I have three daughters. This summer, I have the rare privilege of giving two of them away in marriage. But who am I giving them to?
Ever since my girls were little, I knew that there would probably come a time in the life of each daughter where I would walk her down the aisle during a wedding ceremony and give her away to another man—one to whom I would pass my mantle of authority and protection over my precious girl. I knew I would want to know whether I was entrusting her to good hands.
In the case of both my daughters getting married this year, the future husbands came to me to ask my permission and blessing on the union. The requests they made were heartfelt and honest, the assurances, genuine.
I gave my blessing to both young men on this major transition in my daughters’ lives, and mine. And I took the opportunity to give some godly advice and share my experience from 30 years with my wife Ellie that marriage is worth it, but that it’s not easy. But to be perfectly honest, for me, the transition of my daughters to a new home and new family won’t be all that earth shaking. I will still see them regularly. Their surroundings, their standard of living, their comforts will pretty well remain the same, and our relationship will continue.
As we dads raise our little girls through childhood to adulthood, we try to make sure that our daughters will be be safe and happy, and we do what we can to help them to experience their fullest potential that God designed for them. But what if I was in different shoes? What if the transition for me (or them) wouldn’t be easy? What if the request for my daughters’ hands was like the one John Hasseltine recieved?
Some 200 years earlier, Adoniram Judson was committing his life to bringing the gospel of Christ to the people of India, and wanted Hasseltine’s daughter Ann to become his wife, to accompany him in his endeavor. Here’s the letter this dad received:
“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this for the sake of Him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”
Now that is giving your daughter away. Knowing that walking her down the aisle might be the last time I ever saw her would give me pause. Is my daughter fully committed to this man and the life that he has to offer? Am I entrusting my little girl into trustworthy hands?
The truth is, your daughter is never yours in the first place. She belongs to God. He has entrusted her to you for a short time to nurture, to protect, to instruct, to prepare, to launch into the world. At some point in her life, He brings you to a point of giving your daughter away to some other man to offer her love, protection, and a common mission.
Hopefully, we as earthly fathers have taught our daughters through word and example about the Heavenly Father who loves them far more than we ever could, protects them far better than we ever could, and has life plans far more exciting and fulfilling than any we could create for our daughters. Hopefully she will choose a husband who knows the same Heavenly Father and wants to embark on a life of adventure with him to know all that God wants to do for them and through them.
For John Hasseltine, he only saw his daughter Ann two weeks after the wedding. She and Adoniram left for India, but God had different plans. They ended up serving in Burma, where Ann lived only 15 difficult years before dying of smallpox. But her legacy remains. She and her husband translated the Bible into Burmese (Ann translated Jonah and Daniel into Burmese, as well as the gospel of Matthew into Thai). Ann’s letters back to America encouraged many stateside Christians to invest their lives and money into overseas missions.
I don’t know how John Hasseltine felt, but I would have been so pleased to have given my daughter away to Adoniram, and given her back to God.
© 2015 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
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Listen to Ariel Allison talk about “The Influence of a Father” in a daughter’s life on the FamilyLife Today broadcast.
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