Thursday, September 22, 2011


Note from Rowland Croucher: this was written 15 years ago - chapter 11 in my book The Family: At Home in a Heartless World (1995, HarperCollins). I believe in the principles/wisdom here more passionately than ever. (Some of the conservative writers might be excluded from another edition, but their ideas still merit attention). Feel free to use some of this material for your Fathers Day Sermon.


As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13)

So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us... You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:5-12)

David therefore pleaded with God for the child; David fasted, and went in and lay all night on the ground. (2 Samuel 12:16)

And when the feast days had run their course, Job would send and sanctify [his children], and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, 'It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.' This is what Job always did. (Job 1:5) When you depart from me today you will meet two men by Rachel's tomb in the territory of Benjamin at Zelzah; they will say to you, 'The donkeys that you went to seek are found, and now your father has stopped worrying about them and is worrying about you, saying: "What shall I do about my son?"' (1 Samuel 10:2)

Things that we have heard and known, that our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord... that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God. (Psalm 78:3-7)

Fathers, do not provoke your children, or they may lose heart. (Colossians 3:21) Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4) Discipline your children while there is hope; do not set your heart on their destruction. (Prov 19:18) [A bishop or overseer] must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way. (1 Timothy 3:4)


As I type this chapter The Bulletin/Newsweek magazine has just arrived. The cover story: 'Kids Need Both Parents: Forget the trendy view that single women provide adequate parenting. They don't.'

Two events in my life as a father have indelibly imprinted themselves on my memory (and on my conscience). One night when Jan and I were reading in bed our fourteen year old son Paul came into our room. Precised, the conversation went like this: 'Dad, you love the church more than you love the family, don't you?' 'What makes you think that, Paul?' 'Well, when we're having a family-time and someone from the church comes with a problem, you leave us to attend to them, and we may not see you any more that night. But when you're counseling someone in your study, we can't interrupt you... So the church can interrupt the family, but the family can't interrupt the church, so the church is more important than the family.'

What would you have said? Here was my lame response: 'Paul, you and I do lots of things together. Most fathers are not around for a significant chunk of the day when they have to earn a living. I'm actually around more than most.' His response: 'Yes, you're around, but I often think your head is somewhere else.'

That week we installed a telephone-answering machine and put notes on the front door when we were having family-time. But it was too late for Paul. His hatred of the church persists until this day, twenty years later.

Actually, my problem as Paul's dad went deeper. He was a well-put-together kid, and although we played games together, we didn't often spend one-on-one time talking together. I didn't realize he desperately needed that. Of course he didn't ask for it (his dad was busy) but he shouldn't have had to ask. I should have realized that growing boys need to talk to their dads as the key to their initiation into manhood. Now why didn't I know that? Simple: my own father (according to my memory) never ever had any worthwhile conversation with me. I cannot remember ever exchanging more than half a meaningful sentence with him. Ever. He was a good man, a faithful provider, a diligent Bible student (and secretary of the little Brethren Assembly we attended three times every Sunday), but he didn't talk to me. My earliest memories of him were during the war when he came home dressed in a soldier's uniform. He was very handsome, I thought. I remember him at night studying to pass Public Service exams to get ahead because he had dropped out of school early. His father was a cleaner in a factory, and didn't talk to his son either...

My second 'aha!' experience occurred half way into a study-year in Canada. Jan went out to work and I was at home each afternoon when our younger daughters, Amanda and Lindy, came home from school. They had a snack and told me all about their day. It was wonderful! When Jan came home, however, they'd already told their stories, so over dinner I had to extract them again for Jan's benefit. Often I heard myself saying, 'Darling, you've been so privileged over all these years to be there when the kids came home. I'm jealous!' 

When you hear `So-and so's a success' what do you think of? His home and marriage? Unlikely - usually it's his career. What nurtures the family unit is in conflict with what maximizes personal development. And yet the highest happiness on earth is in marriage and family. Every man who is a happy husband and father is a successful man even if he's failed in everything else. I like the story about a man who came to his friend Carl Jung, saying enthusiastically, 'I've been promoted!' Jung would say, 'I'm very sorry to hear that; but if we all stick together, I think we will get through it.' If a friend said ashamedly, 'I've just been fired,' Jung would say 'Let's open a bottle of wine; this is wonderful news; something good will happen now.'

Fathers in the industrialized world have generally failed to integrate competent fathering with 'breadwinning'. But that's not a new problem. Robert Bly (Iron John) points out that there are no good fathers in the major stories of Greek mythology, and very few in the Old Testament.

Peter Sellers, in The Optimists of Nine Elms has old Sam grunting 'It's got nothing to do with working or making money. It's the way of the world, making fools of us all. And what for? What did kids want? Their parents. What did their parents want? Kids. But what did they do? They let themselves get shanghaied into working so hard to make things better for their kids that their kids never see them. And they never see their kids. Stupid blinking world', belched old Sam. 'Stupid blinking parents. You only know how to say "Don't do this," and "Don't do that", and "No, no, you can't".' 'Well, you can,' old Sam said, 'that's what it's all about. It's not just filling their bellies with bread and butter. What about a bit of bread and butter for up here?' he demanded and banged his head with his fist to make his point.

