A Father to the Fatherless

A note from Ron: My “Iron on Iron” post (July 22) touched just one aspect of a need today for strong spiritual and social coaching as boys grow into manhood. Broken homes create a special need on that score. Gretchen George, whose earlier guest entry here (January 25, 2010) is a must-read, returns to offer an important call to the Church and Christian men: thank you, Gretchen.

One of the most precious gifts of our relationship with Jesus is that we are united with Him through the Holy Spirit and can therefore call our Heavenly Father “Abba,” Daddy. What a beautiful relationship! And with the creation of the family, the Lord intended for our earthly fathers to be a picture of who He is as our Heavenly Father. For some of us that picture is very clear; for others it is markedly distorted. But what if a child has no father at all? What then? And how should those of us in the Church respond?

I’ll be honest. Until my husband left when my children were 4 and 5 years old, I really hadn’t given it much thought. Suddenly I was faced with the ugly reality that my children would be growing up without their dad at home. It is also a reality for the millions of others who are single moms due to divorce or death.

Does it really matter that much? Consider that 63% of youth who commit suicide are from fatherless homes, along with 90% of all homeless and runaway children, 85% of youths sitting in prison, 71% of high school dropouts, and 75% of patients in adolescent chemical dependency programs. Kids from fatherless homes are more likely to smoke, be involved in underage drinking, and be involved in early sexual activity. And these statistics say nothing of the spiritual impact on these kids!

The Bible makes it so clear that God cares about fatherless children. In the Old Testament the fatherless are mentioned 42 times! Often the word used means “lonely, solitary, bereaved, and vulnerable.” From my experience with my own children and those I’ve encountered in the single moms’ ministry I facilitate, I can affirm these as accurate descriptions. In Psalm 82:3 God says, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless,” and in Psalm 68:5 God calls Himself a father to the fatherless. As the Church, we can share God’s heart with fatherless children.

What is the Church to do? Most of all, fatherless children need to know that they are loved, have value, and are secure. In other words, they need those of us in the Church, especially the men, to be Jesus to them. They need us to tell them of their Heavenly Father who will be their provider, their comforter, their protector, and their guide. They need those of you who are godly men, husbands and fathers to show them what it looks like in real life and in practical ways.

When my own son was about 10 years old he said, “The hardest thing about growing up with no dad at home is that I don’t have anyone to show me how to be a man.” Please, men, show our sons how to be men! And please show our daughters what it means to be young women treasured by a father!

Fatherless children need mentors, those who will come alongside and share the stuff of life with them. Many people become frightened when they hear the word “mentor,” assuming that they aren’t qualified or aren’t able to invest the time. However, fatherless children don’t need some kind of hero; they just need someone who will show them what it looks like to love Christ, follow Him with a whole heart, and live life.

My pastor once asked me what moms and children in single parent homes need. I narrowed it down to three basic things: 1) Support in getting a foundation back under the family spiritually, emotionally, and financially, 2) support in raising their children, such as godly advice, mentors for their children, and perhaps occasional respite care, and 3) help with practical things such as home and car repairs, heavy lifting, etc. Unfortunately, single parents and their children are frequently in so much pain, they don’t even recognize their own need. Children, in particular, are often the ones left floundering, feeling unloved by God, by their church family, and sadly, sometimes even by their own families.

This is where the Church can make such a difference. I remember vividly when members of our church family showed up at our door that first Thanksgiving after the divorce with several boxes of holiday food. At first, I was embarrassed, thinking that surely there were others who needed the help more than we did. But to my children, the outpouring of love spoke volumes. For weeks, they told everyone who would listen how our church family had cared for us. It gave them an incredible sense of love and security knowing that others were watching out for us.

Over the years, many people have stepped into my children’s lives and offered Christ’s love and the picture of our Heavenly Father they would have otherwise missed. My children, now 19 and almost 18 years old, are who they are today in great part due to the overflow of God’s love to them from those in the Church.

On behalf of all single parents, I would implore those of you in the Church, especially the men: Please love our children. Please see their need for good, godly men in their lives. Please point them to Christ. In doing so, you will be a reflection of their Heavenly Father to them—something that matters more than you could ever imagine!

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