It’s a safe bet that my husband knows too much about ballet. He’s a #dancedad. Our 14-year-old daughter has been dancing since she was 2 ½, so we are fairly used to recital weekends in our family. For the past several years, my daughter’s annual recital falls on the weekend of Father’s Day. So instead of planning a day of kayaking or BBQing—anything that my husband would want to do—he spends his Father’s Day at the theater. He sits through hours upon hours of ballet, jazz, hip hop, and contemporary routines.
This year during one of her last recitals of the weekend, as our daughter was on stage dancing, I saw from the stage lights this shining smile on my husband’s face. He was beaming with delight and joy as he watched our daughter doing what she loves. He leaned over and whispered to me, “I could watch her do this all day long.” It didn’t matter that it was a day that was supposed to be dedicated to him and his role as father. He would not have chosen to be anywhere else.
It was this precious moment, on Father’s Day, that led me to reflect on how we often forget the fatherness of God. The radiant smile that I witnessed on my husband’s face is the smile that I believe God, our Father, has on His face for each of you, His daughters. I don’t think we can ever be reminded enough that we are not just loved but are delighted in by God the Father. He is totally captivated by you—who you are, what makes you smile, what brings you joy.
And as my husband’s face radiated such pride and love for his daughter as she was dancing—something she truly loves and has a talent for—our Lord’s face also beams when we use the gifts He has given us, the talents that He has blessed us with. And when these gifts are used for His glory? Well, Zephaniah 3:17 tells us, “[The Lord] will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
And as a good and wise Father, the Lord doesn’t want us to get lost in self-adulation. It always feels good to know that something we do or something we’ve accomplished or just who we are makes someone else happy—so happy that Zephaniah says God is exulting over us and singing over us. God’s delight in us is not meant to put the spotlight on ourselves. He doesn’t want us to stop there. Rather, our pausing to reflect on His delight in us serves to increase our delight of Him. It’s a beautiful feedback loop, defining and enhancing our two-way relationship with God. We focus on His goodness in our lives: His unceasing and steadfast love, His mercies that never come to an end, and His faithfulness to us is great (Lamentations 3:22-23). Our trust and confidence grows and our behaviors begin to align with His will for us. If we are busy delighting in Him as daughters, we are distracted from the trappings of the world and protected from those who would seek to turn us away from Him.
Scripture is abound with passages that speak of what we receive when we delight in our heavenly Father:
“I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8).
When we set the Lord before us, we grow in fortitude and faith.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
We live fearlessly.
“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
Our Father is trustworthy; He protects His daughters.
“The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. And he thrust out the enemy before you” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
He will catch us when we fall each and every time.
See how good of a Father He is? He looks out for us, always. And He provides for us through His unending mercy and love. Whether or not we see it, whether or not we follow God’s will at all times, His hand remains upon us. Following Adam and Eve’s sin, they were naked and on their way out of the Garden of Eden, never to be allowed back inside. And what did God do? Genesis 3:21 tells us that the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and Eve to be clothed. He couldn’t let His beloved children go out into the wilderness naked, without clothing. He provides.
This is the fatherness of God.
How lucky we are that we can celebrate God the Father every time we receive the sacrament of Holy Eucharist. As the priest, standing in the place of Jesus Christ, lifts the host for consecration and says the words, “Do this in remembrance of me,” we are reminded of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice—of God the Father’s ultimate act of provision. Through the death and resurrection of His Son we are gathered into the embrace of our loving Father. It is through Jesus Christ that God provides a way directly to His heart.
This is the fatherness of God.
No matter what it is that you find on your plate for this week, I challenge you to be mindful of God as Father. To keep foremost in your mind His delight of you, His beaming smile in the work that you are doing for the vocation He has called you to. And let His delight of you focus you ever more intently on His precious and abiding love, and on the ways that He continues to provide for you, His beloved daughter.
In God’s Grace,
In November, I enjoyed a girls' weekend away with friends from grammar school and high school. Yes, we sat around drinking wine in our PJs, swapping stories about our families. But something else was discussed in far greater detail than whose husband snored the loudest, and it dominated the weekend's chatter, and it was all about getting our kids into college.
My oldest child (Jack) is just 14, but I absorbed every word of this complex subject, fascinated by the lengths to which many parents would go to get their son or daughter into a “good” college.
Honestly? Some of what I learned was just downright crazy, but before I knew it, I had jumped right on that college crazy train.
It became my mission in life to get Jack's grades up, which you should know is about as easy as launching myself into space, since Jack is by no means a scholar and he Just. Doesn't. Care. About. School.
I should qualify that by saying Jack does just fine in the subjects he enjoys (theology and English), but he doesn't give a hoot about his other classes.
And the more I'd push Jack to pay attention in class, and focus on homework, and study for tests, the more frustrated I'd get, because my pushing wasn't paying off (I may have even completed a number of ninth-grade Biology assignments, because we don't need any more homework zeros now, do we?).
In between all the pushing, I allowed myself brief moments of daydreaming about the college sticker on my future car; the sticker from the prestigious university attended by Future Jack. Uppercase block letters in the center of the rear window. That sticker had become my Holy Grail.
My husband was not riding the college crazy train with me. He wasn't having any of the pushing, helping or college-daydreaming. To punish Jack for not trying hard enough in school or to let him fail were the two courses of action my husband would consider.
What, seriously, should a parent do with a kid like Jack? Punish? Accept bad behavior? Pray for divine intervention?
Last Fall I joined an Opening Your Heart Bible study group. Opening Your Heart is the Walking with Purpose foundational Bible study, and often as I progress through the lessons, answers to questions like these emerge from the pages, to my great joy, and relief.
A few weeks ago, my small group was reviewing Opening Your Heart Lesson 8, “What is Grace and What Difference Does it Make?” I'll admit that I was a little fuzzy on this topic going in. How grace worked exactly, and the role it had in our lives was hard for me to grasp as a Catholic newbie. But Lesson 8 taught me two things:
Takeaway #1: I'm pretty sure that me writing Jack's biology labs isn't the “free and undeserved help” we're talking about here.
Takeaway #2: The grace I need to give to others, to my children? I think it is the infinite love, support and forgiveness that I give, even when they don't deserve it.
Something else from this lesson that jumped out at me:
“The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God.” (3)
Merits - our abilities and achievements - are pure grace. I was really happy to come across that Catechism Clip when I did.
The artistic renderings that Jack sketches on his tablet in lieu of listening to a bio lecture? The piano songs he composes instead of finishing his math homework? Art and music are, for Jack, gifts from God that I was completely overlooking in my quest for a high overall GPA and a college bumper sticker.
Jack's merits don't stop there. Over the years I've watched this son of mine win home-run trophies, sing solos at baseball stadiums and earn cross-country medals as well.
That Opening Your Heart lesson on grace? For me it was a game-changer. It was God saying through the pages, Stop doing ninth-grade biology homework, forgive your son, and watch where his God-given talents take him.
When solutions to my personal problems reveal themselves from the pages of a book, it's a beautiful thing. But this Bible study offers so much more than practical parenting lessons. Opening Your Heart is an incredibly effective guide to lasting transformation of the heart, and to a deeper relationship with Christ. I look forward to meeting Future Jen when she has completed this 22-lesson study 🙂
1 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1996
2 Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Opening Your Heart (2010-2018), p. 95
3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2011
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