Fathers, your family is the most precious possession you have. Take time to recognise how important each member of the family is to you, and communicate that. All members of your family need to know that you care about them. You'll be surprised at how many family 'problems' evaporate when you communicate warmth and love and trust to your family.

Quality time with children is not merely spending time, but wasting time with them. The serendipitous moment when a child says 'Hey Dad', 'Hey Mum' can't be planned - you've got to be around when it happens. Modern dads are often bigamous until they're into their forties - married to their job as first priority. A spate of books about 'Absent Fathers Lost Sons' is pointing to a trend for boys not understanding what it means to be masculine because Dad isn't home enough, doing interesting and instructive things with their younger and teenage sons. Does a teenager really want his Dad? Yes, if a strong relationship was built between them in earlier years.

And so does a teenage daughter. At puberty most girls have as their #1 question: 'Am I attractive to fellas?' The girl's father is the representative male, and if Dad gives the message, 'Hey, how did I deserve a gorgeous daughter like you? There's some lucky young fellow wandering the earth...' the daughter's self-esteem gets a real assist. Future marital happiness for a woman depends as much - sometimes more - on her previous relationship with her Dad, as with her husband.

A few years ago Paul gave me psychoanalyst Guy Corneau's book, Absent Fathers, Lost Sons. Corneau believes we have to rediscover 'natural religion', and you may have some questions about that. But his central thesis is that a man is born three times in his life - born of his mother, born of his father, and finally born of his own deep self. 'Christ referred to it when he said that he knew neither his father nor his mother, even though his parents were in the crowd... Men's mourning for the unrealistic expectations they had of their fathers, and the solitude this mourning imposes upon them, are experiences that liberate them. Their suffering serves as an initiatory mutilation; it forces them to confront the reality of the objective world...' [Boston: Shambhala, 1991, p. 181] [70]

Corneau's 'aha' experience came not from his counseling practice so much as from a workshop he conducted with men. He asked them 'Do you feel like a man?' Not one of them answered in the affirmative. The problem? Their fathers were spiritually and emotionally absent from their sons as they grew up. Sons who haven't been given adequate fathering tend to experience confusion about their sexual identity; their sense of self-esteem is unsteady; they repress their aggressivity and their inquisitiveness; they have trouble respecting moral values... Lacking a father, says Corneau, is like lacking a backbone. A whole generation of sons is crying out, as Jesus did on the cross, 'My father, my father, why have you forsaken me?'

So, dad, your kids need you more than you may realize!


Child psychologist Dr Urie Bronfenbrenner was once asked 'What is the key ingredient in the successful development of a human being?' Without hesitation he replied, 'Someone, some adult, has to be crazy about the kids.' We all know what he meant. Our children need 100 percent of us. I can't have one eye on the television and one eye on Sarah's homework. You can't 'listen' to your children when you're still replaying in your mind the big staff meeting at work. Kids have great antennae. They know where they stand in our priorities.

Gary Bauer, Our Journey Home: What Parents Are Doing to Preserve Family Values, Dallas: Word Publishers, 1992, pp.127. [92]

It is little more than a month since I was handed this living heap of expectations, and I can feel nothing but simple awe... I have got a daughter, whose life is already separate from mine, whose will already follows its own directions, and who has quickly corrected my woolly preconceptions of her by being something remorselessly different. She is the child of herself and will be what she is. I am merely the keeper of her temporary helplessness.

Laurie Lee, 'The Firstborn' quoted in Alexandra Towle (ed.), Fathers, Artarmon, NSW: Harper & Row, 1986, p.214. [79]

David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values has pointed out that the phrase 'good family man' has almost disappeared from our popular language. This compliment was once widely heard in our culture - bestowed, to those deserving it, as a badge of honor. Rough translation: 'He puts his family first.' Ponder the three words: 'good' (moral values); 'family' (purposes larger than the self); and man (a norm of masculinity). Yet today within elite culture, the phrase sounds antiquated, almost embarrassing... Contemporary American culture simply no longer celebrates, among its various and competing norms of masculinity, a widely shared and compelling ideal of the man who puts his family first.

David Blankenhorn, 'What Do Families Do?' paper presented at Stanford University, November 1989, p.19, quoted in Dr. James Dobson and Gary L. Bauer, Children at Risk: Winning the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of your Children, Dallas: Word Publishing, 1990, p.166. [109]

In addition to purely physical power, of course, fatherhood represents a great deal of psychological power in a child's life. Because your child sees you as a successful, dynamic member of the world he [or she] wants to enter, you have the power to shape significantly what your child will become. By using the power to educate, to set limits, to make decisions, you will influence much about your child's personality.

Unlike personal power, nurturance, the ability to protect and comfort a child, has been an undervalued facet of masculinity in our society. Many men believe they may express nurturance toward their children only by protecting them from outside dangers or by economically providing for the family and not through a personal, tender relationship with the child. They don't see it as masculine and thus don't see it as a natural part of their father power.

Children, male and female, possess a natural tendency to give and respond to tenderness - from both parents. If you allow nurturance to be a totally feminine domain in your family, you can hurt both your sons and your daughters. Rigid, strict, punitive fathers compel their sons to stifle tender feelings and become harsh and unloving themselves. Such fathers make their daughters feel that men are not tender creatures, that only harsh men are masculine.

