by Gordon Dalbey
My grief is beyond healing, my heart is sick within me. Hark, the cry of the daughter of my people from the length and breadth of the land: “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her?…. For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded. I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? (Jeremiah 8:18-22 RSV)
“What does a girl need from her dad?” a puzzled father in his late 30’s with a daughter 7 and son 10 asked me during my men’s retreat. “I was a boy myself, so I know what works with my son. We go fishing together, read Robinson Crusoe, build our tree fort and all. But with my daughter…” His voice trailed off as he shook his head in frustration, “…most of the time I’m in the dark.”
Not having a daughter myself, I hesitated—and then a flash of insight struck me. “You’re married to a daughter,” I declared confidently. “Your wife was once a little girl with a father—ask her!”
The next day, the man returned with his brow knit. “I asked my wife what a girl needs from her dad,” he reported, then dropped his eyes and fell silent.
“So…what did she say?”
Looking up, he sighed. “She said, ‘I don’t know’.”
I sighed with him. “What does that tell you, brother?”
“I guess,” he offered sadly, “she never got it herself.”
Affirming this brother’s heart for his wife and daughter, I then urged him to pursue his wife now even as when he first courted her. “Ask her to tell you what it was like for her with her dad when she was growing up,” I suggested—then added, “Just remember to leave your tool box outside. You’re not there to fix her, just to listen.”
Even as I sensed the appropriateness in my advice, however, I knew even then that it wasn’t enough. That encounter, in fact, revealed the average woman’s wounding today as so deep that she can’t provide her husband with the wisdom needed to help him father her daughter.
Nevertheless, I remain hopeful, because this dilemma is all too similar to the problem we largely unfathered men face today as well. My “Sons of the Father” men’s conferences, in fact, focus on helping men confess what our dads didn’t give us and go together to Father God to get it–and thereby, be empowered at last to forgive our dads and get on with fathering our sons.
DEEP WOUND IN WOMEN
Over the years, however, I’ve seen the deep wound in women as well (see “Of Fathers and Daughters” in Healing the Masculine Soul). And so, ever since that encounter described above, at every local church where I minister to the men I urge the leadership to schedule my “Daughters of the Father” event for both men and women, where I focus on healing women.
My wife Mary, a psychologist, tells me for example that when a girl is born, her father may wish she were a boy instead. That disappointment from Dad wounds her femininity. Later, as a woman, it can lead her to choose destructive male relationships which reinforce this negative view of herself.
At the event, therefore, I remind that Father God gets what He wants, and pronounces His creation “very good” (Gen.1:31). I then call upon the men there to give manly voice to this divine truth and the Father’s joy by together shouting out as the heavenly hosts when each of our sisters there was born:
“HALELUIA! IT’S A GIRL!”
As that deep, booming masculine chorus shakes the sanctuary, the women’s tears begin flowing—a palpable witness to women’s wound and the power we men have to help Father God heal it.
WHAT A GIRL NEEDS
In closing the evening, I’ve challenged the women to gather at their churches and talk together to determine what in fact a girl needs from her daddy and how he can give it to her. As at the men’s conferences, I warn that such truth-telling will likely stir deep pain and shame, but urge the women to persevere in behalf of their daughters.
I tell them to take as much time as necessary and assure that they will gain much healing themselves in the process. Then, I tell them to set a time when they’re ready, and invite dads with daughters to come and learn.
“The men I meet around the world at my conferences want to be good fathers to their daughters,” I tell the women, “but we just don’t know how. We need you to help us.”
I write this blog because, as Jeremiah quotes the Father, “dismay has taken hold of me.” After issuing this challenge to women at scores of churches worldwide for almost thirty years, only two fellowships have responded.
Maybe many women have tried individually to talk to fathers about this and felt unheard. If so, I believe a church/community effort could bear greater authority and opportunity for both men and women to listen to one another and work together for our daughters.
