by Deena Peterson


I was 17, in my junior year of high school, and I hadn’t had a boyfriend yet. No dates either. I was very self-conscious of my weight and body issues, and the thought of having a guy interested in me was mind-blowing.

My father’s best friend and co-worker had a son I’ll call Jim, who was much older than I was—college age, and he had a lot more life experience as well. And for some strange reason, he liked me. Jim asked for my dad’s permission to ask me out, and against his better judgment, my dad agreed.

Dad felt it was a bad idea because of the age difference and because it could ruin his friendship with Jim’s dad. I was just excited about an older guy asking me out, and Homecoming was coming up, so I said yes.

The pathetic thing? I wasn’t even attracted to Jim. I was just attracted to being wanted by a ‘real man’. Naturally, my girlfriends were properly impressed.

Jim picked me up in his car (his very own vehicle—again, a very big deal!) and we attended the game, sitting with my girlfriends. By the first quarter I realized I was bored out of my skull. Jim was older, all right. He wasn’t into giggling, cheering and whispering. He drank coffee, and he was boring. So, I basically ignored my date.

Can you say rude?

With my heart set on going to the Homecoming dance, I could sense Jim would be a bummer. So my best friend and I cooked up a plan to claim that I had a headache, that I was very sorry, and that I just wanted to go home after the game. Jim seemed disappointed, but he took me home, walking me to my door. Needless to say, our goodbye was awkward. I gave him a half-hearted hug, and when he asked if he could call me, I mumbled something.

Success! Mr. Boring had departed, and I was about to get my groove on solo. I headed outside to wait for my friends to pick me up for the dance, but Dad stopped me in my tracks by telling me I wasn’t going anywhere. Now, my dad was very John Wayne-ish, and I was usually afraid of confronting him in any way, but that night I rather boldly stated my intent to go. End of story.

My behavior didn’t serve me well, and when I ended up grounded for the night and into the near future, I argued, screamed, cried, and threw what we called a wall-eyed fit. Still, Dad wouldn’t budge. He stood with arms crossed and let me have my fit, but soon he’d had enough and left the room, leaving Mom to calm me down.

Mom insisted Dad wasn’t being mean or ruining my night. He loved me and knew what was best. I swore I’d never speak to him again or forgive him, then stomped off to bed, cried myself to sleep. Dad, on the other hand, met my friend outside to tell her I wasn’t going to the dance.

Can you say humiliated?

For days, I complained to my friends about my Ogre Dad, and they sided with me—surprise! But as time progressed, the Holy Spirit began to work on me. Perspective came quickly (early sign I’d been gifted with discernment-go figure!) I stopped trashing my dad and started thinking instead. Wrestling with my conscience and my anger, I finally gave in to God. I called Jim, told him what’d I had done, and asked his forgiveness. I also asked him to not let my behavior ruin our fathers’ friendship. Even though he was hurt, Jim accepted my apology and reassured me that this was between us. That night I told Dad what I’d done, and asked for his forgiveness as well.

To tell the truth, I still didn’t fully get it, but I trusted my dad, and my guilt was gone. Dad shocked me by breaking down in tears and going outside. I panicked, but Mom quickly stepped in and told me Dad had almost given in that night. What?! Little did I know I’d almost gotten my way, but God gave Dad strength and he held his ground. It wasn’t about ruining my night, or even punishing me. Dad was concerned about one thing: what kind of daughter I was becoming.

I’m thankful I didn’t know my dad was ready to give in. That would have been tragic. Instead, my Homecoming disaster taught me this: respect other people, don’t manipulate others, and have integrity in relationships. It’s been over 35 years, and I’ve never forgotten a moment of that night.

Nothing went as I’d planned. But both my dad and my Dad taught me so much.

Deena Peterson is many things to many people.  She’s a pastor’s wife, mother to four, and Nana to five.  She battles auto-immune disease and, as a result, she’s become an expert hugger, and she’s rather fond of hugs herself!  When Deena’s not hugging, you can find her reading great books, writing her first children’s book, or snuggling up with a turtle (pillow). You can find Deena at  her blog, Just One More.



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  1. Gail Hollingsworth

    It’s strange to look back and realize how immature and self centered most teenagers are, at least I think I was. I didn’t have a wise dad like the author of this had, my dad had many problems of his own. I didn’t even have a date until I was 21 and it was a disaster from start to finish.

    • Varina Denman

      I was incredibly self-centered and immature, but at the time, I had no idea. Happily oblivious!


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