January 11th of this year was an incredible day for my wife, Amy, and me.
We barely slept the night before, as we were both wired with anticipation and anxiety about meeting our daughter for the first time: How will the day play out? How much would she cry? Would all the games, toys, and snacks be enough to win her over?
I practiced my goofy dances and funny faces. Meanwhile, Amy prepared the diaper bag and made sure everything was in place before that moment when we would officially become a family of three. Adoption day came and went in a glorious, joyful, tear-filled blur.
Thus began my journey in fatherhood.
When I think back on the weeks immediately after bringing Emery home from China, I remember difficult times when it was clear that she had not spent much time around men. She quickly understood Amy’s role in her life, but she struggled to understand who and what I was to her. She didn’t want me to feed or dress her. She wouldn’t call me daddy. She refused to come to me when I wanted to read her a book or play with her. She certainly didn’t take correction from me. If I took something away from her, her response was to try to take it back. She didn’t accept “no” from me and she wouldn’t come to me when she needed things.
I struggled during those weeks.
I had prepared for those moments intellectually but, emotionally, I was at a loss as to what I should do. Never in my life would I have imagined that I so badly wanted to change a poopy diaper, but I did. And, I wanted Emery to want me to do those things for her. Then, gently and lovingly, Amy reminded me that my job was to win over the affections of my daughter—that in my headlong pursuit to love Emery, she would come around. I remember feeling silly for not thinking of that myself. Of course, that’s what I was supposed to do. Of course, she needed to see that I was safe and trustworthy. As I began to intentionally win over Emery, I realized what a picture of the gospel I was seeing played out.
You see, Emery didn’t understand that everything I was doing was out of love and care for her. She had no idea that I had her in mind for months as I planned and prepared to make her my daughter forever. She couldn’t see that my correction was for her good, and she didn’t know that I was intentionally pursuing her in hopes that one day she would fall in love with me. Her inability to see those truths didn’t make her any less my daughter, nor did it make me any less her father.
Over time, Emery began to laugh more with me.
She trusted me enough to let me feed her, or put her to bed. She stopped crying when Amy would leave the room, and I was put on full-time poopy diaper duty. Then, one night as I arrived home from work and walked through the front door, I was met by the cutest, loudest squeak of a shout, “Daddy!!!” It seems that I may have finally won over my daughter, and I want to continue to win her affections as she grows and matures. I praise God for what He has shown me along the way.
As Father’s Day approaches, I want to encourage dads to see the importance of pursuing your children.
Find special ways that you can connect with you child and go hard after his or her heart. Not only will you love the bond you are creating with your child, but you are also showing them a picture of how Jesus pursued us long before we ever understood that we were His. He chose to win us over and open our eyes to His perfect love. As a result, we love because He first loved us.
Jonathan Whitt, Lifeline Father
During the month of June, Lifeline is honoring and highlighting godly men who are caring for the fatherless. Learn more HERE.