by the Night Writer
When my oldest daughter was born, nigh on 20 years ago, they put that tiny little bundle in my arms — arms that had, just a few hours earlier, been lifting furniture and heavy equipment in the delivery room as I tried to vent my anxiety and frustration. The contrast between the weight of those items and her seven measly pounds belied the heavy but invisible mantle that had just been laid across my shoulders.
Our pastor knocked and came into the room about that time and I turned my daughter toward him and said, “Now Faith is” — as in “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Our little miracle baby, Faith Christine, was amongst us and I had just taken up my first watch.
I thought of this the other day as Ben made his case for how much he admired Faith and, in exchange for my blessing, gave his personal promise to safeguard her heart and well-being, to support her physically, emotionally and spiritually, and to raise my grandchildren in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
I know there are a few people — well, probably many — who question the need or propriety of a would-be husband these days asking his prospective father-in-law for the daughter’s hand in marriage. “Women aren’t chattel to be passed from one patriarch to another!”, or “Doesn’t she have a say in the matter?”, or “What right does Dad have to get in-between young lovers?” Some of the more perceptive might even ask, “Why isn’t he asking both the father and the mother?”
To me it’s all part and parcel of a culture that has grown accustomed to demeaning and diminishing the role of parents, going back to the days when we started saying “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” the presentation of adults (especially dads) as dolts on “family” sit-coms and the cultural and educational conceit that young people are wiser and more informed about “how things really are” than those stick-in-the-mud old folks. As a result we miss, or become uncertain about, certain nuances.
Now, I enjoy playing the role of patriarch and benevolent dictator, but that is because I take it seriously and have not shirked the robe that comes with it. It fits. I have not viewed my daughters as my property to be maximized for the greatest return on investment, or as servants and dependents sent for my own amusement. My wife and I have always realized that we were not owners, but stewards, of what we were entrusted with and we structured our lives and our daughters’ with an eye to providing the things that prepare them for long-term happiness (especially how they can get this themselves), even if it involved some not-so-happy decisions.
I have to say we are well-pleased with the results to date. Yes, Faith is well able to direct her own life, but every woman needs a man in her life who knows her value and is willing to sacrifice for her well-being. Before I cede that position to another I want to be darn sure he knows what is expected.
Ben may not be perfect (he’s got some dents where the University of Hard Knocks has deposited wisdom), but the situation has been nearly ideal. They’ve known each other for almost three years and have progressed gradually from acquaintance to friendship to courtship and now engagement. While they have not been physical, they have been intimate, taking the opportunity to really know each other and weigh their respective characters. Similarly, our family has had the same amount of time (actually, longer) to get to know Ben and make our own evaluation. This isn’t some shaggy freak Faith has drug home from a concert and asked if she can keep him.
So, while my stewardship is not yet finished, its days are clearly numbered. The promised land my daughter and I have been preparing for for so many years is at last on the horizon though, like Moses, I will not cross with her. She will always be my daughter, but then I will have something even better. A friend.