I recently attended a showing of Courageous from Sherwood Pictures. The movie tells the story of five men who come to understand and attempt to live out the true calling of fatherhood within their families and in their community. I was so moved by watching the movie with my thirteen year old daughter, that I insisted that my wife and older children (my nine year old son and up) go see it on the Sunday afternoon prior to Thanksgiving. Courageous challenges fathers to raise the bar. We should not sit back and watch TV, browse the Internet, engage in selfish hobbies or be lukewarm in our faith life, we must live our lives with heroic virtue and be leaders within our families. Our wives and children need a spiritual leader to guide them through the rough waters of family life and within our communities. I was reminded that I fall short of imitating the perfect example of God the Father. God was not content to simply create mankind and let us figure it out on our own. He has been and continues to be directly involved in each human life and loves us with a passionate fatherly love.
For too many years, our society has sat by quietly as the traditional role of fathers has been ridiculed in the media and many fathers have moved on to self serving activities leaving the child rearing to the mother. Single parent households have become common place and often fathers are too busy with work to stay engaged with their families. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America (one out of three) live without their biological father. The effects of a completely or mostly absent father has been devastating on children. According to recent studies, the absence of biological fathers has contributed negatively in the areas of poverty, maternal and infant health, crime and incarceration, teen pregnancy, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, obesity and education.
Over 38% of children in a female-householder family is in poverty as compared to under 8% for married-couple families. Infant mortality rates are 1.8 times higher, infants were 2.3 times more likely to die within their first year of life, and older children were more likely to visit the emergency room and suffer burns, have a bad fall or be scarred from an accident and it was even found that they are six times more likely to be diagnosed with asthma. 39% of jail inmates lived in a mother-only household, and 50% of women inmates grew up without a father. Teens without fathers were twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity and seven times more likely to get pregnant as an adolescent. Children in single parent homes had a much higher risk (74% or greater) of experiencing some form of child abuse. They are 68% more likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs. There are even studies that have found that obese fathers actually produce obese children and as the father looses weight, so do his children. In the area of education, the direct involvement of a father in the education of his children is profound. Fatherless children are 2x more like to drop out of school, and repeat a grade, but if the father takes an active role in the education of his children, they are more likely to produce high grades. (source: http://www.fatherhood.org/media/consequences-of-father-absence-statistics” – National Fatherhood Initiative) Many of the most significant problems in modern society have a link to the problem of absent fathers. The Federal government is so concerned about this problem of absent fathers, that they have setup several initiatives design to combat it.
A Call to Action
Even for those of us who do still live in the same home as our children, we are challenged to go the extra mile and truly lead our families. The first step for us as men of faith is to focus on being a devout follower of our God and to deepen our daily prayer life. We need to get to know the perfect Father so that we may continuously improve in our own role as a father after God’s own heart. It is not enough to be a good enough father, we need to be heroic, faithful, and courageous fathers. We need to live out this calling every day, whether we are tired, distracted, or depressed. Being a heroic father is not for wimps. Any man can father a child, but it take a real man, a strong man to lead that child to be a mature adult. There is no greater task that we have as fathers, than to form and educate our children in the ways of God.
One of the best gifts we can give to our children is a good marriage. We must serve God, lay down our lives for our spouses, protect our children and lead them in the ways of virtue and holiness. Our wives need a faithful husband who is willing to lay down his life for her sanctification, we must also support her in her daily duties as a mother and require that our children always show respect to her. As fathers, we are called to be the best role model for our sons, they are always watching and are learning how to be a man just like us. Our daughters look to us for male attention, they need a protector and if a father doesn’t provide that for them, they will seek it out from someone else. Fathers must do more than just spend quality time with their children, we must spend lots of time with them, quantity is more important than the quality.
We all have a picture of what it is to be a strong courageous man. I challenge you to take a hard look at that picture and compare it to God the Father and Jesus his son. Jesus, fully God and fully man, demonstrated for us the true meaning of manhood. He was obedient to his father and endured torture and death, like a sheep led to the slaughter, for love of us. We as fathers are called to be strong courageous men who love our wives and children. We have to be obedient to God the Father and lead our families safely to our final destination, Heaven. It is the road less traveled, the road to Hell is far more attractive and easier to travel, we must arise from our slumber and choose the path of God and firmly lead our family to our eternal reward.