In 1985, my high school journalism instructor encouraged me to take the time to research the statistics and overall impact of absentee fatherhood. She knew that I had never met my father and that I was struggling to come to grips with the matter. She had a lot of faith in me as a young man who had the intelligence and drive to elevate myself in a manner that would afford me the opportunity to escape a life of poverty and mediocrity, which was rapidly becoming the norm in my neighborhood. However, she knew that the impact of not knowing my father could easily derail me.
She felt that confronting the issue on my terms would give me the platform I needed to take control over the demons that were haunting me. She was also married to my football coach and the both of them understood my plight and took an interest in me that carried beyond the football field or the classroom. I am grateful to this day. To Coach and Mrs. Leonard, I say, “Thank you!”
Needless to say that I conducted the necessary research and subsequently wrote a full length article on the subject which spawned a life long journey to understand the massive impact that absentee fatherhood has on social culture as a hole.
I don’t know if there has ever been a time that men have been so far offline with their destinies. I cannot recall at any time during my life or in recorded history in which an entire generation had been so negatively impacted by the wayward movement of the very ones entrusted with their care.
Men have come to a point in time in which they have found in an appropriate measure to procreate and abandon their progeny. Even Christian men have fallen away in the way of responsibility.
As a minister I felt compelled to address this epidemic of absentee fathers. The bible speaks clearly about a man that avoids honoring his filial responsibilities.
If anyone fails to provide for his relatives, and especially for those of his own family, he has disowned the faith [by failing to accompany it with fruits] and is worse than an unbeliever [who performs his obligation in these matters]. (1 Tim. 5:8 AMP)
Unfortunately, we as men have abdicated our God ordained positions as protectors, providers and leaders. We have become consumed in our selfishness. In the process, we have left an entire generation to fend for themselves without any manly guidance or supervision. To exacerbate the matter, we continue on claiming to be men of the faith with the slightest inkling that we are in our selfishness giving the faith a black eye.
I have dubbed this epidemic of fatherlessness IFS (The Invisible Father Syndrome). IFS is one of the most devastating forces present in today’s society. We are dealing with a generation of youth that are lost without identities and living in the absence of self-worth. If we don’t take action right now we will find that this nation will fade into the abyss of moral decay.
“But if anyone does not provide for his own and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim 5: 8
This scriptural sets forth the scriptural passage that men have God-ordained responsibility to family and especially those in their home (i.e. their wife and children). I have experienced the devastating force of IFS and can testify to its implacable grip.
Where is my father? Why isn’t he here? Does he love me? These are only a few of the questions that flowed constantly through my mind as a young child. See, I never knew my father; the first time I saw my father was at his funeral. I remember it as if it were yesterday. As the coffin descended into the ground, any possible chance of a long desired relationship with my father vanished before my eyes. I was fourteen then. For the majority of my life I have battled many demons in an attempt to come to grips with the fact that I have never and will never know my father. The finality of the moment engraved the pain into my heart.
After my father’s death, I convinced myself that I was fine. I told myself that I could do just fine without my father, but reality said different. Although I was reared by my great-grandparents and provided with a loving and nurturing environment, I could not shake the heartache of not knowing who my father was or better yet, not having an understanding of why my father chose not to be a part of my life. Although I was immensely precocious as a child, I still lacked the capacity to apprehend the circumstances that surrounded me. I searched in so many ways to gain an understanding of how a person could father a child and not have the slightest concern as to their well-being. Through my siblings and other family members, I have come to learn a great deal about my father which in many ways has served to baffle me even. When you have dealt with that kind of pain, you develop a certain image of the person who is at the center of your pain. The problem is my father; by the account of others was not a bad person. This served to only further frustrate me because it left the same question as before. Why?
I mentioned the fact that I was reared by my great-grandparent, both of whom have since gone to be with the Lord; my grandfather in 1992 and my grandmother in 2010. As nurturing as my grandparents were, not even they were able to totally eradicate the pain I felt due to my father’s absence.
The one thing I am most grateful to my grandparents for is introducing me to Christ. Through the constant intake of Biblical Doctrine and consistent hands on teaching, I developed a personal relationship with Christ, which is the true foundation of Christianity. The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way it should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6). My grandparents lived and functioned daily under this principle.
My personal relationship with Christ has empowered me to move past the pain and difficulty of not knowing my earthly father; it has allowed me to have access to my heavenly Father, which provides me with the strength and stability to victoriously endure the vicissitudes of life.
Unfortunately, my situation is by no means an anomaly in today’s society. The past few decades has witnessed an exponential increase of fatherless homes. As men, we have found it acceptable to procreate and then abandon our progeny. The once inherent sense of pride and responsibility fathers had in and for their offspring has been replaced by an enormous and perpetual state of irresponsibility. Far too frequently mothers have been forced to assume the responsibility of taking on dual roles in the home.
I, as so many others, am a casualty of the “Invisible Father Syndrome”. I stand as empirical evidence of the adverse affects of living in lack of an earthly father. The aforementioned statement is not meant to be implicit that the absence of a father dooms one to failure, because there are many examples of children who grew up without a father’s presence, yet ascended to greatness. I too overcame, However, I can attribute every success and every victory to my relationship with Christ, my Lord and Savior.
