By Greg Laurie
I want to talk to you about a different kind of superhero today. He is simply called dad. I am not just talking about biological fathers; I am talking about a dad who stays married to his wife, raises his children to follow God and be responsible, and is a godly role model and leader in the home. To me, that is a superhero—and he doesn’t even wear tights.
The expectation that men did their part was once the norm. Men were there for their wives. They were there for their children. But that has become the exception. And I think we could trace almost every social ill in the United States today to the breakdown of the family and, specifically, to the absence of masculine leadership.
In many ways, America has engaged in a social experiment that is not going well at all. At the beginning of the 21st century, American men are choosing, on a massive scale, to disconnect from family life—and at far higher rates than other industrialized nations. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, in 1960 only 11 percent of children in the U.S. lived in fatherless homes. But 2011 data from the U.S. Census Bureau revealed that more than 24 million children—or one out of every three children in America—do not live with their biological fathers. In 2006, the federal government spent at least $99.8 billion providing assistance to father-absent homes.
As my friend James Merritt has said, “The most endangered species in America is not the spotted owl or the snail darter, but responsible fathers.” He tells a story about Kruger National Park, the largest wildlife preserve in South Africa, which relocated some of the younger members of its rapidly growing elephant population to the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. All seemed well for a time, but then a serious problem began to develop. There was an unexplained slaughter of rhinos taking place. After conducting some surveillance, the reserve found the culprits: gangs of young, rogue bull elephants were attacking rhinos and goring them with their tusks. So the preserve introduced some older, mature male elephants into the herd. Within weeks, the younger elephants were bonding with the older ones, their behavior improved, and there were no more reports of rhinos being killed. This is a principle that God has set into motion.
Solomon wrote that “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3 nkjv). In the original language, the word used for heritage also could be translated as “gift.” We don’t own children; they are given to us not so much to mold as to unfold, helping them discover who God has called them to be.
The apostle Paul had this to say to dads: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 nlt) . Notice the apostle Paul said to “bring them up”; he didn’t say to knock them down. That means parental involvement in children’s lives. Instead of telling our children not to watch TV, why not sit down and watch their favorite program with them? They probably won’t like that a whole lot, but we can then offer some perspective. They might even begin to see things differently than they did before.
Yet many kids today are left to themselves. Who is influencing them? In many cases, it’s their peers, the public school system, the media, the entertainment industry, and the Internet. These influencers are training kids more than their own parents are.
By and large, our culture ignores biblical values. But every now and then someone will see the light. Take, for example, the television show Duck Dynasty, which features the Robertson family, who own a duck calling business in Louisiana. As you watch the show, you begin to discover that it actually has family values and even biblical values. Every show ends with the Robertson family gathered around the dinner table over a meal and praying and thanking God. This show has taken off and has even beat out American Idol and Survivor in the coveted demographic of 18- to 49-year-olds. Perhaps the show’s success stems from the fact that so many people today have been raised in fatherless homes and long for that kind of stability.
I understand what it’s like to come from a fatherless home. I grew up without a dad. My mom was married and divorced seven times. One of those men was different from all the rest. He didn’t drink, and he didn’t smoke. He was a good man and a good father figure. His name was Oscar Laurie, and he actually treated me as a father should treat a son. He adopted me as well.
We don’t always appreciate our fathers. When we are young we do. But as we get older, we begin to view our fathers differently. I read a clipping from a Dutch magazine a number of years ago about the way children view their fathers at various stages of life. At four years of age, they say, “My daddy can do anything.” At age seven, they say, “My daddy knows a lot. A whole lot.” At eight years, they say, “My daddy doesn’t know everything. Then they reach age 12 and say, “Well, naturally, Dad doesn’t know that either.” Fourteen-year-olds say, “Dad is so old school. He just doesn’t get it.” At 21 years of age, they say, “Dad is so lame.”
At age 25, they say,
“Dad knows a little bit about that, but not too much.”
By the time they reach 30, they say, “Let’s find out what Dad thinks about that. At 35, they say,
“Before we decide, let’s get Dad’s idea first.”
At age 50, they say,
“What would Dad have thought about that?”
At 60 years of age, they say,
“My dad literally knew everything.”
See how things change? I think we have to be parents before we can fully understand what our parents did for us.
If you are a father who has failed, it is not too late to change. You may say, “I messed up everything.” You can’t change that, but you can start today to be the man God has called you to be. And you will be amazed at how much good it can still do.