Or maybe it seems too painful for a woman to face her daughter’s wound because it reminds the woman of her own unmet longing for Dad’s love.
As a man who knows that fear of facing his own wounds and ministers to it in other men, I can understand your balking. But I encourage you, sisters, that if you talk to Jesus about it He will remove your shame, overcome your fear, and restore you to true dignity as a daughter of the Father. (see “Healing Emotional Wounds: Seeing the Past as Jesus Sees It” in Broken by Religion, Healed by God).
TO SEE WOMEN HEALED
I just want to see women healed–now and in future generations. I want men and women alike to know that the Father “from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth receives its true name” (Ephes. 3:14NIV footnote) hears the cries of His daughters now even as when the ancient prophet Jeremiah gave words to His pain. I want us to rejoice that Father God has come in Jesus to declare a resounding “YES! There is indeed a balm in Gilead. I remain on the job and am working steadfastly to restore the health of my daughters!”
Increasingly, the dads I see in my ministry want to do their part in rearing daughters who are both confident in their femininity and competent in their gifting. I’m sure moms want that, too.
None of us men or women, however, are in ourselves adequate to this altogether essential task–which can only be done working together as moms and dads in the guidance and power of the Father’s Spirit. The shame of our human inadequacy as parents must not deter us from that goal, simply because Jesus bore it once and for all on the cross–and through His resurrection has released His Holy Spirit to empower us.
CELEBRITY BAD GIRLS
Meanwhile, to do nothing amid the raging current of pop culture is to be swept away by it. The rising tide of celebrity bad girls and prime-time promiscuity is pre-empting the precious grace of our daughters’ femininity and seducing them into the world’s cheap shame. An entire generation of girls–that’s half the world’s population–is being infected with the lie that their ultimate value lies in their ability to stir lust.
Sure, men and women have wounded each other. But the time of angry finger-pointing between genders is gone. Mature adults value their children’s welfare above their own hurts. Today, before our very media-driven eyes, the father of Lies is stealing our daughters’ feminine soul.
This loss and its terrible pain wounds Father God’s heart–even now as in Jeremiah’s day. It’s time men and women began to bear that wound together with Him, unto a fierce determination to rescue our daughters for His healing and fulfillment (see “Identity Theft: Beyond Performance and Perfectionism,” in Mary Dalbey, PhD, The REST of Your Life).
I’m not looking here simply for comments to boast a lively blog. I’m looking for action. I want to see men and women in churches do what I’m suggesting. I welcome comments, questions, and suggestions from those who are sincerely determined to do it, and especially from those who have done it.
At my men’s events, I lead dads to the cross toward a humble openness before God and such faithful tenacity before this broken world. We’re learning to fight for our families. But we need women alongside us in this battle for our daughters’ hearts.
Sisters, please, help us do our part.
by Gordon Dalbey
“Of Fathers & Daughters,” in Healing the Masculine Soul
“Healing Emotional Wounds,” in Broken by Religion, Healed by God
“Fathers & Daughters: Healing the Father-Wound in Women” (Gordon DVD, CD, mp3)
by Mary Andrews-Dalbey, PhD
“Sexual Bonding and a Woman’s Heart,” in Pure Sex: The Spirituality of Desire
The REST of Your Life: Discovering God’s Rest in a Driven, Demanding, Distressful World (10-week small-group workbook)
“What’s Sex Got to Do with It? Every Woman’s Desire for Love and Significance” (DVD, Mary to college women)
Healing Fathers & Daughters: A Woman’s View
Healing the Feminine Soul (A Time to Dance + Mothers’ Day: A Mother’s View)
From Romance to Love: A Woman’s Guide
What Families Are For
Restoring Family Value—and How to Value Yours
From Religion to Life: Learning to Live Freely in God’s Grace
Gordon and Mary
Passions & Priorities: Singles Conference Album #1
Single Minded for God’s Purposes: Singles Conference Album #2
Addiction: Beyond Shame and Denial