When I launched The Abba Project in January of 2010, it came on the heels of reading a story in the New Testament that particularly struck me. It was about a dad named Zechariah who was told that his son, John, would help “turn the hearts of fathers to their children.” For some reason, the way those words were strung together jumped out at me differently than it ever had before.
At that time, the main thing I took away was that I was being given a really amazing yet daunting assignment to help equip dads to be more intentional with their daughters. As time’s gone on, however, I’ve pondered the significance of the carefully scripted, unusually worded phrase, “turn the hearts of fathers.”
I’ve never had anyone ask me to “turn my heart” toward them, have you?
A much more common expression is “turn my head.” Turning our heads is so instinctive and automatic that we don’t think about it when it happens. We just do it, in response to motion, to noise, to anything that catches our attention. Turning our heart, it seems, isn’t so reflexive. It’s directed by a decision, a choice, maybe even a passion.
For most dads, it’s far more natural to tune in and engage at the head, or cerebral, level. Turning the heart is typically more difficult for a man to do.
Most girls I’ve known have told me they need and appreciate intellectual input from their dads. After all, it’s usually dad who helps her figure out everything from filling out a FAFSA (federal student aid form) to opening a bank account. The reality is that we need and value our dad’s rational, logical, intelligent minds to help us navigate life.
This then raises the question: Why did God talk about heart turns and not head turns?
I firmly believe that a turned heart from a dad to his daughter will do more to deposit love, confidence, value, and strength into her life than anything else he could do.
A turned head:
- implies that information is being exchanged.
- means that something or someone has caught the attention of another as mental activity is stimulated.
- is the seedbed of thought and deliberation, of consideration and contemplation.
- is where choice originates and decisions are birthed.
The language in the story of Luke about a turned heart is less intuitive for men and takes more work than a turned head.
And I figure that God must have written this directive about a turned heart for a reason, which means that not only is it possible for dads to do it, but it also must be important or he wouldn’t have worded it this way. Because this language is intentional, it invites the question whether there’s a difference between a dad turning his head and turning his heart.
A turned heart:
- implies emotion and connection.
- can bypass thought, perhaps even words.
- is responsive, engaged, heartfelt, and receptive.
- communicates a depth of openness and availability as there is congruence between what the eyes say, the mouth speaks, and the heart expresses.
- is about authentic, open, tender, honest interaction based on a foundation of unconditional love and acceptance.
And a girl can tell if her dad has his heart turned toward her or if only his head is turned.
Case in point: You’re watching the game. It’s your team against Notre Dame. Fourth quarter. Score is tied. She comes in crying. You tell her you’re listening. One ear toward her. One ear toward the game. One and a half eyes on the game. Half an eye on her. Bad timing. Dilemma.
If you’re serious about turning your heart, expect to be inconvenienced.
As you head into this next week, why not set a goal to consciously raise your awareness and ask yourself every day if your heart is turned towards your girl. Use the above list that clarifies what a heart turn looks like to assess whether you’re getting close enough to see her eyes, feel her emotion, and hear her words.
I cheer you on today, Dad, and trust that your heart turns this week will outnumber your head turns. Become an expert “heart turner” and your daughter will be the beneficiary of your efforts!