First of all, I love God. I love God with my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. There are times when I fall short of what that means in my life, but I try to make the love of God the driving force behind everything I do. I know also that God loves me. God’s love for me is stronger than my failures. God’s love is steadfast and endures forever. Because of God’s love, I am able to love.
Secondly, I love your mother. I have loved her for fourteen years, and everyday that we spend together I love her more. The love that your mother and I share is strengthened by our love of God. As we get closer to each other, we get closer to God too. She and I share a bond that I cannot fully put into words. You are a product of a love that is very powerful, and that makes you powerful. Right now you are young enough and sweet enough to like it when you see us hug and kiss. Usually you want to join in and turn it into a “family hug.” Eventually you will probably think it’s “gross,” but you should know that it will never stop.
I want to raise you as girls that love God, and I pray that someday you will find someone that loves you as much as I love your mother. It’s my job to teach you what that feels like.
It is terrifying to think of you growing up, because growing up can be so painful. It can be so dangerous, and I want to protect you from all of those dangers. Yet I know that I cannot protect you by keeping you sheltered. Right now your Mom and I are the most important people in your world. I know that won’t always be the case, so I’m trying to make the most of it now. I know that there will be people coming into your life. Some will be positive, some will be negative.
Some will love you for who you are, and some will use you for what you can do for them. Some will laugh with you, and some will hurt you. Some will appreciate your beauty, and others might abuse it. The only way I can protect you is to teach you how to tell the difference. It’s my job to teach you that love is never about jealousy, violence, manipulation, lust, or power, and that healing is always possible.
That’s why we have “Daddy-Daughter Date Night.” That is why I read to you before you go to bed. That is why we turn off the radio in the car on the way to preschool. That is why we turn off the TV and play in the evening. That is why I get home as soon as I can every night. I want to take every moment I can to teach what it feels like to be loved unconditionally.
I love talking with you, listening to your stories, eating dinner with you, and treating you like you are the most important person in the world. I love asking you about your favorite books, and teaching you about sports. I love hearing about your friends, finding out what makes you mad, or happy, or excited. I love holding you in my arms. I love the smell of your hair. I love your slobbery, open-mouthed, 18-month-old kisses; and your surprisingly strong five-year-old hugs. I love when you touch my cheek and smile. I love to hear you sing. I love hearing you laugh. When you dance, I see heaven.
Someday I pray that you will find someone that loves those things too. But first, you need to love you too. Love your compassion. Love your kindness. Love your courage. Love your imagination. Love your strength. Love your dreams. Love your intellect. Love your body. Love mercy. Love justice. Love humility. Love your God.
You’ll never see me wear a shirt like this. I understand the sentiment. I understand what it means to want to protect you. I will always want to protect you, but I hope that someday I will be able to let you protect yourself. If I ever feel the need to go get my shot gun, it will be because of my own failure, not yours.
Happy Valentine’s Day. I hope now you understand a little bit more about love. It is, after all, what we are created for.