In 2005 Elizabeth Marquardt and Norval Glenn wrote a book entitled Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. I have not read the volume, but have seen it referenced in a few places, including a book I am currently reading.
One of the portions of that book that is cited and makes me well up with tears is the story of when the two writers asked some of the subjects to talk about the idea of God as a parent, specifically as a Father. They asked a man–an adult now–named Will to talk about God as a parent, and this is what they report:
Will was mystified by the question. He had been angry at his father for years because of the way he treated Will’s mother. When I asked Will if god is like a father or parent he looked puzzled. “Yeah, I think a father is somebody who is your last string of hope,” he said slowly. “He’ll watch over you, make sure everything is going to be okay.” Then his voice faltered and he looked down at his hands in his lap. “I’m drawing a blank,” he said. “I’m just drawing a blank.” (1)
If that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, I’m not sure what would. Here was a adult who could not articulate what the concept of “father” really meant for this simple reason: he had never really seen it.
Oh, Will had seen someone who wore the title; who had the role. A male was in the home, at least for some of the time he was a boy.
But this man, now with the intellect of an adult, could not put the pictures together of what God as “Father” really was supposed to mean.
We live in a society that is growing more fatherless by the day. When I was younger, I would often hear statistics about how certain minorities faced a real problem of fatherless homes. We need to realize that it isn’t just any particular ethnic group or area of the country any longer. This problem is spread throughout our nation, as children are being raised in homes where dad just isn’t around.
In 2011, a US Census report stated that 36% of all women who gave birth in the previous year were unmarried. So, these children don’t really have a mother-father relationship in the home from the start. Add in divorce and death, and the number of children being raised by single parents in our nation is staggering. 26% of all children under the age of 21–that is, fully 22 million kids–are being raised in single-parent homes. Of that number, over 82% are being raised by a single mom; in other words, the full picture of what a “father” is to be is not present in the home for a startling number of children.
Now, before getting to my conclusion, let me praise you who are single parents. I know a lot of single moms (and some single dads), and you are doing tremendous work! I pray for you often, and you are heroic to your children. You can do it! Keep it up!
That said, I want us to think about our role as Christians. It is hard enough to reach people for the Lord. Throughout history, the difficulty of evangelism has been talked about. While difficulty is never an excuse to give up, it is appropriate to speak of struggles as being real.
Men, how much harder are we making it when we are leaving children with no idea of how to connect the picture of “God” and “Father,” because we have left? The first “father” a child knows is daddy. As has been said countless times, that realization alone should make every dad shudder. A child is learning his/her picture of God from us and how we act.
Will the child get the idea that, when things get rough, God leaves? After all, “father” did.
Will the child get the idea that God just checks in every few weeks or sends a little money to help make ends meet? After all, that’s what “father” does.
Will the child get the idea that God can only be visited every few weekends or on certain holidays? After all, that’s when they see “father.”
I know those questions might sting a bit, but they should. We who have the role of a father in the home need to realize that we are helping–or hurting–our children in connecting the dots of what a father really is. Then, when the learn about God being a Father…what kind of dots have we connected?
Have we made evangelizing our children easier or far more difficult by how we wear the name “father?”
Dads, it’s time we realized that we don’t want our children drawing a blank. Let’s build into them as strong and good of a picture of God as Father as we can. Though we are imperfect, we can still try.
(1) quoted in How the West Really Lost God (Mary Eberstadt, page 161)
Photo credit: Mic445 on Creative Commons
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