Upon receiving his award for Most Valuable Player in the NBA, Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant gave an emotional homage to his mother, who as a single parent raised Durant and his brother. It was a wonderful, stirring tribute to a woman who had toiled and sacrificed mightily to provide a livelihood for her sons. But underlying Durant’s glowing words of gratitude was an unanswered question: Where was their dad?
In no way do I wish to diminish the loving devotion demonstrated by Durant’s mom. She – and all single mothers like her – deserve accolades for the incredible challenge they accept each day in holding down jobs while also raising their children, hoping to build them into responsible, productive adults. The mom of Dr. Ben Carson deserves similar commendation, providing the inspiration and motivation for a young man who came from the ghetto to gain acclaim as an accomplished neurosurgeon, author, speaker and – in the view of some – become a credible candidate for President.
Yet for every wonderful story about a single mother and her family, there’s also a back-story of an father missing in action. In many cases the dad never played much of a role in the lives of his progeny; sadly, in too many cases the biological father was absent from day one.
Having joined my wife in raising our children, and now watching them guide their children (our grandchildren) through the various stages and phases of childhood, I know how difficult the job of parenting is. How a single parent can pull it off successfully is almost beyond my comprehension. Ecclesiastes 4:9 states, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” This passage clearly relates to the workplace, but also holds strong meaning for the home and parenthood.
I greatly admire my sons-in-law as I observe their devotion to nurturing their own children. In some cases they’ve made work decisions to ensure they don’t spend too much time away from the kids. Regrettably, I think back to my own career as a newspaper editor and have to admit I spent far too many hours at the office and not nearly enough watching our daughters grow up. If I could do it over again, yes, I would do it differently.
|My father, shown with me and my sister, wasn't a man|
of many words, but he served as a good example.
My own dad was not a hugging, touchy-feely type of man. Few from his generation were. But he modeled for me the virtues of hard work, integrity and marital fidelity. He, like myself, wasn’t extremely vocal, but his actions spoke loudly and true.
I think of my uncle Joe, my dad’s brother, who in many respects served as a second father. He also built into me a work ethic, a vision of what I could be, and instilled a sense of confidence. Many times after some professional accomplishment, I couldn’t help but wonder, "What Uncle Joe would think about this?”
The Bible speaks extensively about fathers and their importance for society as well as the family. The Scriptures assign fathers the primary responsibility for spiritual training of children, a role too many fathers today have neglected. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). They – along with mothers – are told to provide instruction and discipline. “Train them (your children) up in the way they should go (follow their natural bent), and when they are old they will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
When fathers do wrong, there are consequences. The Bible speaks of the “sins of the fathers” affecting multiple generations of children (Exodus 34:7). This doesn’t mean God holds children responsible for their father’s misdeeds, as other passages make clear, but they often endure “collateral damage.” We see this today with the rise of broken homes and the emotional toll children suffer; abuse in the home, and many other problems resulting from family strife.
But this Sunday, Father’s Day, is a time to focus on the positive, celebrating the vital contribution dedicated, caring dads have in their homes and society.
It’s also a time for remembering the only one we can count on with complete confidence, our heavenly Father – Jehovah God. Jesus assured His followers, “do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?” or ‘What shall we drink?’ or “What shall we wear?’…your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).