To associate nurturance with femininity is a common mistake in American society. Indeed, usually we call it 'mothering' instead of 'parenting.'...The father crooning to his infant may not feel himself quite the masculine male. Rather than seeing it as weakness, you should adopt the attitude that you are showing nurturance-from-strength. You should realize that you are actually evidencing power and competence by showing your children how to throw a ball or by cuddling them.

Henry Biller and Dennis Meredith, Father Power, NY: David McKay Co Inc., 1974, p.104. [297]

Maybe you're a working parent because you don't want to starve, or because you want your child to go to college, or because you want some of life's extras for yourself, or because the satisfaction of the business world is essential for your own well-being. No matter what your reason, here you are, right in the middle of a balancing act.

Caryl Waller Krueger, Working Parent, Happy Child: You Can Balance Job and Family, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990, p.13. [62]

Almost all the fathers who attended the birth reached an ecstatic peak of emotion: a personal Everest. Often this was at the moment of birth itself, sometimes it came an hour or two later as the shock passed through their system. Then for some while afterwards, their behaviour was manic, disordered, high... 'I felt like an astronaut who'd landed on the moon.' Even the more withdrawn ones became voluble, often drawing total strangers into eager conversation. So powerful was the feeling that almost every man cried. Some did this quite openly, some brushed away the tears or sought to conceal them. The taboo against men's tears is fierce, and for many this was the first time they had cried since they were small children themselves. We checked the accuracy of this by observing fathers at twenty successive births. Eighteen were crying. The other two were numbed; perhaps their tears came later... Most men will become fathers. They will not receive all that much of a cultural bequest to help them in the art and science of the role: how dads become dads, and how they might emerge as better ones. The old strategies are changing.

Brian Jackson, Fatherhood, London: George Allen and Unwin, 1984, pp.121-122. [195]

The most delicate and important questions... were about male sensibility when then child entered his world. I often found that I was one of the few people, sometimes the only one, to whom the man had spoken his feelings. He may not have done this with the woman ('I never knew you thought that' was a common interjection in the interviews), perhaps because she excluded him, or did not expect it of him or was obviously much better at such discussion herself. He hardly ever explored his private response with male colleagues at work. Coversation there was ritual, stylized, public - wages, sport, weather, holidays, politics, the job in hand ('My mates just didn't want to know', 'Don't know whether they were bored or embarrassed, may be just plain not interested'). I doubt if that was wholly so. Women inherit a culture which enables them to express intimate feelings. The mothers talk openly, freely and at length, between themselves about the minutiae and sensation of parenthood. Not every woman will use this chance, but nevertheless it is there, and the mothers are far more practiced, skilled, and confident than the men in discussing and sharing the delights and depressions of parenthood. This does not mean that the fathers care or feel any less. They are anxious to express fatherhood. But they often met dilemmas. One was their lack of practice in articulating the gentler feelings, whether in word, touch or action... The first-time father needed a new vocabulary of expression if he was to attune his private with his public self. Perhaps the mothers, sharing intimate life, had always known this of him: voiceless love in the dark... The tap-roots of fatherhood run deep. The image I take away is of men in tears at the birth, and yet feeling they had to disguise them. The question I most remember asking is 'When did you last cry?', knowing that so often it would be countered with 'Not since I was a child myself.' To release the full force of fatherhood will mean breaking the masculine taboo on tenderness.

Brian Jackson, Fatherhood, London: George Allen and Unwin, 1984. pp.134-135. [349]

Studies conducted through the 1980's consistently show that fathers spend about one-fifth the amount of time as mothers on total domestic work, including child care. Moreover, in North America this difference remains unaffected by the mother's employment status outside the home. A great many popular arguments against mothers returning to the paid workforce center around the so-called deprivation of parental contact children will suffer as a result. Yet time-budget studies show that mothers, on the average, do not spend less time with their children when they have outside employment. They simply cut down on other activities they consider less important, including house cleaning, hobbies, socializing with friends, and even sleeping. By contrast, the average North American father, while quite competent to parent, actually performs parenting tasks only for ten to thirty minutes per day. And most of this, it turns out, is taken up by chauffering activities or 'keeping an eye on them' while watching television. Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that many divorced fathers report spending more time with their children after they have retained only visiting rights than they did when they lived in the same household with them.

Mary Stewart van Leeuwen, Gender and Grace: Women and Men in a Changing World, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990, pp.159-160. [198]

Man is the key to a happy family life because a woman by nature is a responding creature. Some temperaments, of course, respond more quickly than others, but all normal women are responders. That is one of the secondary meanings of the word submission in the Bible. God would not have commanded a woman to submit unless he had instilled in her a psychic mechanism which would find it comfortable to do so. The key to feminine response has only two parts - love and leadership. I have never met a wife who did not react positively to a husband who gave her love and leadership. Deep within a woman lies a responding capability that makes her vulnerable to that combination. It is so powerful, in fact, that many respond when they are only given love. (This is less likely when a woman is subjected only to leadership.)

The combination of love and leadership is unbeatable. An interesting facet of that two-sided key is that most men must consciously work on one or the other. The temperament which naturally exudes love must consciously make an effort to exercise consistent leadership. By contrast, the man gifted in leadership must concentrate upon a regular display of love.

