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To my future sons-in-law

Yesterday I introduced the topic of “how do I find guys for all the wonderful young ladies in my life?” My four beautiful girls are 20, 21, 23, and 26 and they have a bunch of friends who are also gorgeous, fun, and vivacious.   So, I’ve put it off as long as I could, but now I need to face …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Yesterday I introduced the topic of “how do I find guys for all the wonderful young ladies in my life?” My four beautiful girls are 20, 21, 23, and 26 and they have a bunch of friends who are also gorgeous, fun, and vivacious.
So, I’ve put it off as long as I could, but now I need to face the reality of this season of life. Men who I barely know and may not even like are going to eventually take the most precious people in my life away. My girls will feel caught in the middle, loving these young Romeos and wanting a family of their own, yet not wanting to provoke me to some rash action that leaves us all embarrassed.       

If the marital battlefield weren’t such a bloody place, I probably wouldn’t have adopted this posture which may feel adversarial to the young suitors. I can’t tell you the number of rocky marriages that I’ve watched teeter between managed misery and capitulation to divorce.

So if you’re interested in one of my daughters or many spiritual daughters, know this: I really want to love you, but getting there is not going to be easy for me. So I’d like to write you this brief letter to perhaps clarify the process for you.
My dear possible future son-in-law,
1. This thing you want to do of taking my daughter from me is deeply troubling to me. I know that you’re promising to make her happy and to give me grandbabies, but let me point out, you’ve got no experience. In my line of work, I don’t hire people without experience, so realize, I’m not just being difficult when I ask you questions like, “How will you provide for my baby?”           

2. You’re obviously a nice guy or she wouldn’t be hanging out with you. But I will struggle to trust you. Please realize, it’s nothing personal. You’ll get to do this too one day.

3. In fact, I don’t trust myself. The stakes are too high and the issues are too many. That’s why I call my friends in to give advice. If they don’t like you, then buddy, you’re sunk. You better hope you can persuade my daughter to elope.

4. My daughter won’t elope with you, she loves me too much.

5. If you haven’t gotten to know my friends well enough for them to give a thumbs-up on you, don’t bother come asking me for permission to marry my daughter. The answer will be NO. Remember, this isn’t personal.      

6. My friends are my tribe. It is the very tribe that you will be joining if you marry my daughter. They will become significant people in your life if you pull this thing off. So what I’m asking you to do has a double purpose. And, BTW, you’ll help me vet others like you in the future.

7. Incidentally, one of the reasons the divorce rate is so high is that my generation has gone tribe-less. We have no safety nets under us as we engage in the death-defying high wire act of marriage. Tribes bring the accountability and support that people need to live full lives. They exist in cultures around the world, but owing to our radical independence as a nation, we missed out on this critical cultural artifact.

8. This gauntlet I’ve set up for you is really pretty flimsy. My girls have been raised with big hearts that love well. They may go all-in with you and you could use that to get leverage, but that would not be a good way to start your relationship with me.
9. At the end of the day, I really do want this to work, and if it does, I’ll be your greatest fan. I’ll love you and leave you a great inheritance. I’ll introduce you to opportunities you’d never have access to on your own. You’ll be my son. And along the way, I promise not to hire a trunk monkey like in the video below.
10. That said, don’t ever call me “bro.” Mr. Barnes will do until I say YES, after which you may call me “Dad.”

This is me trying to make you a son,

Comments (18)

  • We talked earlier this morning about unrelated issues but you said something on the order “the previous generation had so much character but they were kind of locked down emotionally” or something like that. our generation is a lot less. two generations ago they were probably locked down even more. My grandfather comes to mind, physically built the church, all his children went, my grandmother was there when the doors open always. 7 children in the 30’s, one more born in the 40’s.

    He had a tribe, his aspiration was to have them at his table for the rest of his life. This led to two rather large conflicts, his first son going to war in 42 marrying his high school sweet heart 7 days before enlistment. it was not a good departure, I just read a letter from that uncle to his sister (my aunt louann) asking her to be nice to his wife in the small town where they lived. sad. he never came back, died in the war.

    His 2nd son’s wedding he refused to goto because he disapproved of the wife.

    I told you in our conversation I’m taking a grad course on amos and hosea now. a little hebrew, a lot of literarcy criticism, and very conservative commentaries (Christian, Jewish, Mormon) and scholarly papers required. Gary Smith’s Commentary on Amos/Hosea (NIV application commentary) is different than the rest, it is conservative but is is application oriented. I very much recommended it.

    His discussion on intercession as seen in Amos with reference to Samuel, Jeremiah, Jesus, etc. is very interesting. Something that I’ve endeavored to people as their loved ones fall off the wagon.

    Punishment isn’t going to work. In the bad old days of Evangelicism we used to say “just love them”. Well that’s half right maybe. Smith would suggest that out of a heart of love and compassion that we anoint with intercessory prayer the people and situations we know to be interwined with wrong choice. But “If people are focused on their own desires, they will spend little time to pray for the needs of others.” Unfortunately that describes me over to much of my life.

    Intercession is a theological discussion that leads us into a dialog with a piece of so-called “open theology”. In Amos it comes down to how we interpret the hebrew word “enh”
    which is translated in Amos to God “relented”. This is a word of “emotional response” (of God), Amos in so moved that like a father the best his brokenness can generate is that Israel is “too small”. And God “relents”, his heart was moved.

    You will get there I am sure, and you will do well. Because God is involved. Stealing from drama theory, God didn’t just write the play, he is an actor in the play, your role has been and will always be that of the dramaturge, even if it is less than it was. When you have grandchildren you will be given an additional vocation, you will be responsible for blessing.

  • Hey Seth,

    That was awesome. I hope i can raise my daughters with the same love and dedication from there Dad.


