and boldness?
Give Them Wings
I tried to encourage our girls that they could do anything God had called them to do. A child cannot do anything they want to do. A child cannot decide they are going to be 6 feet tall, they cannot decide to be good at everything, but they can embrace that they can do anything that God calls them to do. They need to come to not only trust God, but to trust God in them.
When Kelly was in eighth grade she came home from her youth group meeting at church and told me she was going to try out for the worship team. Thinking that there was no way she was going to earn a spot on the worship team, I encouraged her to go for it but added, “but don’t be too disappointed if you don’t make it this year.” The next week she came home and told me she was on the worship team. I learned that day to just encourage them. There are enough people who volunteer to be their naysayers, critics, and detractors.
I “encouraged” her to enter the short sermon category in Fine Arts, and she won. I bought KellyDelp.com when she was 13 years old because somehow I knew she would need it someday and I wanted to make sure she would have it. Be a dad or a mom who lays hold of a prophetic vision (one that is revealed by God, not one that is YOUR wishful thinking) and follow the revelation.
Just encourage the dreams they feel God is dropping inside them. Go ahead and believe in them. Forget the caveats and the consolations, those come after disappointments, not before. Realistically talk through things, but then go ahead and give them wings… because as a dad… wings don’t cost me anything, but wings cost them everything. If they are willing to pay the price, the least I can do is go ahead and see the wings on them. Everybody needs at least one person in their life that believes in them and will stand with them.
Give Them Opportunities
As leaders, sometimes we hesitate to promote our own kids for fear of being criticized for favoritism. Well, you can’t deny every other kid an opportunity to grow, but I have a double obligation to develop my child in the faith and ministry because I am both their dad and their pastor/leader. If you are the ministry leader, who do you think is going to give your child an opportunity to serve and to lead — you are.
I endured the petty and snide remarks about my kids having parts and leadership roles in the church ministries, and you know what, those who complained about it sailed in and out of our lives and left nothing behind for which we could remember them. But our kids are with us the entirety of our lives. Don’t get caught up in trying to please every one, but make the development of your child’s calling your priority. I’ve seen the harvest.
Ask Yourself the Question, “What if she were a boy?”
First of all, she’s not a boy. There are some things I would be okay with a son doing that I’m not okay with a daughter doing, but even in those instances I had to step back and analyze my thinking. Am I thinking along cultural lines as a man born in 1960, or am I thinking along scriptural and life-giving lines? Where is the balance between those two thoughts?
Through the years, when she wanted to take a risk, do something outside the box, or go after something that might be frowned upon, I asked myself the question, “How would I encourage her if she were a young man.” It is not always parallel, it just isn’t, but most of the time, that is how I proceeded.
It was hard watching Kelly struggle with the call of God on her life and trying to figure out how to pursue what was in her heart as a woman. I often thought, “she has the ability and if she had been born a boy her path would be so clear.” Instead she had to navigate a culture that theologically and ideologically embraces women in ministry, but by cultural practice we are still progressing, and we aren’t quite there. That is a reality.
Our daughters have to navigate the world they’ve been given, not the one they wish for. This is the generation that will lift us to the next level. As a dad, I’ve continued to encourage her to pursue what God puts on her heart, don’t constantly complain and trash the reality, but be an example in life, leadership and ministry, and redeem the culture.
Embrace Them as a Colleague
The wonderful thing about sons and daughters is, they grow into men and women of God. They get their own perspective, they challenge status quo when they feel it to be unjust. They say things that make you think in a way no one else can. When a son becomes a man and when a daughter becomes a woman, we are still their father or their mother, but we raised them to make their own way, to provide for themselves and for their family. We raised them to take the mantle we once carried.
God has given my daughter a place at His table. God has respected the gifts he has sown into her. Some want to overrule the Father’s decision to give her a seat, but she sits in the seat given her. The fact is, if you knew her like I know her you would know that she would have probably chosen a different seat had it been up to her, but vocational ministry (as does all service to Christ) necessitates we sit in the seat we are assigned.
I embrace her and her gifts as one called by God. Our sons need affirmation as men, it is so necessary in their lives. Our daughters also need our affirmation that they are women assigned by God to the task He chose. I not only support her and affirm her, but I seek her counsel and strength as a colleague in ministry.
I’m not sure whether I’ve done a good job or a not so good job with my girls. A good dad ALWAYS wishes he had done just a little better because of love. Their mother did a better job than I did, no doubt, but I’m honored to have had the privilege of simply being a part of what God did and is doing in their lives. To Him be all the glory, for sure.