Yesterday was International Women’s Day. Inspired by Alise Wright’s letter to her sons in honor of the day, what follows is a letter to my three daughters, who one day will read this and think: “Dad, could you be any more embarrassing?”
Dear J, G and H,
This world will tell you lies. It will lie to you about your value, about your appearance, about your place. It is filled with people who will see you as weak, who see you as less valuable – to them and to God – and who see you as an object, all because you are female.
I pray you keep this letter in mind when you hear those things. I am afraid that, though the world is changing, it will not do so fast enough to spare you from the warped wisdom and twisted value system that prioritizes, above all things, the gender of a person.
Because you are more than women, as I am more than a man. We are children of God, three daughters and a son. We are loved, valued, respected, prized by the one who made us – the parent of the entire world, the one who is big enough to breathe life into existence, small enough to weep with us when that life goes awry.
But you are, in fact, women. And you should be proud of that. I pray you never accept the attempts of men to make your gender a cause for shame, embarrassment or pity. You are women. Congratulations!
This is my prayer for you:
I pray that you will strive to be the women God has made you to be. I don’t know what that is yet. I would be no less proud of each of you if you were a minister or a homemaker, a scientist or a schoolteacher, a soldier or a nurse.
I pray that you will hold fast to Jesus, as the women who followed him to the cross did, after all the men abandoned him.
I pray that you will value yourselves enough to dismiss the caricatures of beauty, worth and life portrayed by the mass media with which you will one day be inundated. You are beautiful. You are my daughters, and you are God’s daughters. I don’t know yet what you will look like when you are older and reading this letter, but I know this: Before you read this, you will be beautiful. When you read this, you will be beautiful. Years and years after you read this, and you have children, even grandchildren, of your own, you will be beautiful. How do I know? Because you are your mother’s daughters. And she is beautiful in every possible way and could never be anything else.
I pray that you will protect your virginity until you are married, but I pray that you will reject the false equation of virginity and purity. Abstaining from sex does not make you pure; having sex does not make you dirty. We are all dirty; we are all made clean by the love of God. If you make a mistake, or if you choose to give your virginity to someone you love outside of marriage, I will love you no less. You will be no less beautiful, no less my daughter, no less the valuable person worthy of your parents’ love and respect.
I pray that you will find godly women leaders to follow and learn from, to emulate and imitate. I am so grateful God has placed us in a church that has visible public roles for women, and I pray he will continue to move our eldership down the path of full equality within the church for both genders. You deserve no less, my daughters, than to see the fullness of the radical egalitarianism of God and God’s desire to empower all of his children when they worship in community. I pray that I and your mother will have the courage to find those role models and introduce them into your lives; you will become strong godly women, but only if we help you learn how.
I pray that God gives me the strength to parent you through a challenging world. It is a world that will objectify you. It will tell you that your worth is inextricably tied to your weight, your bra size, your ability to please men. I pray that God will help me infuse a different message into your lives. That you are the object of God’s desire. That your worth comes from your creator, and it can never be diminished. That even as those superficial measures of prettiness change and fade, your beauty will only grow and deepen as you grow and deepen in life with Jesus. That you exist to please no man.
I pray that as you grow up, you will understand that you deserve to be pursued, wooed, respected and loved for who you are, not what you can do or what you can show off. I pray that you will see through the efforts of lesser boys and find a man who deserves you – one who can make you a better woman while you make him a better man.
I pray that you will reject the labels others will try to give you. You are not, and can never be, sluts, bitches, whores, cunts or twats. Those labels are perversions of the labels God has given you: blessed, lovely, beautiful, precious, treasured.
I pray these things because you are my daughters. I pray these things because you are God’s daughters. I could never love you more than the moment I’m writing this, except for the moment you read this, and the moment after, and the moment after that, and the moment after that until I breathe my last breath. Nothing you can do will make me love you less. If I can mirror the love of God in that one small, weak, insufficient way, I will have been far more successful as a parent than I could ever have hoped.
Congratulations, girls. You are women. Be proud. Be humble. Be confident. Be God’s.