I have two messages this Father’s Day- One for the good fathers, and one for the deadbeat dads.
First, to all the good fathers out there: Thank you for investing in our nation’s greatest natural resource- our kids. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it’s true. The foundation of any great nation isn’t the gov’t, it’s the family, and the center of the family is its children. Nations like Italy and Japan who aren’t having kids will tell you that because they’ve seen the devastating results of not having them.
But just having them isn’t good enough. They have to be given the time, attention, and love that it takes for a child to flourish and become a successful and well rounded adult. They have to be taught the values that made this nation great- hard work, individual responsibility, treating others with respect and dignity, humility, charity, patience, don’t spend what you can’t afford, and most importantly, make God the center of your life.
This requires sacrifice on your part, and it’s often a thankless job that nobody sees or is grateful for except your wife, and sometimes not even her.
As someone who grew up without a father, I can appreciate just how important your job is. Don’t ever take it for granted, even on days when it seems like it isn’t worth it. It is, more than you’ll ever know in this life. Keep doing what you’re doing, cause your kids will be grateful for you, at least if you raised em right, and even if they don’t reward you, God will, both in this life and the next.
Now, to all the deadbeat dads out there like my own, who I’ve never seen because he abandoned me shortly after I was born, and am sure I will never see:
Maybe at the time you abandoned your kid(s) you were young and stupid and didn’t realize the magnitude of what you were doing, so let me spell it out for you: You’ve done great damage to every child you’ve abandoned. The statistics back this up. Children who grow up without fathers have much higher rates of drug use, high school dropout, violence, jail time, and unemployment than their peers who grew up in a stable two parent household.
You’ve left a void in their hearts and minds that they spend the rest of their lives trying to fill, and they end up looking for love in all the wrong places. The lucky ones are strong enough to overcome the disadvantages that come from not having a dad around during all of the most important times in their lives, and smart enough to avoid the mistakes their parents made and live better lives.
But it goes far beyond that. Not being a father to your children has a ripple effect on the entire community and thus on the entire nation. Just look at the black community in this country for a good example. Their out of wedlock birthrate for single moms is around 70%, and it’s devastating their community. I’ve lived in and around such communities growing up and I can say from my firsthand experience that the lack of fathers in the lives of black children, especially boys, is tearing their communities apart.
It’s responsible for much of the violence, selling of drugs, and other problematic behaviors that these lost and angry young men end up engaging in. Of course that doesn’t take responsibility away from them, who always have a choice between doing the right or the wrong thing. They end up pulling the trigger and nobody forces them to do it. But I believe not having a father is a major factor in putting the gun in their hand.
In fact I would go so far as to suggest that many of our nation’s problems- the drug addiction epidemic, the high rates of men not looking for work, high rates of gov’t dependency, the extremely high rate of divorce, and much more, can be traced back to young men not learning the values that would lead them to avoid these things.
However, what you deadbeat dads don’t realize is that you’ve hurt yourself even more than the kids you’ve abandoned. Just like a mother who aborts her baby, a father who abandons his child creates a scar on his own heart that will never fully heal.
More than that, you’ve separated yourself from God with this great sin, and it will take the rest of your life to repair the damage from it, if you even try to do so. God will punish you for not taking your responsibility as a father seriously, because there’s no more important job in the world than raising the next generation of kids, and that job falls primarily to their parents.
All that being said, I don’t have any anger towards you at all, for several reasons:
1) Everything happens for a reason, and God always brings a greater good out of evil or a bad decision. I don’t know why God allowed me to grow up without a father or why mine abandoned me, and I’ll never know, but that’s ok because I know that it wouldn’t have happened without God’s permission. Nothing does. Everything is a result of either his permitting or ordaining will. So I know that even bad things like this are all part of God’s bigger plan for my life.
2) Not having you in my life, while having many downsides, has also made me a lot stronger than kids who had a father to fall back on and bail them out every time they made a mistake. It has pushed me to work harder, to be more independent, and to never take for granted the smaller things in life that so many kids end up taking for granted because they never had to worry about them.
3) By not being in my life, you unintentionally gave me the example of the kind of man I shouldn’t be, and I took that lesson to heart. I’ve spent my entire life trying to be the opposite of you, and while I’ve often failed at that, I think I’ve at least avoided going down the same path you went down, and have treated women with the respect and dignity you didn’t treat my mom with.
I forgive you, because God forgives me for all of my sins, which are many, so I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t forgive you. God can forgive you too, if you simply repent of your sins, including the one I’m writing about, and give your life to Him. No sin is too large for God’s mercy. But you first must admit that you did it, and have the humility to seek forgiveness. It’s never too late to be a father, but even if you choose never to do the right thing, I’ll learn the lesson you never learned and live my life in a way that makes my true Father in Heaven proud, because in the end that’s all that matters.