Tears streamed down the face of the woman standing before me. "My dad wasn’t a part of my life," she said between sobs. "So I looked for someone else to tell me I was beautiful. I gave myself away, my heart and my body, to know the love of a man. And now I’m paying the price. My heart is broken, and there is this trail of bad relationships behind me. I don’t want to do this anymore!"

This beautiful 30-something woman held out her hands and I grasped them in my own. I prayed for God to completely heal the broken places.

Our conversation had taken place during a weekend retreat for hurting women. When I arrived home Sunday night, I picked up my daughter, Sam, from her friend’s house. After she went to bed, I walked into her room and watched her sleep. My breath caught in my throat. Her story had similar beginnings to the one of the woman I’d met.

Since my divorce 10 years earlier, Sam’s dad had only been sporadically involved in her life. Even at 12, I could see her longing for attention. How could I protect her? Was there anything I could do to keep her story from playing out with similar pain and regret? After much prayer and research, I took the following steps:

Explaining purity and intimacy

Sam was mortified when I took her to a chain restaurant to have the "big talk." Today, at 17, she still can’t go to that particular restaurant without teasing me. But I had my reasons. I wanted our conversation about sex to be celebratory, a positive discussion.

I shared how sex, within the marriage relationship, is a wonderful experience. I talked about God’s design for marriage and how when we go outside of His plan, we pay a price. I spoke of the longing in a girl’s heart to be found beautiful and how sometimes girls look to a boyfriend for affirmation and end up making poor choices.

"God isn’t trying to rob you of fun by asking you to wait until marriage; He’s protecting you. He has a father’s heart. He doesn’t want you to give yourself away to someone who isn’t committed for a lifetime."

Protect unashamedly

Sam, like any curious teen, has made a few mistakes. I always step in. When I sensed she was texting a boy she didn’t know, I checked her messages. When I found out she was flirting inappropriately, I confiscated her phone.

Privacy was a privilege. As long as she honoured the rules, she could earn it. If I sensed she was in danger, I revoked the privilege. Always, I put my intervention into the context of protection. "I know you’re angry, but that’s OK with me. I love you. I will protect you to the best of my ability, whether you want me to or not."

Her frustration never changed my role as her protector. Even today I monitor her online activity, meet her friends, talk to their parents and do my best to know where she is and whom she’s spending time with. As Sam matures, I grant her greater freedom and independence but always under my protective covering.

Pray constantly

I pray with and for Sam. I ask God to give her eyes to see the good plan He has for her life. I pray for protection of her purity and for a deep understanding of His love. I ask Him to show me things that might be going on.

"I never get away with anything," she said to me one day. "It’s not fair! God always tells you what I’m doing!"

I had to laugh. "That’s because I asked Him to be your dad, and He promises, in the Bible, to be a father to the fatherless." I hugged her close. "You may not have your dad in your life every day, but you have a God who loves you, who is passionate about your purity and the life you lead."

She shook her head – but with a little smile. She liked knowing that somebody cared.

I can’t be with Sam every minute. I can’t keep her from all the choices that may damage her heart. But I can do a lot to promote healthy relationships, protect her while granting her independence and pray for God’s intervention when she heads in the wrong direction.

© 2009 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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