Father’s Day has already come and passed. As with Mother’s Day, my heart was warmed by so many people sharing memories and photos of them with their dads. However, a friend of mine shared some heartfelt honesty about how not everyone is fortunate enough to have a father who was a role model and constant presence in their lives. I found myself contemplating what life would be like if I hadn’t been blessed with the dad that I have, and I realized how empty my life would feel. I also think that without an example of how a Godly man treats his wife and children, it would have been infinitely harder to look for those traits in a potential husband.
Fortunately for me, I was blessed with a wonderful dad. Like any good dad, Chris Daniels has a quirky sense of humor that not everybody gets, but we all laugh at his jokes anyways. Up until we got old enough to throw to each other, he would always come out and throw a baseball with us. My dad is something of a nerd; he loves Star Wars, Stephen King, and comic books. He instilled in me a love for reading and magic and taught me to believe in and look for the goodness of the world and those around me. I’ll always remember the “hooky” days, where he would keep us home from school to do something fun. Once I remember ditching a field trip to the skating rink (both of us were terrified to skate) to go to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life. I know I am fortunate to have a dad who created such beautiful childhood memories for my siblings and me, even in the midst of a chaotic life dealing with the trials of autism and many other challenges that simply come with raising three young children. However, these things don’t really set my dad apart from any other man trying to be a good father. What makes my dad unique and particularly wonderful is his dedication to my education about and relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe my dad took Proverbs 22:6, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it,” very seriously.
I can not remember a time when I did not know about God and Jesus. I’m not saying that I understood the crucifixion or God’s overlying plan for His creation as a five-year-old. I am saying, though, that my parents always made sure I knew that Jesus loved me and that God had a plan for my life. Even if they possibly doubted the goodness of God during their struggles, they never let us see it. They would tuck us in and pray with us. They took me to church, whether I wanted to go or not. Daddy would spank us (mainly me and Dylan) when we misbehaved at church. There are a lot of people who disagree with corporal punishment, but I am thankful that my dad spanked me and taught me right from wrong. He never spanked me hard enough to hurt me, and I knew I deserved swats with the branch I picked out myself. There were times when I’m sure my dad himself would admit that he was not close to Jesus and strayed off the straight and narrow, but how many of us haven’t fallen out of step with God at some point in our lives? My dad taught me that we are only human and that we will always have the capacity to royally screw up, but that Jesus is always waiting for us to run back into his arms.
As I sit here in my new apartment, anxiously waiting for August when I will start at Truett Seminary, I am reminded that without my dad’s guidance and advice, I may not even be here right now. I had received my Law School Admissions Test score back. It was not a bad score, and I could probably have gotten into any school I applied to (I have a good GPA), but it was much lower than the 158-160 that I was shooting for. I was devastated. I couldn’t seem to stop crying as I imagined getting rejected from all the schools I planned to apply to. In the middle of all this, my dad asked me, “Did you do your best?” In between sobs, I replied, “Yes, I studied for two whole years!” He let me cry it out. Then he said firmly, but gently, “Well, I know you wanted to go to law school. But what if God has a different plan for you right now?” I hadn’t really thought about it that way, and if I’m being honest, that’s not what I wanted to hear. I wanted him to fire me up, tell me to take the test again. Instead, my dad reminded me that I am not in control and that maybe I had underperformed for a reason. I didn’t say anything at that moment. I was too self-absorbed and disappointed. Later that night, however, I remembered coming forward at Survivor Youth Camp after feeling a call to ministry. I felt shame and guilt for running so far from that call. I went online and researched Southern Baptist seminaries, and ultimately landed on Truett. I had always loved Baylor, and they offered reduced tuition rates for Baptist students. Later that school year I was accepted to Truett, and a couple of months after that I was awarded a full tuition scholarship from the school. I will be getting my master of divinity with a small amount of debt. It was like all the doors just opened and God made a way for me and Lee. The pieces have continued to fall into place once we have arrived here. And it all boils down to the firm, gentle reminder from my dad that I needed to let go of my selfish dreams and wishes to be swept away by God’s plan.
