If a woman vows a vow to the Lord and binds herself by a pledge, while within her father's house in her youth, and her father hears it and says nothing to her, then all her vows and pledges shall stand. But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, none of the promises she made will stand against her.
And the Lord will forgive her, because her father said, “No.” (Numbers 30: 3-5, my paraphrase)
I had the meeting I’ve expected and dreaded for the last 16 years. (I’m including the months of pregnancy after we found out it was a girl) I met the boy who wants to take my daughter out on a date.
It was a very old-school meeting. He came to my home, we took a walk, and I interrogated him. I met his mother, who happens to be a friend of my wife’s, and before the evening was over, I’d also met his father. They’re a nice family. He seems like a quality young man.
I hate him.
But I’m going to let him take my daughter away from my house, alone with him in a car, at night.
If he weren’t dating my daughter, I’d like this young man. But he is, so I proceed with him in a relationship based on my overt suspicion of his every move and motive.
As our Father, God recognizes that we will spend time with the world. He understands that it is natural for us to have relationships with “them.” And though God so loves the whole world that He gave His only begotten Son, make no mistake, God does not trust them---- not with us.
Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate,” says the Lord. “Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6: 17, 18)
Ultimately, our Heavenly Father wants for us what I want for my daughter. God wants us to choose the right groom, the One who will love us like our Father does.
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. (John 8:42)
In the meantime, God knows that all of us have to fumble our way through the awkwardness of spiritual courtship in this world. And I, the earthly father, have to give my daughter the freedom and tools to navigate the dating process without losing herself until she finds and chooses “the one” who will love her as much as I do.
Now that I’m in this stage of fatherhood, I understand God better. I feel something of His pain when He sent Adam and Eve out of the protection of the Garden and let them go from Him, alone, in a car with the world. As I consider my own internal turmoil, I can only imagine the----- the ----- the what-even-is the-word? The anxiety (?) God must endure every second of every day over each of the billions of His children who are courted by the world.
But God gives us the freedom and , by His Word, the tools to negotiate the seductions of this life without losing ourselves. And if out of the security of a loving relationship with God, we will apply our Father’s wise instructions, then one day He will have the joy of giving us away to live the rest of our eternal lives with the right Groom.
Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” (Revelations 19: 7)
In the meantime though, make no mistake. God does not and is not going to like any of the boys His daughters date.
And I don’t think God has a problem with me feeling that way, too. As Jesus said, “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” (John 17: 9)
Which was Jesus’ way of saying what I told this boy and won’t hesitate to tell the next one.
“You seem nice; but when it come to my daughter, son, I really don’t like you.”
---Anderson T. Graves II is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.
Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Hall Memorial CME Church in Montgomery, Alabama, executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO) and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).
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