As we move forward, I will attempt to address the crisis of absentee fathers from its origin to the only solution; surrender of every man to the will of God, taking his place as leader, provider, protector, qualifier, and habilitator.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
Unfortunately, we have fallen short in this ethereal journey. We are called to be the leaders, the examples by which a lost world will be transformed. According to 1 Peter 2:9, we are God’s special and chosen people, yet we have hardly distinguished ourselves from unbelievers. When I say that we are to distinguish ourselves from unbelievers, I do not mean that it should be done in a condescending fashion, but in a way that illuminates and reveals the life of a true Christian. A Christian’s integrity must stand as a beacon light to guide those who are lost to Christ. However; as long as the Christian’s position and stance is obscure, he will continue to relinquish his position as a leader and be rendered ineffective.
To be lugubriously honest, the world is exhausted from the lip service of Christians; what they need is a blueprint that is proven. They need to be able to look at the life of a believer and see the difference a relationship with God makes. Isaiah 29:13 warns against honoring God with lip service only and not from the heart.
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their heats are far from me. Their worship of me is made up of rules taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13)
When we honor God from the heart, we relinquish our selfishness and surrender to His will for our lives. God’s will for our lives in no way involves fathering and abandoning our progeny. God feels so strongly about fatherhood that he uses it as a point of reference in describing His relationship to us.
As God reveals Himself as the Father, we find He is consistent in His love, always present and an incessant provider. On more than one occasion in the Bible, God promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us; He promises when all others fail us, He will take care of us. In God, we find the perfect example of fatherhood: dependability, veracity, consistency, and most importantly, unconditional love. Yet, in all that God has provided in the way of a blueprint to fatherhood, we as men have come so very short in providing the love, stability and security our children need in order to fully blossom into the extraordinary young women and men God intended them to be.
We are rapidly approaching a time when an active and present father will be an anomaly instead of a normality. Instead of being a normal expectation, a visible father has become an item on many children’s wish list.
The Clarion is sounding but we have yet to respond. All the signs are distinctly visible; however, our lack of spiritual acumen has rendered us incapable to exact change. Daily we are confronted with the vociferous outcry of a lost generation in search of leaders, a generation looking for confirmation that they are loved and valued. They are a generation that in many ways has broken through barriers that the generations before them found impenetrable. They have been able to move past sociological malignancies such as socioeconomic classation and even denominationalism, yet they have been handicapped by a void left by an absentee father. Fathers are supposed to be examples, affirmers, positive label givers and a source of strength to their children, but somewhere along the journey we have lost our way. We have become engrossed in self-fulfillment and self-gratification.
We have adopted a secular philosophy of relative ethics, morality, and righteousness. We have decided to live our lives as we so desire and totally disregard the admonishment of God’s Word; as it clearly states: “Do not be conformed to this world… ” (Romans 12:2)
Yes, many of us, ourselves, grew up without the love of our fathers. Many of us bear the scars of abandonment and neglect; however, we cannot use that as an excuse to lethargically roam through life ignoring our paternal, filial, and spiritual responsibilities. If anything, the painful experience of growing up in the absence of a father should serve to motivate each of us to take every step necessary to insure that our children know personally, the touch and love of a father.
I personally extend a challenge to every man, especially every Christian man, to not only be the father your children deserve, but I challenge you to stand in the gap of the missing fathers in your periphery. To my Christian sisters, on behalf of every man who has hurt you, every man who has left you with the responsibility of raising your child alone; to every woman who has had a man decimate their dreams; to every woman who’s scarred emotionally, physically, or spiritually, I personally apologize. You too, have been scarred, disappointed, disenchanted, and in many ways cheated. You have been deterred from fulfilling your own destiny, but the time has come to rise up and become all that God designed you to be.
Also, to every person who has had to struggle to overcome the pain and disappointment of growing up without a father, I extend an invitation to stand tall and press toward your destiny and purpose God ordained for you. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul says, “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” In essence, the enemy has perniciously attacked you from every angle, but in paraphrasing Paul, you’ve been bruised, but not broken. As vehement as the pain may be, you have the power within to overcome this and every trial you will face in this life.
It is time to reverse the generational curse of fatherhood in absentia. It is time for men to resume their rightful and ordained positions as leaders, providers and protectors. It is time to put self aside and allow Christ to live through us. Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good father leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” What type of inheritance is this generation leaving the subsequent generations? What will our grandchildren inherit from us? A superficial consideration of the aforementioned question may lead some to consider the bequeathment of material and financial assets, but it is my personal belief that the most impressionable and lasting inheritance a man can leave his descendants is his personal legacy. The question then simply becomes what have you done to positively impact your home, your family, your community, or society as a whole?
One of the most awesome legacies a man can leave is that of a good father. In fact, if men would determine within themselves to reverse the trend of abandoning their children and become pillars of strength in their communities, the spiritual, moral, and sociological impact would be astronomical. I call on every man to stand and be the man he was designed and created to be.