Tim LaHaye, Understanding the Male Temperament, Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977, p.178. [205]

No man can possibly know what life means, what the world means, what anything means, until he has a child and loves it. And then the whole universe changes and nothing will ever again seem exactly as it seemed before.

Lafcadio Hearn quoted in Alexandra Towle (ed.), Fathers, Artarmon, NSW: Harper & Row, 1986, p.211. [40]

There is considerable evidence of the impact - for good and bad - of family life on children. Consider the intense bitterness which Germaine Greer expresses towards her parents in Daddy, We Hardly Knew You. Cut by her father's abandonment of her to go to war, her anguish is intensified by his subsequent failure to want to know her and show her affection: 'Some children can remember their fathers reciting Urdu poetry or Marlowe, or teaching them to recognise birds and butterflies, to spot trains, to play chess or cricket. But you, Daddy dear? Not a curve-ball, not a cover-drive, not a card-trick. Not a maxim. Not a saw, adage or proverb. Except, "You're big enough and ugly enough to take care of yourself".'

Kevin Andrews, 'The Family, Marriage and Divorce', in The Australian Family, quarterly journal of the Australian Family Association, Volume 13, No 4, December 1992, p.18. [125]

Lily and I regard ourselves as our children's servants. It is for this reason that we do not expect - except in our more immature moments - any great gratitude from them. They are entitled to our service; it is our position to serve them. It is our expectation that they themselves will grow into servanthood - that having been served and having role models for service, they will be able to serve their children and the world in turn... We would hardly serve our children well if we did everything they wanted, obeyed their every whim... And wherever the decisions are made, that's where the locus of power resides.

M. Scott Peck with Marilyn Von Walder and Patricia Kay, What Return Can I Make?, London: Arrow Books, 1985, pp.55-56. [107]

Three hundred years ago Jonathan Edwards, a dynamic Calvinistic preacher, was largely responsible for the Great Awakening in this country... [He] married a godly woman, and over the past three hundred years his descendants have included: 265 college graduates, twelve college presidents, sixty-five university professors, sixty physicians, one hundred clergy... thirty judges, three Congressmen, two Senators, and one Vice President of the United States.

Sociologists have compared the effects of Jonathan Edwards' life and marriage to those of another man living at the same time: Max Juke - a derelict and ungodly vagabond who married a woman of similar character. Over the generations, their union has produced: three hundred children who died in infancy, 310 professional paupers, 440 crippled by disease, fifty prostitutes, sixty thieves, seven murderers, and fifty-three assorted criminals of other varieties.

D. James Kennedy, Learning to Live with the People You Love, Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1987, p.75. [132]

Armand Nicholi, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard medical school, has studied the literature on the question of parental absence and children's well-being. The literature spans over 40 years of research and study. His conclusion is this: 'What has been shown over and over again to contribute most to the emotional development of the child is a close, warm, sustained and continuous relationship with both parents.' [Emphasis in original]. Nicholi goes on to make this observation: 'One other comment about this research. In addition to the magnitude of it, the studies taken as a whole paint an unmistakably clear picture of the adverse effects of parental absence. Yet this vast body of research is almost totally ignored by our society. Why have even the professionals tended to ignore this research? Perhaps the answer is, to put it most simply, because the findings are unacceptable.

'Attitudes which now prevail toward parental absence resemble those once prevalent toward cigarette smoking. For decades Americans ignored the large body of research concerning the adverse effects of cigarette smoke. We had excellent studies for decades before we began to respond to the data. Apparently as a society, we refuse to accept data that demands a radical change in our lifestyle.'

'The Assault on the Family', Family Update, a Bi-Monthly Newsletter of the Australian Family Association. Vol. 9 No. 3 May-June 1993. [206]

'Clubhouse' magazine, a publication of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, recently asked its young readers to share what they liked most about their dad... I was struck by how seldom these children mentioned physical possessions or material things their fathers provided them. Instead it was the simple manifestations of love and commitment that were cited most often, the very things that sometimes fall by the wayside in our increasingly fast-moving world.

'A father should be not only your dad, but your friend, too.' - Samantha, age ten, Southaven, Mississippi

'My dad's most important quality is his willingness to ask forgiveness from me when he is wrong' - Stephanie, age nine, Duluth, Georgia

'A good dad would come to your games... and miss work just for you' - Brook, age twelve, Roswell, Georgia

'The most important quality in my father is that he makes me feel safe' - Erin, age nine, Kansas City, Missouri

'A dad must discipline you when you do something wrong so you won't grow up to be a bad person' - Lisa, age thirteen, Concord, California

'I think a dad should care about his children's grades and their lives. And it helps when your dad will study for a test with you' - Lynn, age ten, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

'The most important qualities of a father are that he loves and does the best he can for his kids. My dad does that all of the time... well, most of the time. No dad is perfect' - Alicia, age eleven, Wausaw, Wisconsin.

All of these touched my heart. But one came at me like a freight train. It was written by ten-year-old Sommer from Fergus Falls, Minnesota: 'The most important thing is that my father loves my mother.'

