Each morning, as I reach for my Bible to study; and each evening, as I am reading a book to expand my mind, I am reminded of the beautiful gift given to me by my father. My Dad has four daughters and he has given this gift to each of us. It is the gift of intelligent thinking. You might be thinking that God has given us that gift - after all, He's the One who created our brain and intellect. But I am talking about the empowerment and inspiration to think. When I was young, a simple observation about something would lead to a discussion on why I felt that way. My Dad was always requiring his daughters to think about what we said and intelligently explain it and discuss it. Part of the reason he did this is because that is his personality - he enjoys analyzing things and questioning them. As we grew and began having opinions on what we read in the Bible, it was obvious he expected us to live purposefully and develop our own convictions for what we believed. He was not content for us to just do "the right thing," but we needed to understand what we were doing and why. The gift that he (maybe unknowingly) gave us in all this was the gift of believing that our ideas and thoughts were valid and valued. I don't know many other 14 - 16 year old girls at that time who were having deep discussions about the Bible and life with their fathers. He didn't just let us talk; he listened and asked questions, genuinely involved in the conversation. He held us accountable to our beliefs, too. It was far worse, in our house, to just act without thinking about something than to choose something that opposed my Dad's views. I love that!
The reason I have been so appreciating this gift lately is because of an info session I went to recently with my sister. It was titled, "Raising Preteens in a Sexualized Culture." It was very informative and provoked a lot of thought about the messages that are being sent to our children every day on billboards, tv screens, and toys. One of the messages that I feel is most damaging to young girls is this idea that being sexy trumps everything. You can do anything you put your mind to, but if you can do it while being sexy, that's better. And the message deteriorates into promoting the idea that being sexy is the goal in life. Young girls are encouraged to aspire to be good at shopping and make-up. If this is what our culture is telling our daughters they can aspire to, what are we telling them to counter that? And as I thought of that question, I considered what it was my parents did to raise four strong, confident-thinking daughters. I'm talking about empowerment to think for yourself and question the ideas that are thrown at you every day. In our culture, that's a lot of ideas; and a lot of them are destructive. Satan doesn't want women to be strong. He has spent the history of the world keeping women from being in a place of intelligence. In some cultures it is physical - they are not allowed out of the house, or to be seen; they are secluded and repressed physically. In our culture, we do it to ourselves. We buy into this idea that we are not good enough - that, before we can be valid, we have to be sexy. We spend so much of our energy and time on our appearance, that there is little left for intellectual debate or growth. So, what can I do to counter the destructive ideas permeating much of the advertising and teaching in our culture? I can require my daughters to think for themselves. I can respect their well-thought-out opinions and ideas, even when they are different than my own. And I can hold them to a standard of intellect and thought that God designed them for.
Although I think I, as their mother, can have a powerful influence in the way I teach my daughters to think; I am certain that all daughters need to see themselves as intellectually valid in their father's eyes. For some reason, although I am extremely close to my Mom, and need her approval and love, I often find that I view myself the way I perceive my father views me. So, fathers, please have thoughtful, intelligent discussions with your daughters. Prove to them with actions that they are valid intellectual beings.