crib-mod-250pxLast week I put up a canopy in my four-year-old daughter’s room thinking I’d score some serious husband/dad points with my wife and kid.  Sure enough, my daughter loved it!  She was ecstatic.  A little too ecstatic.  She jumped up on her bed running around in circles and quickly proceeded to get herself tangled up in the canopy drapes. Before I could get to her to extract her from the menacing web of pink and white lace, she began to lose it and eventually tore down the whole canopy.

She was crying, and I was upset.  I should have taken a moment to collect myself, but I had a bad daddy moment.  I did what any normal self-respecting well-intentioned man would do.  I fixed the canopy. Because what a child that’s crying and overwhelmed with panic and sadness needs most is for their dad to just fix stuff, right?  Being a therapist doesn’t change the fact that in my most natural “man” state, I’m still a “fixer” at heart.

And much like how a man realizes the hard way that he’s forgotten something critically important to his wife, I slowly became aware of the fact that my daughter needed my comfort more than my superior handyman skills.  So I sat down, pick up my girl and placed her in my lap.

This is how our conversation went down:

Me: Bug, what are you feeling right now?
Avangeline: [sniffling] I feel sad.

At this point I’m thinking, surely she must be sad because her canopy was broken.  Totally fixable.

Me: What are you feeling sad about?
Avangeline: Because I’m scared.

Okay, new information…Recalculating…Obviously she must be scared because the canopy fell down on her.  Still fixable.

Me: Why are you scared?  What are you afraid of?
Avangeline: I’m scared you don’t love me anymore and that you’re going to leave me because I broke the canopy….[followed by a flood of tears and sobbing]

Well, the death nail pierced straight into the deepest part of my heart.  I was overcome with pain and heartache.  Why would she think this?  What did I do?  What didn’t I do?  I was flooded with all kinds of thoughts and feelings, but I knew I couldn’t get swept away in those emotions.  I had to stay connected and engaged with my daughter. So I said,

Me: Bug, I love you so much, and I’ll always love you.  Nothing you do can ever change how much I love you.  No matter how bad you act or what you do, Daddy will always love you.  Mommy will always love you.  God will always love you.  Do you understand what I’m telling you?
Avangeline: [nods her head]

Me: Are you still afraid Daddy doesn’t love you, and that I’m going to leave you
Avangeline: [nods her head again]

This is what’s crazy.  My kid hears what I’m saying.  I might be so bold as to say she believes what I’m telling her.  But that doesn’t seem change the way she feels.  As her Dad, that’s enormously frustrating.  Why doesn’t she believe me?  Why won’t she trust that my words are true?  Perhaps my actions over her four short years have given her a conflicting message.  I know I haven’t always communicated unconditional love to her.  But if she only knew what I felt for her, how much I loved her and what I would give for her, she would never doubt my love for her.  I feel sorrow and powerless because despite the fact that I’m holding her in my arms, gently telling her how much I love her, my little girl still feels afraid and alone.  My words and my presence seem to do little to change things.  I’m not sure how to fix this one.

Why am I not the least bit surprised though?  It makes sense.  It’s not right, and it’s not okay, but I understand it completely.  My God has told me, has pleaded with me to know His voice and to hear His truth.  I have His Word.  He’s given His very presence with me all the time.  I have His Spirit within.  He’s proved His love for me over and over.  The nails and the thorns that pierced His Son remind me of that each time I think upon the Cross.  But sometimes, honestly, that’s just not enough for me to change what I feel.  Like my little girl, my head understands and believes, but sometimes my heart just isn’t there.

co-staff-web-ly-tran

Ly Tran

Counselors call this dissonance, the gap between what we believe is true and what we feel is true.  I’m going to just say what I believe it is.  It’s the war within me.  God’s fight to win all of me, not just part of me or my thoughts.  What I wouldn’t give for my sweet little girl to hear my voice, to know my heart and to trust me.  What I wouldn’t give for my words to be enough for her to change what she believes about me and what she believes about herself.

If you peel back the layers, we’re all in the same boat.  We’re all broken people afraid of rejection.  So dna-icons-same-boat-smlmuch of what we do, we do to show ourselves and others we’re not failures when in fact there’s no escaping the fact that deep down we’ve all failed and fallen short of God’s perfection.  I see it every time my daughter does something looking for approval from me.  I experience it every time I disappoint myself and others.  I’ll feel worthless and alone, even though I know God’s grace covers me.

Perhaps the whole of life on this side of heaven is simply trying to bridge the 12-inch chasm between our head and our heart.

Maybe my little girl will hear my voice and trust me a little more today than she did yesterday.  Who knows?…maybe today, I’ll do the same with my Heavenly Father.