Gary Bauer, Our Journey Home: What Parents Are Doing to Preserve Family Values, Dallas: Word Publishers, 1992, pp.145-146. [287]

This morning I asked my nine-year-old son, 'Do you know that I love your mother?' 'Yeah,' he said. 'How do you know?' I persisted. 'You tell her all the time,' he said. 'Well,' I continued, 'what if I lost my voice and couldn't say I loved her. Would she still know I loved her?' 'Yeah,' he said. 'You could write it down for her.' So I said, 'OK, son, let's say I had both my arms amputated, and I can't write with my feet. Would she know I loved her?' 'Yes,' he said. 'I'd tell her for you.' 'Wait,' I said. 'How would you know I loved her?' Long pause. 'By the way you treat her,' he said. It took about five minutes to get him to the point. But eventually he saw that love goes deeper than words.

Josh McDowell, 'Love is Shown by Actions' in LaVonne Neff et. al., Practical Christianity, Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 1988, p.232. [141]

The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

Theodore Hesburgh in Robert I. Fitzhenry (ed.), Chambers Book of Quotations, Edinburgh: W&R Chambers Ltd., 1986, p.125. [16]

A father needs to be willing to be finite and mortal in his children's eyes... The image which needs to be shattered is that fathers are the ones who know all the answers, can take charge in all situations, are always right and never make mistakes. What needs to be communicated is that fathers do have a great responsibility in the home but that it is possible for fathers to misunderstand a situation, to make wrong judgements, to get their own ego involved in a situation, and to need forgiveness.

Kenneth Chaffin, Is There A Family In The House?, Minneapolis, Minnesota: World Wide Publications, 1978, pp. 92-93. [90]

When a father now sits down at the table, he seems weak and insignificant, and we all sense that fathers no longer fill as large a space in the room as nineteenth-century fathers did. Some welcome this, but without understanding all its implications.

These events have worked to hedge the father around with his own paltriness. D.H.Lawrence said: 'Men have been depressed now for many years in their male and resplendent selves, depressed into dejection and almost abjection. Is that not evil?'

As the father seems more and more enfeebled, dejected, paltry, he also appears to be a tool of dark forces. We remember that in Star Wars we are given the image of 'Darth Vader', a pun on dark father. He is wholeheartedly on the side of the dark forces. As political and mythological kings die, the father loses the radiance he once absorbed from the sun, or from the hierarchy of solar beings; he strikes society as being endarkened...

In our time, when the father shows up as an object of ridicule... on television, or a fit field for suspicion (as he does in Star Wars), or a bad-tempered fool (when he comes home from the office with no teaching), or a weak puddle of indecision (as he stops inheriting kingly radiance), the son has a problem. How does he imagine his own life as a man?

Some sons fall into a secret despair. They have probably adopted, by the time they are six, their mother's view of their father, and by twenty will have adopted society's critical view of fathers, which amounts to a dismissal.

Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men, New York: Vintage Books, 1992, pp.98-99. [272]

As University of Utah psychologist Michael Lamb puts it, 'Fathers are not merely occasional mother-substitutes: they interact with infants in a unique and differentiable way.' Whereas mothers tend to talk to or cuddle with their kids or play with dolls, blocks and puzzles, fathers naturally engage in physical activities... As a result of these different playing styles, children often look to their mothers for warmth, quiet-time activities, and verbal stimulation, while they value their fathers as wonderful playmates who introduce them to the world at large. Both are important... Father-play tends to be lively, unpredictable, imaginative and obviously exciting... Not only are these differences normal, they are crucial to a child's development. Each parenting style teaches your child different things about the world. Mother's approach informs him that the world can be cuddly, safe, nurturing and supportive. Father's process lets him know that it can be all of those things but also jostling, unsettling, fun and surprising.

Mitch Golant and Susan Golant, Finding Time For Fathering, New York: Ballantine Books, Fawcett Columbine, 1992, pp.45-46. [160]

One of the great distorting idolatries of our day is the confusion between the standard of living and the quality of life. It is no wonder that so many books are being written about fatherhood at the moment for it has rarely been the case that so many men who purport to believe in 'family values' while in church are so absent from the home during the week. Many men leave home early in the morning, leave work late at night and even work at weekends. They may believe that men are the decision makers in the family, but it is their women who make the decisions. They may believe the man is the head of the household but the household has to function without him. They may believe that the man should take the spiritual initiative but they are too shattered to pray. Such men will improve the quality of their relationships only if they make more time for those relationships. In a world in which time is money, this means that they must accept a lower standard of living, less status and less power.

Roy McCloughty, 'The Yoke Of Masculinity', On Being, Vol.20, No.7, August 1993, pp.17-18. [186]

Fathers send subtle and not-so-subtle messages to both their sons and daughters about how men walk, talk, dress, relate to one another, and relate to women. These lessons are important. Without them, our children would have a void in their lives. Statistics show that boys who are reared without a father * have greater difficulty relating to other men * don't know how to treat women * have a higher rate of divorce * don't know how to raise their own sons.

Daughters who are raised without a father figure * have more difficulty relating to men * may turn to sexuality as their only means of relating * have a harder time choosing a husband * and divorce those men at a higher rate than other women.

Thomas Whiteman, Ph.D. with Randy Petersen, The Fresh Start Single Parenting Workbook, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, p.166. [122]

A man's personal relationship with God often mimics his relationship with his father.