I can remember going to a New Year’s Eve party in high school. There was a lot of drinking, and there was really nobody there looking out for me. I was so excited because I was finally going somewhere without Dylan in tow, and I was going to get to stay out until midnight. I won’t lie to you, I had my first drink here, which led to my first three, to my first five. I was nauseous, dizzy, and certainly didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t want to call them to come get me because I was afraid they would be so angry with me, but I remember being extremely scared and uncomfortable. This was not what I expected at all. I knew I was in a situation where I was not able to take care of myself properly. Looking back on the whole thing now, I realize that it was stupid and dangerous. I could have been taken advantage of, I could have been humiliated, or I could’ve been severely hurt or hurt someone else. I was thinking about how lonely and scared I was when my dad called me out of the blue at 11:30, even though we’d already talked about me coming home at midnight. He told me he wanted me home right now, to get in my car and head home. I was only about 10 minutes from home, but it was still a pretty scary ride. I was angry that he made me come home and embarrassed me, but deep down I was relieved that he gave me a way out. I walked in, told them I loved them and goodnight, then went to bed. The next day I woke up and cried and cried. I realized that my dad’s phone call probably saved me from whatever could have happened that night. I was safe, I was unharmed, but I will be forever haunted by the thought of “what if..?” God used my dad to protect me that night, I know it in my heart. I eventually talked about it with my dad and confessed everything. I was never really good at keeping secrets. I expected his anger, I expected his punishment. Instead, he hugged me tightly and told me he was glad I was safe, that I should’ve called them. He asked if I understood the danger and stupidity of my actions. I told him I was sorry, and that I understood why he and mom were as strict on me as they were. And that was the end of it. No spanking. No grounding, no yelling. I learned a valuable lesson, and my dad and I reached a new level of trust in which I understood his rules were for my safety, and he forgave me for my mistake.
In my opinion, this is one of the easiest and most beautiful comparisons I can draw between my earthly father and my heavenly Father.
Here on earth, I have rebelled against my dad before. He gave me curfews I didn’t like (or respect at times), he laid down rules I didn’t want to follow and interfered in situations that I thought I had under control. I never wanted his protection because I wanted to take care of myself against unfair teachers, unsafe love interests, and in the downright dangerous situations I was dragged into. Against my wants, my dad interfered and stepped in to take care of me. Even when I was unhappy with my dad, I never once doubted the goodness and love behind His actions. He showed me over and over again that I’m not as smart or strong as I think I am, and that sometimes you need a superdad to step in and save the day.
Our heavenly Father takes care of His children in the exact same way. God has given us commands to follow. He has laid out His plan of salvation through Jesus, yet we still try to earn our ticket to heaven without His help. We think we are in control of our own fate, we try to earn grace. We constantly ignore His spirit and run straight to things, people, and places that we KNOW are dangerous and wrong for us spiritually. We think we can hold our own against the evil of this world. We take one sip from the world’s cup, which turns to three, then to five, until we don’t know how to come back to Him. Lucky for us He is standing by the phone, waiting for us to call Him so He can bring us back into the safety of His arms. He doesn’t shame us, He doesn’t make us feel unloved. He greets us with open arms and helps us learn from the mistakes we have made. How amazing is it to know that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us like that?! I know that many of you have earthly fathers who ran out on you, fathers who have mistreated you in unspeakable ways, who have made you doubt your worth and left an empty space in your heart. I just want you to know that you are not alone, and you are not forgotten. Psalm 68:5 states, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” God who sits on the throne welcomes you into His house, and he loves you better than any man on earth ever can or will. He loves you so much that He was willing to die for you. He has so many plans for you, and so much love to give you if you would let Him into your heart and life. Galatians 4:6 states, “And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, ‘Abba, Father.‘” Like the story of the prodigal son, He is waiting for you with open arms, regardless of how far you’ve run away.
Every day I am so thankful to have the dad I do. We may not always get along or agree on everything, but I can’t imagine my dad any other way. These stories are just a few examples of the impact he has had on my life. The way my dad has loved and raised me has helped me better understand God’s love and purpose for my life. I’m thankful that like my dad, Jesus loves me in spite of my flaws and imperfections. I’m so thankful that God uses my dad’s love to mirror His relationship with me. This Father’s Day I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly blessed to have a dad like mine, and I hope that I can be the strong daughter I see in his eyes when he looks at me.