June 26, 2013 § Leave a comment
My involvement in high school youth ministry includes transporting kids to and from Wednesday night gatherings. In the last couple years, there has very few teens in my van that live in a household privileged to have an involved father and mother in their lives. Where you might expect parents to be interested in when their kids get home, Kali’s parents are rarely even at home when we drop her off. Mark’s dad was at a bar when I took him home. Mikah’s dad died last year while Lexi’s dad kicked her out of the house. Some kids have new maybe-soon-to-be stepfathers and some don’t have fathers at home at all.
The effects of this type of home life are obvious and undeniable as I’ve gotten to see and hear first hand of the issues these teenagers deal with that intact families rarely experience. Statistically, fatherless homes experience more poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, poorer physical and emotion health, higher crime, suicide and teen pregnancy rates, more trouble in school, and more trouble with the law. I’ve seen most of this. Kids need a mom and a dad that stay in the family and are involved.
There are verifiable hormonal changes that occur in adult men who become dads, specifically lower testosterone levels that tend to keep men from doing dumb stuff (self-serving activities) and better suit them for sticking around and caring for their family. But those God-given changes don’t take effect unless they are in the game, actively involved in parenting.
I recent read Eric Metaxas’ 7 Men and the Secret of their Greatness, a book I would recommend for any man. Metaxas writes from the premise that in modernity we have forgotten what manhood looks like. What makes the seven men he writes short biographies about so great is that they exemplify manhood and heroism more in the way God intended it. Contemporary culture has defined real men as “macho,” or it has “emasculated” men, pretending there is no real difference between the sexes. These ideas miss the mark and have confused men for the last half century. We need to have a clear view of what being a real man is, and acknowledge the distinctions between men and women, celebrate them and act out our roles, not ignore them.
Father’s Day has passed, but I still think a lot about what being a dad means. Many dads take Father’s Day “off”, anticipating a day in front of the TV or on a golf course and away from family routines. Maybe Father’s Day would be better done actually demonstrating fatherhood.
I think manhood is proven in demonstrating effective fatherhood, although there is a heroism and leadership inherent in fatherhood that reveals itself in ways not confined to men who biologically reproduce. In 7 Men, Metaxas observes that “George Washington never had children of his own, and yet Americans call him the father of our country.” He also notes that Pope John Paul II never married or had kids, but “the root word from which we get ‘pope’ is papa–father.” Metaxas points to God the Father and the “picture of someone who is strong and loving and who sacrifices himself for those he loves. That’s a picture of real fatherhood and real manhood.”
Real men are not just good fathers, but also good sons. I marvel lately at my eldest brother who has taken the lead in helping our aging mother into assisted living. He has my respect for the love and self-sacrifice he shows his family.
The local church is a type of family, but is not a sufficient replacement for the family that God intended for us to make at home. The church family shines when it supports the family at home, being a family of families. The church, more than the government, the Supreme Court, or any other entity, should understand the appearance and purpose of marriage (“what God has joined together”) and family (“be fruitful and increase”). God can use individuals to accomplish much for His kingdom, but the family is the arena he uses to do the most: From the joining of Adam and Eve, to the salvation of Noah’s family, to God’s family promise to Abraham, to Jesus Christ brought forth via generations of families, to contemporary family trials and traditions that carry the Christian faith forward. True, the apostle Paul was single, but numerous are the photos of great missionary families stuck to our fridges and church lobby bulletin boards. Both humanity and the Gospel have flourished through our most fundamental unit of family.
Families are designed to be led by men. So getting back to men, real men: You are the leaders of your marriage, your family. The next generation depends on you being all in and committed right now. Children need a dad, your wife needs a husband, the world needs heroes, and God wants you living the role He designed just for you. Be there.