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While my wife and I were engaged and in the first few years of our marriage, we attended a slew of weddings. Seemingly hundreds. When you are in your 20's, you have several built-in date nights a year in the form of weddings.
Of the numerous weddings we attended during that time, there's one that occurred a few months before we were married that sticks out in my memory above the others -- despite the fact that I didn't really even know the couple joining their two lives together very well.
What I remember most wasn't the wedding itself, but what occurred just after. As we wound our way through the receiving line to congratulate the happy couple, there were the parents of the bride ready to greet us. I mentally prepared for the obligatory and fleeting congratulatory handshake from a man I barely knew, named Fred. What he shared has stuck with me to this day.
As I reached for his hand, he took mine, held on to it, looked me in the eye and asked in a kind, yet very direct, way, "Are you walking with the Lord?" I was taken aback. This was not the passing handshake I expected, like the one at midfield where the two football coaches grasp hands for a nanosecond while looking past each other.
I think my response was a less than impressive "Uh, yes."
“That's good,” the man continued, still looking me square in the eyes. “Because as you two head into marriage, that's the most important thing.” Then he went on, "Are you going to take good care of Stephanie? Lead her well spiritually, and protect her always? Because she's a really special girl, and a daughter of God."
Whoa. Who is this guy?, I thought. "She is a special girl," I said with a nervous laugh. "Yes sir. Important days ahead." He probably thought I was a doofus, but I was 23 and ready for some hors d'ouevres. "Good, glad to hear it." And that was it.
But that night, and in the days that followed, the dialogue stuck with me. Was I really walking with the Lord in the way that I should? And was I taking seriously this commitment to love, honor and cherish this person I knew I loved for the rest of my life? It was a wakeup call to get serious, and step it up. A call to manhood that I'm thankful for to this day.
I’ve still got some time before my daughter enters the world of dating. But I'm bracing myself for the day she wants to go on a date with some guy who invariably won't be good enough for her.
I’m also vowing to get to know any guy who wants to date my daughter, and be bold enough to set expectations along the lines of what Fred set for me. This is my daughter, whom God has entrusted to me and her mom. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly. Any boy who is going to take my girl on a date better be ready to have the bar elevated beyond what culture calls him to … to be a young man of integrity, who walks with God, and treats her right. Not just because she’s my daughter. But because she’s a daughter of God.
That’s not merely what Fred called me to. I think it’s what God calls all of us dads to.
Rich Bennett (@coloradorich) is a contributing writer for Dad Matters and the Vice President of Ministry & Marketing Strategy for Focus on the Family.
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