The overall result of father wound on the religious life of most men is that they tend to be spiritually passive and inactive. They may come to church, but they are not really there. They may hear a sermon intellectually, but its message may never penetrate their hearts enough to make a difference in their lives. They may serve as ushers and shake people's hands before and after the service or as elders who make financial and policy decisions for the church, but they often cannot make themselves connect with what church is really about. They can't connect enough to be fully involved with heart, mind, and soul...

Lacking a feeling connection in their relationship with God, most men feel inadequate to be the spiritual leaders they know they should be, so they feel shamed. They tend to withdraw from the church, leaving even less male leadership for the next generation... If your church is like most churches, women either design or run a high percentage of its programs.

The fact is, today's church is primarily a feminine church. By saying this, I do not mean to imply that I am anti-feminine. However, I must ask, 'Where are the men?' Where are the men who are spiritually alive? Who have a fire in their bellies - a passion to grow towards God, a passion to grow as men, and a passion to grow toward other men? Who are willing to take bold risks in their faith? Where are the men who will take action in sharing the gospel of Christ? Who will live out their faith through active involvement in the Christian church community?

The church desperately needs the involvement of such men, yet they are difficult to find. For generations, men have been wounded by the lack of male leadership and modeling of spiritual truth by older men. Consequently, men are greatly shamed when they realize that they should be spiritual leaders, teachers and models, yet have no idea how to assume those roles. Many men would rather abandon the church (either physically or emotionally) than deal with these feelings of shame and inadequacy.

Dr. Earl R. Henslin, Man to Man, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, pp.79, 80-81. [369]


Lord God, father of us all, you have entrusted me with these little people, and it's an awesome responsibility.
I am stretched beyond my limits: I'm supposed to be the provider of food and shelter and clothing and answers for school homework; chauffeur, gardener/janitor, financier, and fixer of everything.
I am supposed to model what it means to live and to love; and to represent you as priest in my home.
They're big responsibilities.
Lord, I have found that it's easier for a father to have children than for children to have a father.
The emotional demands of work, financial pressures, marriage, and lots of other things leave me with little left over for the kids.
Help me to compose myself before I reach home each day so that I am available for my family. Help me to be a growing person, so that out of the reservoir of spiritual and emotional strength I will have some energy to give to my wife and children. Help me to understand myself, my past, my strengths and my limits, my masculine and my feminine traits, my anger, my fears, my weaknesses.
What I say to my children may not be heard by the world, but it will be heard by posterity. These kids are like wax, and are being formed into something beautiful or terrible, and I carry a big responsibility for the outcome. May they always know that there is nothing or no-one more valuable to me than they are.
So, hear my confession of ignorance and failure; cleanse me from all selfishness; and forgive my ignorance. Help me to forgive my own father for his faults and failings: I am not responsible for them, but for me. Help me to love my children's mother. May I be a good priest in my home.
And when the Great Day comes and I will stand before you my king and my judge, I would like to hear you say, 'Well done, good and faithful father, Your children have delighted in you, and you are blessed.'


A Benediction

May God the Father, Jesus our Friend, the Holy Spirit our counselor and teacher, empower you so that you may empower others. May the demands and the pain of fathering be for you a challenge rather than a burden. May your years with your children be the happiest in your life. Amen.



As I look back on more than forty years of married life, I am astonished that the work of the ministry does not destroy ministers' marriages. The minister will have the best and biggest room in his house for his study. The minister sees less of his family than any member of his congregation does. He sees less of his children. He has to leave it to his wife to bring them up. Seldom can he have an evening out with his wife and, even when such an evening is arranged, something again and again comes to stop it. Demands to speak and to lecture take him constantly away from home and, when he does come home, he is so tired that he is the worst company in the world, and falls asleep in his chair. As I come near to the end of my days, the one thing that haunts me more than anything else is that I have been so unsatisfactory a husband and a father. As the Song of Solomon has it: `They made me keeper of the vineyards; but my own vineyard I have not kept'. When the Pastoral Epistles are laying down the qualifications for the elder, the deacon and the bishop one of the unvarying demands is that `he must know how to manage his own household' - and for a minister that is the hardest thing in the world.

William Barclay, Testament of Faith, Oxford: Mowbrays, 1977, p.16-17. [235]

We had a lot of good times together, but Mary [my wife] never got wrapped up in the corporate life. She didn't try to keep up with the Joneses. For both of us, the family was supreme. As for the responsibilities of the corporate wife, she did what was necessary, and she did it with a smile. But her values - and mine - were home and the hearth... Your job takes up enough time without having to shortchange your family. The four of us used to take a lot of motor trips, especially when the kids were young. That's when we really got close as a family. No matter what else I did in those years, I know that two sevenths of my whole life - weekends, and a lot of evenings - was devoted to Mary and the kids. Some people think that the higher up you are in the corporation, the more you have to neglect your family. Not at all! Actually, it's the guys at the top who have the freedom and the flexibility to spend enough time with their wives and kids. Still, I've seen a lot of executives who neglect their families, and it always makes me sad... You can't let a corporation turn into a labour camp. Hard work is essential. But there's also a time for rest and relaxation, for going to see your kid in the school play or at the swim meet. And if you don't do those things while the kids are young, there's no way to make it up later on... Yes I've had a wonderful and successful career. But next to my family, it really hasn't mattered at all.

