A few years ago I attended a racial reconciliation conference at Duke University, sponsored by its campus’ School of Divinity. There were people from all over the world participating in six days of deeply inspirational learning. There were men and women, young and old, passionate activists and committed ministers crossing a wide spectrum of Christian exploration. Attendees included individuals and groups from several denominations, as well as Native Americans and representatives of Africa, Australia, South America, Korea, and the Pacific Islands.
During the week-long experience, I was privileged to further existing relationships and foster new ones. Yet, my thoughts never seemed to be far enough away to hinder the vivid imagery of my family.
Each morning, I was charged with gathering several souls together for morning devotional, which of course included breakfast. The first day there were 8 of us. The second day there were nine, then 17, and finally 26 people who thought it was a splendid idea to start our day in sincere fellowship, reflective conversation of the previous day’s events, a little taste of scripture and even a couple of prayers.
There were men, women, black, white, Asian, Ph.Ds.’, and those trying to finish with their undergraduate degrees. There were college professors, community redevelopment gurus, famous authors, civil rights heroes, rape victims, former drug addicts, and social reformers. There were people with straight hair, no hair, dreadlocks and buzz cuts. There were people who traveled 39 hours by plane to arrive at this meeting and folks who lived right around the corner. Yet, no matter what was happening, I couldn’t keep my mind off my family. This, of course, includes my 3 children.
All who were gathered found themselves profoundly searching each other’s motivation and methodology concerning the many artificial barriers that have hindered humanity’s connection with each other. The 11th chapter of Genesis’ story of the “Tower of Babel” was told repeatedly by the leaders and participants. They referred to this well-known story to help describe the “artificial barrier” that is fostered every time humanity tries to remove itself from a deep and abiding connection to God.
As I was hearing this biblical account yet again, I thought of my own family. I thought how blessed I am to live inside a racially-blended and culturally-diverse household of faithful people. As I looked around the room, it was not lost on me what many have come together to hope for in our troubled world, I had already been given….a house filled with diversity, direction, divine guidance and clearly defined roles.
At that very moment of family reflection, I looked down at my phone to see a photo of my son, Manny, which I had installed as a screen-saver, staring back at me – and I began to both smile and cry. For whatever reason, I was overwhelmed with a sense of genuine gratitude for a great son and I truly missed his goofy smile and warm hugs. I missed his playful laugh. I missed his screams of joy as he runs through our home chasing his cat…or sister…or his imaginary friend. I missed him applauding for himself as he successfully accomplishes one of the many age appropriate tasks his mother gives him to attempt. I missed he and I sitting in the big red leather chair in the living room as I read one of his favorite books to him and sneak into the kitchen when Mommy leaves the room to get a snack. I missed him taking advantage of my kneeling down at the edge of the bath tub to drench me in bubbles and water.
In the middle of this incredibly important gathering of Christian souls trying to address a serious challenge in the lives of hundreds of millions of people….I just missed my son.
With tears flowing down my face, I turned to hear another person speak. As I turned my chair from my front-row seat, I spotted a young father in the back row of the room where we were meeting playing with his infant son.
Think about that for a moment. ;
All of the words being spoken around me meant nothing. All of the diversity of human beings didn’t matter. It was just the blessing of seeing that young father’s eyes as he played with his son that directed my spirit to connect with him. As I was staring at the two of them devoting all their attention to each other the father looked up for just a few seconds and found me watching him and his son playing in the midst of all these people. For whatever reason it happened, and I suppose providence was probably at work, our eyes locked. We connected. That young father saw my smile and the joy I was sharing with him and I, in turn, had a real moment with another father who was experiencing the exact same feelings I have shared with my own son a thousand times before.
Given the previous story as a backdrop, I want to point out that even though there is a huge and growing problem with single parent (primarily single moms only) households, and even though in a few of our segmented communities as much 68% of all births are to non-married women…where the father of the child does reside with them…there is hope.
Even though millions of American families have single mom led households where children are being raised in a loving and supportive environment, the indisputable fact remains, every significant statistic relating to the potential of healthy, intellectually growing, and spiritually committed children states they are far more likely to achieve these before mentioned description with a father in the home.
How do we fix this horrible….and now a multi-generational….societal ill?
Here are a few possible remedies…and there are many more….to address this concern.
- It’s a good idea to remind all fathers they carry a real and discernible calling from God to profoundly love their children, support their families, and nurture the goodness available within each child.
- Start teaching every young boy that as they grow and can be recognized as being a “mature man” they are called to become a powerful tool of the divine to transform the world around them. The fathers who understand this “calling” lead by example to not only their own children but other children they may come in contact with throughout their adult lives.
- We, as a Christian community, need to intentionally remind, encourage, and intentionally demonstrate how much value we place on our young boys to grow into responsible, loving, committed, and cherished fathers.
- Our Christian young men need to know how important it is for them to lead by example tot he rest of the world around them. they need a firm foundation of belief and structure concerning the privilege it is to live, work, and lead their homes in a loving and empowering way.
- This one is going to be hard to deal with on several levels. Finally, all of us…ALL OF US….need to prayerfully and directly deal with the epidemic of single moms who believe it’s OK, right…even reasonable to expect and accept the father(s) of their children do not need to be in a committed, biblically based, and marital relationship PRIOR TO HAVING CHILDREN. We need to dramatically re-educate our young women AND OUR YOUNG MEN of the incredible value and tangible importance of “fathers in the home.”
- Why are women of every racial, cultural, economic, and educational background continuing to make this multigenerational error? Because they themselves are statistically more likely than not to also have experience a lack of a “father in the home.”
When fathers truly understand that there is something severely out of whack with the way we are addressing broken families…even how we now define “a family,” then and only then might there be an opportunity to positively address this tragic abuse perpetrated upon the American youth.
Positive male role models, which openly demonstrate the joy and value of fatherhood “in the home,” can dramatically affect their personal circles of influence by their words and their actions. When the world around us can find the commonality of our very special human experience called “fatherhood,” it positively propels our culture, our shared lives to be changed and enhanced well beyond the mundane features of daily living.
As a country we set aside and day in June of every year entitled: Father’s Day. My suggestion would be to immediately reverse the trend of the BIG celebration at church is “Mother’s Day.” How about for the next 10 years make a commitment to transforming “Father’s Day” into the biggest party of the year. Why can’t every church within their own communities find a time each year…BEYOND Father’s Day….to honor great fathers within their communities. How about every church sponsor a “How to be a better Father” seminar and then make a special effort to invite, empower, and reward young men under 25 for attending, participating and committing to a new way of understanding what the value of positive, ethical, loving, intimate, sharing, disciplined, and IN THE HOME…fathering is all about. Peace.