I’ve recently become a father and overnight, my life has been joyfully turned upside down. I’ve had to learn these new dad skills, and together with my wife, we have been keeping a little human alive.
However, my intention is not merely to keep my daughter “Avril”1 alive, but to see her thrive. As I’ve begun to settle into the routines of baby land, I’ve taken the time to pause and reflect on fatherhood—in particular, on the kinds of impressions I want to leave on my daughter.
My starting point is that God’s mission in the world is for every knee to bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:9-11). I share this mission since I am his servant and I know the joy of walking in the love of my heavenly father. This foundational reality governs and shapes my role as a father. The Scriptures remind me of my responsibility to raise Avril in the fear and knowledge of the Lord (Deut 6:7; Prov 22:6; Eph 6:4). This is a duty I endeavour to carry out with all my strength, with the Lord as my helper. I want my daughter to embrace the same wonderful truths and promises of the gospel. My prayer for her is that she will delight in her Lord and walk faithfully with him all the days of her life.
These six hopes are ones that emphasise the priority of the gospel and a life of faith that embraces a living relationship with God. Though not an exhaustive list, they underline how the gospel shapes and permeates every aspect of our lives, especially the family home. A gospel-shaped home by God’s grace will lead to a gospel-shaped life for the glory of God.
As I share with you my hopes and prayers for what I want to impress upon my daughter, my desire is that these will move you as a Christian parent to seek these things for your child.
1. God loves her
Above all, I want Avril to know the most wondrous thing in the world: that she is loved by her heavenly Father, and that, in Christ, she is forgiven of her sins. I want her to know that although she is not worthy of his love, he is willing to forgive and restore a sinner like her out of his love and grace (Rom 5:8). The greatest and most loving thing I can do is to point her to the creator and source of love (1 John 4:16).
2. I love Jesus
Secondly, I want Avril to know that the most important thing in my life is Jesus. Indeed, I want her to know that I love Jesus. But the only reason I love Jesus is because God, in triune love, first loved me (1 John 4:7-9). I want her to know that I too am a beloved child, adopted by my heavenly Father.
Moreover, I want to model to her a life utterly devoted in love to my saviour king. I want her to see that loving Jesus impacts every area of life, not just Sundays: it affects how we speak, how we act, how we treat others, how we use our time and how we spend our money. I want her to see me walking daily with him, in times of strength as well as in times of weakness. I want her to remember seeing me cherishing time with God in his word and in prayer as I come humbly in praise and petition. I pray that she will remember with great fondness the moments we spend together as a family around the dinner table in worship, as well as the times we spend together with God’s word open and in prayer. My hope is that as these things are modelled to her, she too will continue to devote her entire life in love to her saviour king.
3. I love her mummy
Thirdly, I want Avril to know that I love her mummy. I want her to especially know that her mother and father cherish each other and are stronger together. In addition, I want her to know that out of the solid foundation of my marriage with my wife, Avril is safe, secure and loved.
I want my daughter to see me hug, kiss and tell my wife that I love her. I want her to see her daddy love her mummy the way Christ loved the church and gave his life for her (Eph 5:25). I want to model to her what a godly husband looks like, so that if she chooses to marry in the future, she will know what qualities she should be looking for in a man.
4. I love her
Fourthly, I want Avril to know the unconditional love her daddy has for her. There is nothing she can do that will ever stop me from being her daddy. For as long as I live, I will be there when she needs me, comforting her in her fears, tears and doubts. She can always come to me for a hug, a talk or a cry. She can never “bother” her daddy too much.
In my love for her, I want her to catch a glimpse of the infinite love of her heavenly Father . I will endeavour to be thoughtful, generous and sacrificial in the way I show Avril my love for her. However, my love for her pales in comparison to God’s infinite, immeasurable love for her in Christ (Eph 3:16-19; 1 John 4:9-10).
5. I am not perfect
Fifthly, I want Avril to know that her daddy is not perfect. In fact, I’m far from it: I’m a sinner saved by grace. Although I will strive to fulfil the above expectations and be the best dad I can be, there will be many times when I will fail. I will sin. I will hurt her. I am not perfect, and therefore she doesn’t have to pretend she is perfect.
I know that I will need to seek forgiveness from my heavenly Father and from her. So I want to model what genuine repentance looks like so that she will also know how to repent. I want her to know that it is okay to hurt and cry in a fallen world. I want her to know that when I am weak, he is strong.
6. She can rejoice
Finally, I want Avril to rejoice in her Lord for all the good things he has given her (James 1:17). I pray that she will not begrudge or regret her upbringing, but instead remember a childhood filled with joy as we craft memories together as a family. I want her to remember the adventures and holidays we will go on together, the moments we will spend playing board games or going for bush walks, and the times when we will just talk for hours. I want her to roll her eyes at me when I tell my dad jokes. I want her to remember me showing her how to take care of tropical fish, and cheering her from the sidelines like a maniac during her soccer matches (or for whatever sport she chooses; her options are soccer or soccer). I want her to remember that I was present for her, sharing in our adventures.
Furthermore, I want her to remember the joys of meeting with God’s people week by week, as we look forward to our eternal hope. I want her to remember the delights of life with our good God through the darkness and the sunshine. Most of all, I want her to always rejoice in God, her saviour and provider.
I trust that God will grant me the wisdom and guidance to be the kind of father I hope to be to Avril. Ultimately, I want to see her thrive: I want her to grow up to be a joy-filled, faith-filled, hope-filled woman in Christ—one who delights in her creator, saviour and Lord. I pray that she will find her deepest joy in being a part of the bride of Christ, revelling in his loving and comforting embrace.
I pray that this will be true of her even when I am long gone. In the end, I pray that one day, we will meet again in glory.
Michael Figueira has just completed his final year at Moore College.
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1 Not her real name.