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This series I’m writing is based on a simple idea: Each day, I’m going to wake up, pray and read in Proverbs with “parenting eyes.” Then I’m going to blog whatever comes to mind. This could be brilliant or an epic failure. But that’s the plan. Today, I read Proverbs 7.

$3,600,000.

Three-point-six-million bucks.

That’s how much a violin made by Antonio Stradivari went for in 2010…and that was one he made BEFORE he got good at making them. For his first 10 years, he built them using a focus on the outer form.

$15,900,000.

Fifteen-point-nine-million bucks.

That’s how much a violin made by Antonio Stradivari went for in 2011…the ones he made AFTER he perfected the craft by focusing on the inner form method of creating them to get the sound he was striving for.

Either way, there’s a pretty high value on these 300-some year-old instruments. This explains precisely what my seminary’s president meant when he modified a quote he’d read from somewhere else. This particular seminary president had a knack for that. Folksy and down-home and all but he’d picked up most of his material from somewhere else.

Anyway, here’s the gist of what he said: He was talking about giving his daughter away on her wedding day. And as he was walking down the aisle he was looking at the groom waiting by the stairs. The guy he and his wife had been praying for his daughter to meet. Someone who made her better. Someone who would help her in her walk with Christ. In short, the answer to the Swindoll family prayers. But yet, after all that, when he put his daughter’s hand on this young man’s arm, he recounted that he couldn’t help but feel like he was “handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla.”

Brother, I’m a student of all things dad/daughter related, and I’ve been badgering my friends who are further along in life about that quote. I have a legion of friends who have all given away their daughters. My friend Loy. My friend Dave. My friend Tim. My friend Joel. My friend Randy. My friend Dan. My friend Bob (who’ll do it again later this month). I performed most of their daughters’ ceremonies and got to watch that moment up-close and personal. See, I want to be ready when my time comes. So, I ask them if Swindoll’s recounting was similar to their experience.

Overwhelmingly, the answer is yes. Which is interesting to me because–let’s be honest, shall we?–at one time we each were the gorilla in the scenario.

What does this have to do with Proverbs 7, you ask?

Well, see, a young man is being warned. The kid is, well, a kid. He’s naive. He hasn’t understood how to apply the wisdom his family is trying to teach him just yet. His heart wants to loiter near the home of a woman who is bad for him. He actually marches with purpose to get near her. He has a hint this is a bad idea so he goes when it’s dark so he’s less likely to be seen. She wears clothes designed for seduction. She’s wily and has a secret agenda…even if her clothes don’t leave much to the imagination. She doesn’t value the home life and is often out and about. She’s here and there. She’s brazen and forward. She kisses him. She portrays quasi-religious beliefs. Or at least gives free food. She’s prepared for sex, complete with a bedroom prepared with the good linens and perfume. She wants to be drunk with passion. Her man is away and won’t be back for a while.

The young man is being hunted and doesn’t know it. He won’t know it until he gets shot or is already in the trap. He’s being led to slaughter like an ox who doesn’t have any idea what’s about to happen. Dad’s trying to warn him.

See, the characteristics of the woman mentioned are not who I wanted my daughters to be.
See, the characteristics of the young man mentioned are not who I want my daughters to seek out as they date.

My guess is that if I had sons, I wouldn’t want them to be the type of guy who falls for girls like that.
My guess is that if I had sons, I wouldn’t want them to fall for the traps.

And we all know girls like that. And we all know guys like that. Maybe we were even those girls and guys in the past. I mean, those girls are out there. In high school, even in Alabama, we knew who those girls were…even though they outwardly played the virginal Southern Belle card they’d been taught to guard their reputations. High school guys are young, naive and talkative (despite their supposed Deep South training to be a gentleman). In college, even in Alabama, we knew who those girls were that spent the night among the thinner-than-they-knew walls with even thinner-than-they-knew chatter. Once I got into youth ministry, we could spot the girls in our group with those characteristics. As a pastor, we had safeguards put in place because those women were out there. There’s nothing new under the sun. Those women have been out there for at least as long as the Bible is old. Styles change, but human nature is still the same.

So, as we raise our kids, how do we keep our daughters from being these types of girls?