  • Loved it. Well stated and very accurate. Roger and I follow a very similar philosophy and I am deeply in love with my two added children through marriage. We lend them the power of our authority for marriage and life with our approval. We bring in a new daughter this Spring and my 3 have become 6. That’s not even adding those God children that we also adore.

    The family can become stronger or weaker with each addition. Each life will change the future generations forever. It is the greatest decision outside of Christ our children make and if they trust us enough to guide them, we all reap the rewards.

  • My Dad’s first queston to Scott when he asked to marry me?… “How will you provide for my daughter?”

    Scott’s answer, “Uh, I don’t know, I figured God would do that.”

    I encourage you to say YES to that guy who doesn’t have it all figured out on his own.

  • yeah, I wasn’t sure how, but by looking at me, God hadn’t made me miss too many meals. I was guessing he wasn’t going to let us down either.

  • Is it just me or is this going way to hard on the guys??

    KIDDING! I love it and am blessed to be part of it.

  • Thank you Seth for sharing from the heart of a father for his daughters. These children we are given have always been His kids first, so it is a blessing to “hear” your heart for His beautiful girls!

    As the mother of two terrific sons, I felt moved to respond to your letter to your future son-in-laws by writing one to our future daughters-in-law:

    To our dear possible future daughter-in-law,

    1) The idea of you taking our son away from us is disturbing to us. We’re trying to act with a modicum of rational behavior about it, but something someone once told us reverberates through this Mom and Dad’s heart and mind: a son is a son until he gets a wife. Since we have been his Mom and Dad for a long time, and you have never been a wife, please understand our hesitancy. We are not trying to be difficult when we ask questions about how you plan on being a helpmate to our amazing son. We know that marriage takes a lot more than falling in love and want to learn if you have the mettle that the years will require of you.

    2) We recognize that we are not impartial, so we will be asking our friends who are our family for advice and impressions of what they think of your potential to go through life with our son. Please don’t take it personally, but we want input from those who have loved and lived life with our son for all the years before you met him. If they don’t think you are the right mate for him, we’re going to listen to why. If you don’t take time to get to know the people in our lives so they don’t get to know you, there won’t be any thumbs up from us!

    3) We feel certain you must be a great gal because we are certain our son wouldn’t hang out with anyone who isn’t. But we well remember our son asking us to pick his wife for him because he felt we know him better than anyone else in the world knows him, including himself. Granted he was only 10 when he asked that of us, and while we didn’t ask him to sign the request in blood, we feel we need to honor our affirmative answer to him that day. We take our agreement very seriously and are now carrying out our responsibility to that agreement. If need be, we will remind him of that sacred contract!

    4) We raised our son to honor us. We know he respects and loves us enough to give consideration to our opinions, thoughts and advice. Because we hold him in such high regard, we feel obligated to share those opinions, thoughts and advice. Those will be greatly impacted by how much you allow us to get to know you, and how much you get to know us. Hint: spend time with us!

    5) We’ve been praying for his wife since we first learned about our son. We have prayed that she would have parents who love her, who sang her to sleep, who spoke/speak words of praise and worship of our God into her heart and mind, who encourage her to become the person He created her to be. We have prayed that she would love Him above all else, that she develop an appreciation of the adventure He has planned for her in what she calls her life and that His Word is alive and deeply rooted in her. We have prayed that she realize the only princess she is created to be is the one she is by virtue of being the daughter of the King of Kings; no other princess state of being is needed. Since we have spent so much time in prayer over her and for her, we know we are already very invested spiritually in her. If that “her” is you, it has been a real honor and joy to commit ourselves to you.

    6) At the end of the day, we really want this relationship that he holds dear to work. We will love you, and give to you from the depths of our hearts. You will be our daughter and we will commit ourselves to supporting the two of you. We will honor the leaving and cleaving….and will remind you to not remain in the “leave” mode for longer than you need to “cleave”. We’ll be the ones cheering you, both of you, as you step out in your new journey, in your new family. And we will be the ones who gently or not so gently remind you of the families of origin you have come out of but that still remain in your lives.

  • Well done, Deb. You could be a ghost writer! I sent it on to my son. At the end of the day, we parents don’t want to hover, but we don’t want to be discounted when we can help either.

  • HA! I love it Seth! I remember gushing about a guy I was dating (before Rusty). Your response? A very matter of fact: “I probably won’t approve of him.” I have never been so shocked (or felt so protected 😉 You’re a great Dad, and all your girls are lucky to have you!

  • Julien – Thanks for the encouragement. As new suitors arrive on the scene, I continue to use these principles!

    All the best.

  • That’s a great letter to your future son. But what if Clyde takes your daughters heart, melts it with his and turns her into his Bonnie and they do elope. She loves you but she is in love with him, she is torn so much between her new love of her life and you, her dad? I’m struggling in trying to pray for him and hope for the best. She doesn’t see who he really is because she’s nieve ND young and love is so blind and she can not see past that. I came on this site looking for a prayer for him instead of my harsh worse that want to come from my mouth, and I’m mute. I can only stand back and wait till she sees who he really is because every time I try to show her who he is she follows him deeper into the rabbit hole and she’s so torn. So I no longer can show her, she must see on her own. I just hope and pray she sees before something extreme happens. There have been some life changing choices he made and she followed. Yet she still can’t see. (They both did jail time) yet she still loves him and wants to be him. I am trying to really send him prayers but my emotions are only muting me. Can someone help me with a prayer for this evil sadistic criminal that holds my daughter’s heart for now.

  • Hi Seth this is great, I love it and will use this over the weekend when I face time with my 23 year old son and potential son in law. Its a little harder for me as I live and work here in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia so have not met him face to face, but thank you for your words of advice.
    Warm regards, Julien Wilkinson

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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