Lee Iacocca, Iacocca: An Autobiography, New York: Bantam Books, 1984, pp.304-305. [278]

A young man told me of a conversation he had in hospital with his father just before he died. The father, a perpetually busy man, had not spent much time with his children and the son expressed his regret that they had not shared more together. The father responded by reminding his son that he had worked long hours in order to put food on the table to feed the family. The son remained silent, but in his heart he was yearning to tell his father that he had never been as hungry for food as he had been for his father's presence.

Rabbi Neil Kursham, quoted in Mitch Golant and Susan Golant, Finding Time For Fathering, New York: Ballantine Books, 1992, p.60. [103]

When the office work and the 'information revolution' begin to dominate, the father-son bond disintegrates. If the father inhabits the house only for an hour or two in the evenings, then women's values, marvelous as they are, will be the only values in the house. One could say that the father now loses his son five minutes after birth...

The German psychologist Alexander Mitscherlich writes about this father-son crisis in his book called Society Without the Father. The gist of his idea is that if the son does not actually see what his father does during the day and through all the seasons of the year, a hole will appear in the son's psyche, and the hole will fill with demons who tell him that his father's work is evil and that the father is evil...

Not receiving any blessing from your father is an injury. Robert Moore said, 'If you're a young man and you're not being admired by an older man, you're being hurt...' Not seeing your father when you are small, never being with him, having a remote father, an absent father, a workaholic father, is an injury...

Between twenty and thirty percent of American boys now live in a house with no father present, and the demons there have full permission to rage...

When a father, absent during the day, returns home at six, his children receive only his temperament, not his teaching... The father returns home... usually irritable and remote... [and] children do not receive the blessing of his teaching... A father's remoteness may severly damage the daughter's ability to participate good-heartedly in later relationships with men. Much of the rage that some women direct to the patriarchy stems from a vast disappointment over this lack of teaching from their own fathers.

Robert Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men, New York: Vintage Books, 1992, pp.21,31,96,97. [300]

The men in my family are hardworking, good men, but most of them are disconnected from their feelings. That is the norm for upper midwestern farm families like ours. We value hard work and consider it noble to bear, in stoic silence, whatever physical or emotional pain comes our way. Our unspoken rule is 'men do not feel'. The men in our family know little about emotional expression. One rarely hears a hearty laugh or feels a warm hug from strong arms, or offers a spontaneous 'I love you.'

It is tragic that sons should suffer such loss and woundedness from fathers who truly love them, but it happens. I know my father loved me. I know he cared. He worked hard, sacrificed for his family, and was a good provider, but he did not know how to help me feel loved. I also know that my father did not feel loved by his father. He never received affirmation from his father, and I doubt that he ever felt the warmth and comfort of a loving hug from his father. My father was unable to give what he had never received himself. He didn't have a clue about how to reach out to me emotionally because no one had ever reached out to him...

Every boy yearns to be sought out by his father. When a boy lacks this emotional connection, his natural response is to try to do something that will cause his father to demonstrate his love for him, something that will create an emotional bond between them. Different boys try different behaviours. One boy will become an overachiever. 'Maybe if I do well enough in school or make the basketball team', the boy reasons, 'Dad will think I'm special'. Another boy will cause trouble at home or at school until he gains his father's attention. Regardless of the outward behaviour, the motivation is the same - to be emotionally connected or close to the father...

There is no subsitute for an intimate, emotional connection between father and son. This connection cannot be made by a father who is physically or emotionally absent. It cannot be made by a father who functions at home in the same way he functions in the workplace. It takes time and emotional involvement for a father to establish intimacy with his son.

Dr. Earl R. Henslin, Man to Man, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, pp.9-11,41-42. [389]

I was an overmothered son. At its simplest, overmothering means that the amount of time the mother devotes to the son is much greater - often hugely disproportionate - to the time the father spends with the son... Here we see a pattern that has ensnared millions of men in passivity during this century: The father is absent, abusive, or unavailable, alienating the son and placing too heavy a burden on the mother... Female traits can and should be encouraged in men. So many men are afraid to show tenderness and fear and hurt and other emotions that women can express more easily. Men need to be willing to nurture the female side of themselves, and mothers can be helpful in this process. But when it comes to a man's masculine traits, which include his perception of fatherhood and of mature manhood, these cannot be obtained through the mother, no matter how hard she tries or how pure her motives are.

Verne Becker, The Real Man Inside: How Men Can Recover Their Identity and Why Women Can't Help, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, pp.68-70. [159]

Q. How do I deal with the fact that my father was distant and cold and unloving? I have a hard time seeing God as my father and praying to him!

A. Your question about your experience with your father and relating to God is not an uncommon struggle. Often we create our image of God based upon our fathers. Many people struggle to experience God's love and grace because the concept is buried by the rubbish of our relationships at home.

What can you do? Tell God and another person how you see him at this time in your life. It helps to tell him. After all, it won't be any surprise to God. Each day read aloud the Scriptures... I also suggest you read two books as a corrective process: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer is a devotional presentation of the attributes of God. J.I. Packer's book Knowing God, expands our knowledge and understanding of God's attributes in yet another way. Dwell on these truths, and the truths of Scripture. Write an unmailed letter to your earthly father, stating the discoveries you have made about God, and declaring that no longer will his experiences with you dictate your perception of God. If your father is still living, pray that he would come to make the same discovery about God that you have made.

