Who needs fathers? That’s a question – or an assertion – some people are presenting these days. Single moms rightfully receive much praise. Working, raising kids and managing a household alone are nearly impossible tasks. But with Father’s Day coming this weekend, it’s time to revisit the worth of the father.
When I was growing up, just about everyone I knew had both a mom and a dad at home. Nobody’s family was perfect, but there were two adults around every day to share in caring for, protecting and disciplining us “young ‘uns.”
|A child's time with his or her dad -|
it's positively priceless.
Census figures from 1960 showed only nine percent of children lived in single-parent homes; today, four out of every 10 children have been born to unwed mothers. Out of 12 million single-parent households in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 80 percent were headed by single mothers. One in four children under the age of 18 – an estimated 17.2 million – are being raised without a father. For some ethnic groups, that proportion is much higher.
Somewhere along the line, someone decided fathers aren’t necessary for families. Except for the moment of conception. And sometimes not even then, thanks to medical advances. We’ve smiled at college football players on the sidelines turning to the camera and saying, “Hi, Mom!” But when was the last time you saw one shout, “Hi, Dad!”?
Today, we see fathers on TV typically portrayed either as incompetent buffoons, or as cruel and heartless beings. We need to rethink what it means to be a father – and the impact actively involved, committed, loving dads can have on families and the well-being of their children.
Ecclesiates 4:9 tells us, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work.” That’s true in the business world, for most sports, on a farm – and in a home. When both husband and wife, father and mother, shoulder the burden of household duties together, work gets easier, there’s more time to give the attention everyone needs, and a happier environment can result.
But it’s more than simply sharing the workload. Many times I’ve seen grown men – strong, high-achieving, non-emotional types – get choked up, even shed tears, when talking about their fathers, whether those relationships were good or not. Numerous men I’ve mentored confess they never heard their dads say the words, “I love you, son,” or “I’m proud of you.” There’s something inside every male that desires, even needs, to hear his father express those feelings. What Mom thinks and demonstrates matters a lot, but sons – and daughters – blossom in their dad’s affirmation.
The Bible refers to God as our heavenly Father. For those who’ve had negative experiences with their earthly fathers, that could be misinterpreted, “as bad as my dad, only bigger.” But over and over, the Scriptures reveal our Father as one who offers unconditional love, mercy and grace to His children, who will exceed anything we could ever ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Many men are less relational and nurturing than women, so biblical commands about raising children are commonly directed to dads. “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Speaking of Abraham, patriarch of the nation of Israel, God said, “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just” (Genesis 18:19).
In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, we read God has ordained the father to serve as spiritual leader in the home, a role too many men ignore or abdicate: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Unfortunately, many dads have fallen short of the biblical model for fathering. Engrossed in work or hobbies, pursuing the brass ring of success, or selfishly deciding not to exert the necessary effort to care for our children, we’ve failed to do our part. Knowing our tendency to want to check things off our “to-do lists,” and that building of relationships should never be reduced to a “to-do” item, God offers this caution: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21).
We see the image of the faithful, always loving, ever-forgiving father portrayed in Jesus’ parable of the lost son, found in Luke 15. We often focus on the prodigal who, after squandering the inheritance he demanded of his father, cowers home in defeat. But consider the reaction of the father racing to restore the wayward son to the family: “…while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). And then the dad threw an impromptu welcome-home party. I can’t help but imagine that’s what the Lord desires to do for each of us.
Let’s stop downplaying the father’s vital role. In my opinion, much of the malaise afflicting our nation – and the world – can be attributed in part to the absence of fathers in the home, physically or emotionally, or their refusal to fulfill their God-ordained roles.