A few months ago, I came across this shirt in public and got a chuckle out of it:
Of course, this shirt is merely one in a long line of jokes revolving around daughters growing older and the fathers who’ll intimidate, threaten and otherwise scare off unsuitable would-be suitors with a shotgun on their lap.
And, in jest, I think, there’s nothing wrong with such jokes.
Today, however, my wife brought to my attention a very thoughtful and compelling blog post pointing out that fathers may actually be sending the wrong message by purporting to be ready to scare off unqualified suitors:
Here’s the problem with shotgun jokes and applications posted on the fridge: to anyone paying attention, they announce that you fully expect your daughter to have poor judgment.
Yup. By stepping up with all seriousness about our preparedness to fend off suitors lest our daughters marry the wrong kind of man, we’re actually denigrating our daughters! In contrast, the blogger, says fathers should:
… raise a daughter who intimidates them just fine on her own. Because, you know what’s intimidating? Strength and dignity. Deep faith. Self-assuredness. Wisdom. Kindness. Humility. Industriousness. Those are the bricks that build the wall that withstands the advances of old Slouchy-Pants, whether you ever show up with your Winchester locked and loaded or not. The unsuitable suitor finds nothing more terrifying than a woman who knows her worth to God and to her family.
The blogger then makes some very pertinent and powerful observations that cut to the heart of what, I think, are very real problems underlying many Christian families who strive to uphold God’s standards for marriage and distinctions between men and women. In fact, her observations go beyond merely dating, and bring to light some serious misconceptions that I’ve personally witnessed in numerous marriages about what constitutes godly leadership and/or strength. This passage, in particular, felt like a whole lot of wisdom packed in a single paragraph:
Raise a strong daughter, even if – no, especially if it means potential suitors question whether they can “lead her”, whatever that means to them. You’ve just identified those suitors as ineligible, without so much as an application process. Leadership is not about the strong looking for weaker people to lead. It’s about the humble looking for those whose strengths offset their weaknesses and complement their strengths. Strong leaders surround themselves with strong people, not with weak ones. Rather than finding the strengths of others threatening, they celebrate them and leverage them. This is Management 101, but I fear young Christian men and well-intentioned Christian parents of daughters have gotten a little fuzzy on the concept.
Now, please, dear reader of the too-rarely-updated DingHome.net blog, don’t miss the central philosophical point here:
Leadership is not about the strong looking for weaker people to lead. It’s about the humble looking for those whose strengths offset their weaknesses and complement their strengths. Strong leaders surround themselves with strong people, not with weak ones.
My wife and I have been baffled by Christians whose practical translation of the Biblical concept of “husband as head of the wife” is literally “Husbands, disciple your wives” — virtually assuming that wives are less knowledgeable in the Scriptures, less capable in discernment, and less mature than their husbands. We’ve come across and heard of marriages (and heard counsel to the same effect) that the most important dynamic in a Christian marriage is that the wife submit to her husband’s leadership, i.e., that he’s the one in charge, and she’s to follow him. But such “leadership” is foreign to the New Testament. That’s not Jesus’ kind of leadership. That’s not the “headship” he exerts over his church. Instead, “even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk. 10:45). Jesus’ leadership isn’t about wielding authority; it’s about self-sacrifice and service! And that’s what this blogger pointed out well: true marital leadership is not the so-called “strong” husband leading the “weak” wife. It’s about the humble (husband) looking for a strong (wife) to offset his weaknesses!
So here’s a proposal: instead of “Dads Against Daughters Dating,” let’s go with a new one: “Dads Against Dumbed-Down Daughters.” Let’s raise our daughters to be strong, godly, faithful women who will be amazing helpers (read: not assistants, but co-laborers!) to their future husbands. You want your daughter to marry a truly godly man? Then help shape her into the kind of woman that a truly godly man will want to marry; and anyone else will not want! Instead of planning to protect our daughters from their own future folly by wielding shotguns (and/or locking them in their rooms!), we need to pour our lives into raising daughters now who are humble, gracious, wise, well-read, critically-thinking, diligent; who love Jesus and, above all, know they are deeply and unswervingly loved by Jesus.
P.S. Dads of boys, don’t miss this counterpoint from a commenter on the blog post, equally essential to emphasize:
Parents of young sons: If you like this post, please raise your boys to appreciate these types of Christian women. Today, I’m praying for a whole lot of single women in my church (not just me) who are waiting, waiting waiting long past the college years.