First, we should pray for our daughters. Sometimes we ho-hum this. We yada yada yada the most important part. The only Person I know who can change a heart and transform lives is, well, (Sunday School answer forthcoming) the Holy Spirit. Do we really trust that God can make them into strong women who follow the Lord wholeheartedly, or do we naively believe that some sort of control and behavior management on our part will get the job done? And, oh, yeah. It’ll be very helpful if the walk-with-God thing is authentic and real in your own lives and they see it.

Second, like Stradivarius, we should work on the “inner form” to get the sound we want. What I mean is that we should lovingly reinforce the hidden person of their hearts. Look. I’ve got daughters who are blonde-haired blue-eyed and have curves (despite my futile attempts to ignore them)…and the types of curves that when I walk anywhere with them in public, young men glance and leer. It’s easy to see they’re pretty. My wife and I always worked hard to let them know that we valued their character. We spent more time discussing the upper part of their report cards than the lower part because the stuff at the top was character related and the stuff at the bottom were just grades. Sure, we commented on their cuteness, or beauty, or looks, on occasion. But we tried to focus more on their intelligence, their compassion, their empathies and sympathies, their work ethic, their goals, their passions…you know, the Proverbs 31 stuff. We tried to squash the Proverbs 7 stuff whenever it came up. We set the bar high–wisdom–and clearly let them know we expected them to get to it.

Finally, let them know they’re loved. No matter what. My kids blew it on occasion. Stuff I can’t talk about here, but it wasn’t all Proverbs 31 and we had moments of Proverbs 7 that could’ve had much larger consequences than they did. We had long talks. Tears. We hurt when they hurt. It wasn’t easy…even if the overwhelming majority of days were easy and fun…those few speedbumps were not easy and fun. But we made sure they knew they were loved from day 1. This is why I love seeing new dads post their newborn daughter’s photos on Facebook or Instagram. From day 1 we held. We hugged. We kissed. We prayed with. We prayed for. We wrestled. We played Barbies. We laughed. We put Disney band-aids on fake injuries. We danced. We held hands. We drove on first dates. All those things were affectionate, loving, and the whole deal. They haven’t stopped, even if the forms are different…and instead of tea-parties it’s now glasses of wine over a good meal or laughter over the tales of stuff they got away with that we can’t believe we didn’t catch or a hug before they get on a plane to study abroad or filling out a FAFSA form to try to find a way to pay for them to prepare their future.

Do you have sons?

First, the prayer thing applies to you, too. And the modeling thing.

Second, if you want to gorilla-proof them focus on the three things in verses 24-27. Teach them to guard their hearts. Teach them they have a choice…that they aren’t slaves to their emotions and passions. That self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. That walking with God in the moment-by-moment will keep them from the desires of the flesh. That there are only two ways to live, and if you live by the Spirit, you won’t carry out the flesh. Help them think. Help them discern. Help them know wisdom and foolishness and give them the tools they’ll need to apply wisdom.

Teach them to guard their bodies. Let them know they can be a victim of those kinds of girls. Verse 26 is clear. If they walk into her path, they’re like hunted animals. Victims. Numerous are her slain. Wow.

Teach them to guard their future. The “now” of great sex has hidden payments. The interest rate on those payments varies. It could be anything from guilt to disillusionment to loss of reputation to an STD that will kill you. One example: There’s a grant the state of Texas gives to prospective students that has a list of character requirements to maintain the payments each year. Among them is if you’re involved in a pregnancy. Imagine your son got the grant, got a girl pregnant at the end of his freshman year & it was discovered. That could be a $75,000 loss in theory. Ask any grown-up if they’d trade that amount of cash for sex. Teach them that actions have consequences…and what God says in Proverbs is right. Stay on the path, you’ll have much smoother sailing.

Because here’s the bottom line:

My wife and I worked hard on the inner form. We have two daughters who are much more valuable than any Stradivarius…before or after he got good at it.

And when the day comes, I don’t want to hand it to a gorilla. And while my friends joked that they did…they didn’t, and they know it. They handed it to someone who’d appreciate it and ensure it played beautiful music. And isn’t that what we all want?