The Purifying Effect of Fatherhood

Everything changed the moment she wrapped her tiny little fingers around mine.

I knew it meant trouble. But I miscalculated. 

There’s the typical kind of trouble you expect when you’re a first-time dad with a baby girl. 

You know you’re totally and completely fucked in the sense that you’ve now got two girls who you’ll do absolutely anything and everything for. Two girls you’re charged to protect and provide for. Two girls who now occupy the center of your universe. That’s a pretty strong gravitational pull.

Then there’s the financial kind of trouble. You expect having a kid to be expensive. But a daughter? A daughter with a diamond birthstone, nonetheless? Dollar signs flash through your head. You’re in trouble, buddy, I told myself.

Of course there’s the longer-term trouble, too. The kind of trouble that convinces you to go out and buy a new gun and an enormous amount of ammunition, just so you can start practicing carving teenage boys’ names into bullets. Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl.

There’s all sorts of trouble you start worrying about when you become a new dad. I’m sure it’s true for dads of little boys, too. Even if the kind of trouble they anticipate differs.

But for all the obvious troubles I knew were headed my way the very first moment I saw my little girl look up at me with her tiny blue-orb eyes, there was another kind of trouble I hadn’t anticipated.

The trouble of God. 

I felt a kind of gnawing in my chest the moment I saw those two pink lines. I figure it was something akin to learning you’re the recipient of a gift you couldn’t possibly afford. A gift you do not deserve.

Days passed. Weeks passed. The gnawing persisted.

“You’re going to be a dad,” you tell yourself. “A girl dad.” “Are you up for the challenge?”

You want to know what repentance feels like? If that doesn’t make you rethink every sin you’ve ever committed then I don’t know what will. 

The way a newborn daughter looks at you – even before she knows who or what she’s looking at – it nearly leveled me. 

You see those two little eyes gazing up at you and all you think is, “I’m going to be her hero. I want to be her hero. I want to be worthy to be considered her hero.”

Your life flashes before your eyes. You think of all the courageous acts of your life summed together. All of the major achievements. All of the acts that fill you with pride. The moment you feel worthy of being her hero. 

But it passes.

And immediately you find yourself reliving all the moments you missed the mark. All the instances you messed up big time. All the mistakes you ever made. Even the not-so-bad ones.

“What would she think of her daddy then?”

Somewhere in the thick of the self-imposed psychological warfare a thought eventually emerges.

I never want to lose the way she looks at me. Like I’m perfect exactly the way I am. It’s almost as if she looks at me with the eyes of Christ.

And you realize what it means to receive a gift you could never deserve. 

Not through all your merits. Not through the endless attempt to ensure the good you commit outweighs the bad. Not through any action.

But through grace alone. Undeserved grace. Bought and paid for through the ultimate sacrifice of a Father – the sacrifice of his child.

For me.

When I look into my daughter’s eyes, I see the man I want to be. Not for her. Not even just for me. But to pay respect to the Giver of a gift I could never deserve.