I couldn’t have been more than ten-years-old when, somewhere in the hour and half stretch between Ohio and Indiana, my father directly broached a subject that probably never would have otherwise come up, at least for awhile.
He took me out on dates a lot, and we always called them dates. It usually meant lunch, sometimes it meant a day in the city (the city being Fort Wayne, which always seemed exotic and far away.)
In the car, we sang loudly along with the music, or to no music at all. He always held my hand and stopped to tell me that he loved me. He said, I was intelligent and that was going to do things he never could do and that I was pretty.
I couldn’t wear anything I knew my dad didn’t think I looked pretty in. I still can’t. I care what he thinks.
Arriving at our destination meant nothing, he would keep singing, and being that he didn’t have to focus on the road anymore, he would dance. In big, loud, exaggerated motions he would take my hand and hold my waist, and with his bellowing voice drawing the eyes of everyone within earshot, we’d dance to White Christmas with the summer sun beating down in the waiting area at Bob Evans (back when we liked Bob Evans).
I never cared that everybody watched, because I was dancing with my Daddy, and if anybody ever had any problem with that, they would have to take it up with him.
I knew that I was special, because of how he treated me. I knew that there was a very important difference in how my father honored me and how the whole class got certificates and stickers for doing our homework. I knew that in my father’s eyes, I truly was something really special. His words were never hallow, because I never doubted them in his actions.
So as I sat in the car on that day, as a little third grader, his words sunk like a branding press on my heart. He said, “Tori, see how I love you. See how I treat your mother.” We talked about Galatians 3:28 and how God loves me. He talked about the gifts I had and my responsibility to use them to further the Kingdom. He explained the fall in the garden of Eden and how God created men and women to interact with each other and with Him.
He said that I was young, but that I was a talented leader. He said that there would be people in the church who would tell me that I can’t lead and that a very loving, God-fearing man, might interpret Scriptures differently. He urged me to be continually mindful and wise.
He said I needed to step into the fullness of the Word and of the talents God has given me and to never let “you’re a woman” stop me.
However randomly out of place that conversation felt at the time, it wasn’t anything I ever forgot, and as I got older, I investigated my father’s claims.
At my request, he dug out notes from his college classes and gave me all his books on the subject. I remember trying to understand a technical exegesis on women in ministry in middle school. The book was least four years ahead of my analytical comprehension skills, but I wanted to know so bad.
I now know what the Bible has to say about the roles of women and not simply what my father taught me it said. But until today, I never realized how incredibly free I have always been because of how my father loved me and taught me.
I’m by no means “there,” wherever “there” is, but from self-led trips in Morocco to speeches in front of massive, emotional crowds and the most pro-active, aggressive career research/networking path I’m capable of pursuing, I’ve clinched to the boldness in who I am because of this freedom.
I cherish this, because as any student in Prof. Grimmer-Solem’s CSS Post-Imperial history tutorial could tell you, freedom’s no end goal. It is what we strive for, but it’s what we do with it that counts.