We are often told the terrible statistics – 24 million children in America – one out of every three – live in a biological father-absent home. Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. Fatherless children are four times more likely to be poor, more likely to become involved in drug and alcohol abuse, drop out of school, and suffer from health and emotional problems. Boys are more likely to become involved in crime, and girls are more likely to become pregnant as teens.
Sadly I don’t think I’ve ever seen a story on the 17% of single family homes led by dads. Or the dads who are struggling in a challenging world to be all that God designed them to be. Our world attacks leaders – especially male leaders. We even attack ‘maleness’. Stagnant wages and a quickly changing world economy with shrinking jobs, make it hard for dads to provide. Dads are wired to be providers and protectors of their family and it has becoming increasingly difficult for them to do this. In some zip codes, it’s pretty much impossible. Dads were never perfect, but there was a time when they were encouraged and respected.
I’m not excusing the men who have absented themselves. After all to ‘man up’ means to stand for what is right, even in the face of adversity. But honestly it’s hard. We in the Christian community should be encouraging our men. Those who grew up without a father should write a new story by learning from other men. The church should be a place that encourages the respect of men and maleness, instead of criticizing it as a deplorable abuse of power and privilege. If you have a dad, thank him. Let him know how much you appreciate him for all the sacrifices he made for you. Let’s stop calling dad’s “deadbeats” and instead start encouraging and helping them to be all God wants them to be.
Debbie was tired of Karl’s anger. He needed to be more loving. She took him before the church elders so they would set him straight. The elders didn’t really know what to do. Another broken family. They told Karl to control his anger or face church discipline. When the next argument took place and Karl threw something, they suggested Debbie get a divorce. A judge sent them to another church’s legal ministry for mediation. By spending time, assigning homework, and engaging in probing questions, it became clear to Debbie that she was not respecting Karl in any way. She continually undermined him before others and the children. She had to be right. Karl reacted in anger. He was not loving his wife. He was not talking with her, but yelling at her. When God revealed this to them, they were able to confess to one another, forgive one another, and a decade later Karl and Debbie remain happily married. The kids grew up with a father and they witnessed parents work through difficult challenges, instead of giving up and running away. Today Karl and Debbie lead a couples Bible study together.
That is the power of Gospel Justice. We have to stop giving into the pattern of the world, perpetuating negative stories of dads, and work together to encourage and respect our fathers. There are some great dads out there. Let’s applaud all they’ve done. And let’s work together to write better stories and better statistics for the future. It will happen if we refuse to give up on men and marriage. It will happen if we stop listening to the enemy, and listen to Jesus. If you are a dad, then be the best dad you can be. Set an example, serve others, and let’s all work together as we
Go and Do Likewise!