H. Norman Wright, Questions Women Ask in Private, California: Regal Books, 1993, pp.302-303. [230]

A man's relationship with his father has a tremendous bearing on his personal relationship with God. When a bond exists between father and son, the son will find it easier to trust his father's spirituality and to model his father's spiritual life. If a man's relationship with his earthly father has been marked by woundedness, he will find it difficult to know how to expect anything different in his relationship with God. In fact, a little boy's first image of God the Father reflects the image of his earthly father. A strong emotional connection between father and son, makes it easier for the son to feel spiritually connected with God, but if no emotional bridge exists, the son may feel as though God is distant and disinterested.

Consider these common examples of how a man's relationship with God mirrors his relationship with his father: * If a man's father has been unpredictable or moody, made promises he did not keep, or failed to support him when he needed it, a man does not know what he can count on in his relationship with his Heavenly Father. * If a man's father has been critical, judgemental, difficult to please, or cruel, a man will tend to view God as a harsh taskmaster who is just waiting for an excuse to punish him. * If a man's father has been shaming or demanded perfection, a man will feel hopelessly inadequate before God, compelled to do as much as he can 'for God,' yet feeling guilty for never doing enough. * If a man's father has been passive when action was appropriate, a man will have a hard time trusting God to play an active role in his life. * If a man's father had a strong, macho personality, showed no compassion and denied or minimized pain, a man will find it hard to believe that God is compassionate and cares deeply about his pain, his struggles, or his fears.

Clearly, all of the emotions that are wrapped up in a man's relationship with his father are also wrapped up in his relationship with God. When healing for those issues begins to take place, a man will experience God differently and feel his presence more deeply.

Dr. Earl R. Henslin, Man to Man, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, pp.88-90. [368]

The combination of activism and preaching and lecturing and writing and travelling meant that I was away from home a lot. I justified some of it on grounds that we couldn't make it without the extra income - which was true, we couldn't - but it meant that I missed a lot of my children's growing up, and they had more than their share of what is now called `single parenting'. And I am just very lucky, luckier than most, that somehow (by grace, if I'm pressed for an explanation) we have survived all that, and with whatever hard times we may have individually and collectively gone through, Peter, Mark, Alison, Tom, Sydney and I are now at a point where we not only love, but like, one another, sharing ordinary moments in a way that makes them special moments. I have no recipe for how that happened, but I do have some advice: listen to one another, and cherish the family moments while you have them; they will be gone before you know it.

Robert McAfee Brown, Creative Dislocation - the Movement of Grace, Nashville: Abingdon, 1980, pp.61-62. [173]

In 1988 an Ann Landers column described the anguish felt by a father who had let the precious years with his own children pass away:

'I remember talking to my friend a number of years ago about our children. Mine were 5 and 7 then, just the ages when their daddy means everything to them. I wished that I could have spent more time with my kids, but I was too busy working. After all, I wanted to give them all the things I never had when I was growing up.

I loved the idea of coming home and having them sit on my lap and tell me about their day. Unfortunately, most days I came home so late that I was only able to kiss them good night after they had gone to sleep.

It is amazing how fast kids grow. Before I knew it, they were 9 and 11. I missed seeing them in school plays. Everyone said they were terrific, but the plays always seemed to go on when I was travelling for business, or tied up in a special conference. The kids never complained, but I could see the disappointment in their eyes.

I kept promising that I would have more time 'next year.' But the higher up the corporate ladder I climbed, the less time there seemed to be.

Suddenly they were no longer 9 and 11. They were 14 and 16. Teen-agers. I didn't see my daughter the night she went out on her first date or my son's championship basketball game. Mom made excuses and I managed to telephone and talk to them before they left the house. I could hear the disappointment in their voices, but I explained as best I could.

Don't ask me where those years have gone. Those little kids are 19 and 21 now and in college. I can't believe it. My job is less demanding and I finally have time for them. But they have their own interests and there is no time for me. To be perfectly honest, I'm a little hurt.

It seems like yesterday that they were 5 and 7. I'd give anything to live those years over. You can bet your life I'd do it differently. But they are gone now, and so is my chance to be a real dad.'

Gary Bauer, Our Journey Home: What Parents Are Doing to Preserve Family Values, Dallas: Word Publishers, 1992, pp. 138-139. [376]

A child arrived the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin' fore we knew it and as he grew
He said, 'I'm gonna be like you, Dad, You know I'm gonna be like you.'
'When ya comin home Dad?'
'I don't know when
But we'll get together then, yeah,
We're gonna have a good time then...'
I've long since retired, and my son moved away
I called him up just the other day
Said, 'I'd like to see you if you don't mind.'
He said, 'I'd love to, Dad, if I could find the time
But the new job's a hassle and the kid's got the flu
But it's been sure nice talking to you.'
And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me.

Harry Chapin, 'Cat's in the Cradle', quoted in Edwin Louis Cole, Maximized Manhood: A Guide to Family Survival, Springdale, Pennsylvania: Whitaker House, 1982, pp.58-59. [164]

Rowland Croucher


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