I have always known that a father has an important role in his family, that a child has different needs that are met respectively by Mom and by Dad. It may not be popular or “politically correct” to say as much, but the natural order or life – and God’s design for the nuclear family – is that a man and a woman marry, they have children, and together they raise those children to maturity.
For that reason I have always strived to be a good father. I’ve put my family first, and while the nature of my job means I sometimes have to travel or work odd hours, it also affords me the flexibility to be there when my kids have a special event. When I am at work, the job has my full attention, and when I am away from work, my family has my full attention. I make mistakes, but on the whole I have thought of myself as a good father.
Then earlier this month, I watched the movie Courageous. The movie reminded me how short I am of God’s expectations, and that my role is so much more critical than I ever imagined. The turning point of the movie took me back to a turning point in my own life.
On October 27, 2005, my world turned upside down. My wife and my two oldest sons, then 5, were in an auto accident that only by the grace of God did not take their lives. They were on their way to school, turning out of our neighborhood and onto the main highway when a teenage driver ran a red light and hit their van broadside, at about 70 miles per hour. The van rolled, and the entire driver side caved in. To look at the wreckage, no one should have survived it.
Miraculously, my wife suffered only a few bruises and scratches, but the boys were critically injured. I spent much of that day in the pediatric ICU praying they would make it. I know life is fragile, but that made it real to me. I know children are a treasure, but that made it real to me. I know God is still in the business of performing miracles, but that day was an abundance of miracles.
Any other day, my wife would have had all five children in the car. On the day of the accident, I was working from home and so the younger three were still asleep. To this day I do not remember why I was home that morning. Had they been in the car, Heather would have been in the seat at the center of impact – a seat that was no longer recognizable.
On October 27, 2005, I learned just how fragile life is, and just how valuable my family is to me. This month, through Courageous, I was reminded just how important I am to them.
Kids that grow up without a father actively involved in their lives are 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are 5 times more likely to attempt suicide, 9 times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to get involved in and drugs and underage drinking. 90% of homeless and runaway children come from fatherless homes. The key is a father actively involved, not just present. I had been a dad that was present, but not always actively involved.
My sons, now approaching their teenage years, need me to teach them how to become men, to teach them how they should act as fathers one day. They won’t learn that from school. They won’t learn it from friends. They won’t even learn that from church. They will learn to be men, and one day to be fathers, by watching me. How I treat them. How I treat their mother. They will learn that a man takes responsibility for his actions, that a man provides for and protects his family, and that a man provides physical and spiritual leadership for his family only by seeing me do the same. My daughters will learn what to look for and what to expect in a future husband through how I treat them, and how I treat their mother.
What is my point in this? First of all, it is to go see the movie Courageous. I believe every father needs to see this movie. I’ve heard from at least one source that the movie essentially “preaches to the choir;” that may be true, but if those of us in “the choir” will take up the God-given mantel of manhood and set the example, it would amount to a world of change.
Second, it is nearly impossible to overstate the importance a father has in his household. Too many of us have abdicated our responsibility, and the result is what you see around you: federal recommendations to vaccinate our 11-12 year old boys and girls against sexually transmitted diseases, government leaders proposing students should not have to repay their school debts and homeowners should not have to repay their mortgages. Let’s take responsibility for our lives and for our nation – let’s decide to live courageously.