What does a father expect? (Part 1)

We received a question from a soon-to-be college graduate planning to propose to his girlfriend, asking “what does a father expect of the man that will marry his daughter?”

We thought we would do a series of interviews to find an answer to this important question.  First up on the list is our very own Dad!  Our parents have been happily married for over 28 years.  Five children and five grandchildren later, our dad reflects on what qualities turn a young man into a worthy husband:

As a father of both sons and daughters, I think of this question – What does a father expect of the man his daughter will marry? – from different perspectives.  Obviously, I have hopes/desires/expectations for my daughters.  For my sons, I tried to raise them to be the type of men that their fathers-in-law would think of when they were considering this question.

For both sons and daughters, we pray that they will find women and men who love the Lord and His Church.  This is probably obvious to anyone who knows us, but it is at the heart of who we are as children of God.  We have a plaque over our front door that sums it up with the following scripture verse: “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

I also think back to when Debbie and I were considering marriage at a young age.  What kind of man was I?  What did her dad see in me? As I answer the question of “What does a father expect…”, I will probably flow back-and-forth between my role as a son-in-law, a husband, and a father…

  1. Love of the Lord: I already said it above, but this is foundational.  Without God as the foundation of a marriage, nothing else matters.  Might sound trite, but I believe it with all of my being.  It’s not my intent to quote a bunch of scripture, but check-out Matt 22:37-40.  If we don’t have a relationship with our Lord, we are not prepared to enter into a marriage where our primary objectives should be to help our spouse grow in holiness and to raise children to know, love and serve the Lord.
  2. Do you have a Plan?: While Love of the Lord is foundational, from my perspective it is not enough.  As a father, I want to know that my son-in-law can provide for my daughter and, God-willing, their children!  While there are many ways to accomplish this, what I want to know as a father is that my daughter’s husband has a plan, and that he has the means to execute that plan.  As I think back on when Debbie and I got married, my plan was simple – it definitely had an element of faith, but it was not faith without reason:
    1. Trust in God (it always starts here): from the beginning we would trust God with all aspects of our marriage.  This meant that we were open to life, even though I was still in college.  God blessed us with our first son a little over a year after we were married, and I still had two years of college left.  By the time I graduated from College we had two sons – it was awesome!
    2. Finish College: this sounds simple, but it would have been easy to get distracted here.  I was playing football for the community college I attended, and I really wanted to play another year before moving-on – but that didn’t fit the plan.  I also chose a state university over one of the UC’s due to a combination of cost and ability to graduate in four years total rather than five.  I stuck to the plan.
    3. Finances: trusting God with all aspects of our marriage meant giving him control of our finances.  From the beginning, we tithed 10% of our gross monthly income.  I was working while going to college, but the income was meager. 10% of meager is also meager, but we knew that we needed to trust God in everything.  This isn’t about giving to God and then waiting for him to bless you (i.e. no “health and wealth gospel” here), but rather recognizing that EVERYTHING we have is a gift from God, and giving our first 10% back to God has always helped us keep this in perspective.
    4. Work Ethic: I am blessed to have a father whose example of perseverance and commitment in work made a lifelong impression on me. He dropped-out of high school at the age of 17 to join the Marine Corps, but ultimately finished college and went on to get two Master’s Degrees and was working on his PhD when he retired from the Marine Corps as a Lt. Colonel.  There was never anything that my Dad couldn’t do.  We worked on cars together, landscaped the yard, built wood decks and retaining walls around the house, and built a cabin together with my brothers on some land my Mom and Dad bought in Northern California.  My Dad didn’t go to school to learn this stuff, and he didn’t work in a field that taught him this – he just bought books to learn (and to teach me and my brothers).  I therefore grew-up with the sense that there was really nothing I couldn’t do if I tried.  It might take me longer than others, and I might make mistakes along the way, but I wasn’t afraid to fail.  I’m sure that my father-in-law-to-be was looking to see what kind of man his daughter was marrying, especially since I was still in college and wasn’t sure what I was going to do from a career standpoint.
    5. Family Support: Even with all of the above, getting married young would have not been possible without the support of our families.  Debbie and I lived with her parents while I finished college.  Some people thought we were crazy, that I should finish college first, get a job, buy a house and then get married.  These are all prudent suggestions, and quite frankly, if we didn’t have the option to live with Debbie’s parents, we would have had to wait – but what a blessing it was to live with Debbie’s parents as were starting our own family.

As I try to put all of this in perspective, some things might appear to be missing.  I didn’t know what I was going to do with my career, and I didn’t own a home.  While these are important questions, they were not completely unanswered.  I don’t think the question should be “do you own a home”, but rather, “where will you live.”  Likewise, careers can change, but the real concern from a father’s perspective is not “what type of job will you have,” but “can you provide for my daughter?”

I think a father wants to know:

  1. Will you put the Lord first in everything;
  2. Will you love your wife (my daughter) as Christ loved the church (Eph 5:20);
  3. Do you have a plan to provide for her and your children (my grandchildren!)?

My prayer is that my daughters’ husbands will be such men, that my sons will live their marriage vocation in the same way, and that I am up to the challenge!  Praise God!