What day of the year are the most phone calls made? Mother’s Day. The most collect calls, however, are made on Father’s Day. Mothers get a lot of acknowledgment and encouragement, and so they should. They more than deserve it. But fathers deserve a little recognition, too.
There was a time when men were more respected in our culture than they are today – especially fathers. It was even reflected on television, with programs like “Father Knows Best.” If someone were to come out with a sitcom about fathers today, they probably would call it “Father Is an Idiot,” because Dad is usually the brunt of the joke on television. Dad is the one who doesn’t know anything about anything. In fact, it is the children who are portrayed as the all-knowing, all-wise ones. But there was a day when fathers were looked up to for their wisdom and their guidance.
It is my opinion that a man who honors the marriage vows he made to his wife and stands by his children and his grandchildren is the unsung hero of America – especially a Christian husband and father who understands that he is to be a spiritual leader in the home. That is becoming more of a rarity.
Why is this a point worth making? Because you can take most of the social ills in our culture today and find a direct link to the absence of a father in the home. In the past 30 years, there has been a 550-percent increase in violent crime, a 400-percent increase in illegitimate births, a 200-percent increase in teen pregnancy and a 300-percent increase in teen suicide. Experts have traced all of these things to the breakdown of the family and, specifically, the absence of a father.
Of the juveniles in state reform institutions, 70 percent come from fatherless homes. Expert Joseph Wible Jr. put it this way: “Throughout history, men have been torn from their families by war, disease and death. But in this millennium in America, men are choosing to disconnect from family life on a massive scale – and at far higher rates than other industrialized countries.” I am referring to not only fathers who were never there, but also fathers who, through divorce, have disengaged. At best they see their children every other weekend or maybe for two weeks in the summer. Then there is the father who says he doesn’t see his kids that often because he is working so hard to give his children the life that he never had.
We need to remember as fathers that the best thing we can spend on our children is time, and lots of it. Quality time is a myth. Kids need quantity time. They need to know their father is there. And for that matter, they need to know their mother is there as well.
I never had a father when I was growing up, and that left a big blank spot in my life as a result. When a dad is absent, there are some things you just don’t learn, such as how to figure out a football game or how to tie your own tie. Even so, God in heaven became the father I never had on earth. And God can do that for the fatherless. Children conceived out of wedlock have been labeled illegitimate, and I was one of them. But there are no illegitimate children in the sight of God. Every child is legitimate and loved by God, and he has a plan for every one of them. The Bible tells us that God is “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5 NIV).
The problem is that when there is a breakdown in the home, it can often be passed on to the next generation. According to the experts, I should have ended up divorced. I should have ended up as an alcoholic. But that all changed when Jesus Christ came into my life and broke that pattern. And I am thankful to say that I have been married for 36 years now to the same woman. I have two sons, one on earth and one in heaven, and two grandchildren. So even if you never had the dad you hoped for, maybe you can be the dad someone else hoped for. I am not a perfect father, but I want to be the husband, the father and the grandfather God wants me to be. Even if a man has failed in some regard as a husband or father, it is not too late to start over again.
As fathers, we need to bring our children up because they naturally have a tendency to go down. They have a sinful bend in their nature just like we have. We are all inclined to do the wrong thing. As Proverbs 29:15 says, “A child left to himself disgraces his mother.” That is why we have so many problems in our culture today: Children are left to themselves. They are not even being raised anymore. There is no father to speak of, and the mother is overwhelmed by her responsibilities. So we put them in front of a television set. We let our culture raise them. We let the public schools raise them. We let their peers raise them. Instead of providing the much-needed parental leadership that children need in their lives, we let someone else raise them.
There is a problem in parenting today that experts have described as helicopter parenting – parents who hover over their kids and tell them they can do no wrong. But children need to know when they have done wrong. They need someone to tell them.
The story is told of a father and his young son who were climbing a mountain together. When they came to a very difficult and dangerous place in the trail, the father stopped to consider which way he should go. Then he heard his son say, “Choose the right path, Dad. I am coming right behind you.”
Our children would say that to us today: Choose the right path, Dad. I am coming right behind you. I am watching you, Dad. I am going to walk in your footsteps. I am going to emulate your behavior. And hopefully, as fathers, we are walking the right way.