On October 18, Princeton University scholar of Islamic studies Qasim Rashid published a poignant and challenging article entitled “5 Promises to my Future Daughter”. Here, he reflected on the intersection of faith and fatherhood in a way that was truly inspiring, giving a glimpse into the heart of Muslim father which absolutely shattered so many stereotypes.
In response to the article, renowned Christian author Carolyn Custis James, author of Malestrom (i.e. the book you need to read ASAP), prompted her social media followers to consider making their own “5 Promises” exploring how their Christian commitments affect their commitment to fatherhood. Inspired by these two gifted scholars and authors, I have decided to follow their lead and reflect as well. There is something profound and convicting about putting such thoughts into words. So here goes:
Dearest daughters, every day as I play with you, I read to you, you inspire me. You make me smile, you make me laugh, and occasionally you make me cry. You and your mother and brother are my world, you challenge me to be a better man, you inspire me to be a more Christ-like father. I write because I want to give you a better world than this, because I want to pave the way, even if only in small fashion, for you to be better and more godly than I have ever been. I see God’s work in you daily and can’t wait to see the strong women you will become!
As your father, I want to be present, to be a part of your formation into strong women of God. In pursuing this, I make you the following promises:
1. I will love you both always and unconditionally. In modeling for you the love of Christ, I will empower you to be the women God calls you to be, even if that means submitting to your teaching authority at some point.
In the current climate of the evangelical church you will face a great deal of resistance. People will tell you your highest calling is in the home, that God created you to be a wife and a mother. They will tell you that you need men to tell you what it means to be a woman. Don’t listen! EVER! Who you are and will be as a woman can only come from God. If he has called you, if he has gifted you, then go with His and my blessing. If ever I impede that calling, you need to sit me down and tell me to get out of your way, out of God’s way.
2. I will always tell you that you are beautiful, because you are. Thus, I will teach you to love and respect your body apart from the trappings of evangelical modesty/purity culture.
Many in the church will want to tell you your value as a woman, your true beauty, is in submission to a man. They will tell you that you are responsible for the sins of others if you wear yoga pants or a particular shirt. This is nonsense! You must learn to honor yourself, to see yourself as made in God’s image. You must love your body because God made you and he made you beautiful. You must decide how best to express this Christ-centered self love to the world. I must seek God’s guidance as I strive – along with your mother – to foster this in you.
3. I may royally suck at showing it sometimes, but I will always respect your mom as an equal in both worth and authority in our household.
I love your mother absolutely and unconditionally. I seek to be submissive to your mother, to model the crucified Christ in all my relations with her. Unfortunately, I am a man raised complementarian. I struggle with this sometimes, I struggle to overcome the ego and selfishness ingrained in that mode of thinking. You’re mother and I will sometimes fight, we will sometimes say things we don’t mean. This is largely because I am an imperfect man.
If there is one thing I want to instill in you about your mother, it would be that she is unequivocally my equal. Please treat her always as such. She is beautiful, amazing, brilliant, brave, and gifted by God in ways that never cease to amaze me. Being married to her has made me a better man and she deserves every ounce of our respect, love, and adoration.
4. I will teach and model no Gospel except “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (2 Cor 2:2).
Our faith, our ethic, the essence of what it means to be a Christian begins and ends with the crucified creator God, Jesus the Christ. This is a difficult path, but know if I or anyone else ever adds anything to this Gospel, we are wrong! Question, challenge, discover God, experience him in your life.
You are powerful girls who will become powerful women. God has gifted you both and he wants to continue to develop those gifts in you. As you grow, as your gifts continue to be revealed, I am ecstatic to see how God will use you. I hope you know, you are special, you are chosen, and you are called by God in Jesus.
5. I will teach and empower you to read the Bible critically, questioningly – in a way that is almost guaranteed to scare the shit out of your Sunday School teacher.
Yes I swore, please don’t repeat that at school. But I am passionate about honest and engaging approaches to biblical literacy. You will learn quickly I have a different approach to Scripture than a lot of people. It is unlikely your Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, or pastors will agree with me on all points.
Please, please, PLEASE ask questions. You need to find yourself, your faith. You cannot simply lean on me for answers, you must be strong enough to seek them on your own. I will be happy to guide you, but my goal is to empower you.
Please remember, there is never a question that is off limits? Sometimes God seems like a jerk. Sometime he just seems distant and irrelevant. I’m going to be honest, the Bible is a confusing, complicated, and nuanced book; sometimes it doesn’t point to clear cut answers. But it does point us to a deeply relational, revelatory, and self-limiting God.
When it gets difficult, persevere. It is worth your time. You will discover has amazing stories of godly women who changed their worlds and paved the way for ours. Taking the time to read and understand will be a rewarding experience and a journey I want to share with you. If you don’t question what you believe, you can never be sure you actually believe it.
I promise these things from the core of my being. I hope you will hold me accountable to them, to the man I need to be. I love you both more than words could ever begin to express.
With all my love,
If you like it, please share it! Grace and Peace!
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