My 7-year old daughter made me cry the other day.
There’s something you should know about my daughter: she never sings, dances, or performs in front of me. She’ll go to her room, shut the door, tell Alexa to play the Frozen soundtrack, and sing her little heart out. She’ll sneak into the playroom and dance like a ballerina to Mozart’s Nutcracker Suite. She’ll don a dozen different costumes and bandy about, skipping and running, using different voices to bring her characters to life.
But never in front of me.
The Gaze of the Father
Why not? She’s obsessed with me, but she won’t perform in front of me? Is she afraid I’ll point out her flaws? I’ve always tried to instill in her that it’s ok to make mistakes. Does she not think she’s good enough? I tell her every day how good she is! Is she afraid of messing up when all eyes are on her? God knows I’m afraid of that, too.
I’ve tried to catch her in the act before, but it never works. I’ll peak around the corner or open the door just a crack, but as soon as she sees me she stops. Embarrassed, she’ll exclaim, “Daddy! You ruined it!” The most I’ve been able to do is press my ear against the door and imagine the childlike play unfolding on the other side.
That is, until the other day.
I was in my home office responding to some emails when I heard a knock at the door. I answered it to find my sweet daughter in an Elsa dress, hair pulled back behind her ears (“Just for you daddy!”), with my wife’s cell phone in her hand. “I made a video for you daddy, wanna see it?” How could I possibly say no to that?
What I saw was a revelation. I felt like I was pulling back the curtain to the Holy of Holies. There she was, my beautiful daughter, performing a perfect rendition of “Let it Go.” She wasn’t shy or hidden. She was looking right into the camera, giving it all she had. Her little chipmunk voice hit all the high notes. She choreographed it too, with Elsa’s motions from that classic scene in Frozen.
10 seconds in and I lost it. “You have tears coming out of your eyes, daddy,” she said. I reassured her, “You make daddy happy!” I thanked her and hugged her, and by her bright smile exposing two empty spaces where her baby teeth used to be, I knew she was happy she took a risk on me.
The Father’s Heart
Her video was powerful for many reasons. It was vulnerable. There was no hiding, no closed door. It was her way of saying, “I’m ready for you to see me, daddy. I’m ready to give you this part of me.” It was permission, trust, and love from someone I would gladly die for.
It also made me wonder: How often am I that vulnerable with the Lord? How many times have I shut the door so that He won’t see me? How many times have I convinced myself that God my Father – and everyone else for that matter – is primed and ready to confirm the worst things I think about myself?
Ultimately, I cried that day because my daughter gave me exactly what I want so desperately to give to the Father: A complete gift of self, fully trusting and unafraid.
Why can’t I give that to God? I don’t know. I guess my reasons are as mysterious as my daughter’s reasons. What I do know is that when I’m ready, He’ll be there. And His words to me will be the same words I gave my daughter:
Thank you, my blessed and wonderful child.
Your gift brings me joy.
I see you and I love you.