"Josh, look at my nails."
Her eight year old fingers stretch out before her stepfather's eyes, showing off the latest manicure on her tiny bitten fingernails.
"Ooh, pretty," he replies. "I like them!"
She doesn't know it, doesn't understand what she's doing, but she's following in the footsteps of every female before her. She is wanting - needing - the affirmation of a father.
As independent and intelligent as she is, my little girl also has a need deep within her heart that is as old as time itself. She needs to feel loved and beautiful. She needs to hear the man in her life tell her she is enough as she is, she is treasured in his eyes, and there is something about her that is of value. She needs to know that she has worth. And, praise God, she hears that from her Josh. He was not in the room when she was born, is not biologically her daddy, but he loves her like she can do no wrong and openly admires her as she twirls in new dresses for him. He tells her what he tells me, that she is so pretty and she is enough.
He tells her, and I pray that she believes.
I pray that she has the confidence her mama lacked (lacks), and that she goes through life with the deep confidence that only a father's words can instill.
I myself have looked for affirmation in a million different places because it wasn't rooted in my heart. I have looked in the numbers on the scale, the sizes in my clothes, the looks in the eyes of others. I have searched in the makeup sections of drugstores, the outfits filling my closet, the pictures of myself I won't post. I have searched and not found, and oh, how I pray that she never has to search.
It's not superficial, this need to be loved. It's not wrong to want to hear you are wonderfully made, and it's not sinful for little girls to play dress up and primp. It's God's design for little girls to look to their fathers for their first feelings of love, and it's His design to use an earthly father's adoration to teach us of His own.
Earthly father, tell your little girl as often as you can that she is beautiful and amazing in your eyes. Treasure the papers she colors for you, and make it a point to take her out for special dates. Kiss her mother in front of her, and let her see you love her mommy well. Buy her the ice cream flavor she likes best just to let her know that you know. Buy her some new pajamas and tell her that you thought of her when you saw them. Love her, earthly father, in deeds and not just words. Treasure her and teach her that she herself is the treasure. Instill in her while she's still a child that she can be confident in a father's love, and when she is older there will be a fighting chance that she won't search for it in the wrong places. Love her, father, (stepfather, man in her life), with the love of the Father. Teach her that He's good. You will mean more in her life than you can possibly imagine.