Twenty-four million – 40% – of children in the U.S. live in a fatherless home. These children are prone to experience poverty and teen pregnancy and to drop out of high school. These are the statistics, and the story they tell is a reality.
But behind the statistics, there are real people, and these people – the ones who know what it is to be fatherless – may have another story to tell. I say this because in my family history, there has been a cycle of fatherlessness.
There are stories of brokenness recorded by the statistics, but there are also stories of people rising out of broken homes and broken pasts to be redeemed, remade, and restored.
And so, the story the fatherless have becomes more than an accounting of failures and mistakes, more than pain and suffering forced upon them, more than a deficiency in ability, dignity, or character. It becomes a story of how they choose to react to the brokenness that resides around them and within them, and the ways they choose to remedy it, rise above it, learn from it, and change it. And when they do so, their story often changes to what they do right rather than what they do wrong. They put a high priority on practicing the truths that they’ve learned from early experience. And as a result, they realize the following:
They know without question about the strength a good father gives to his children and family, and the difficulties that come from not having that father.
They know the father determines the future of his family.
They know having a father gives confidence and makes it easier to go through normal stages of growing up and changes in life.
They know gender roles and parental roles are not irrelevant or reversible.
They know it is more important for a man to be of good character and God-fearing than to be smart, rich, handsome, etc.
They know that it is not just poor fathers who mess up or the fatherless who struggle with hurt, but that they are like all other people: broken but able to be redeemed and healed.
And they can discover that God is the ultimate Good Father who is more than able to care for, comfort, and love His children.
Knowing these things does not just determine how they make decisions for their lives, plan or hope for a future family, or handle father-child relationships in their own lives. It influences how they view and deal with other people and other relationships.
They know that every relationship is precious, and precarious, and they are willing to work hard to keep it healthy.
They know that every person, even the most broken, is worth fighting for and never beyond hope of repair.
They realize and identify that the difference between good people and bad people is that some people allow themselves to be directed by a good God.
People who have learned these things stand out from the sordid and sorrowful statistics. But not all are able to see their way clearly to these truths. Sometimes, they need to be given vision, hope, and truth, to light their way.
To change the narrative of fatherlessness they need:
A vision of fatherhood
An understanding of being fallen and redeemed
A relationship with the Father
An example to follow
A biblical model for the family
A standard for the future
This is where AFA’s One Million Dads comes in. Using online resources, One Million Dads is a place where training can begin, for those who need to learn what a good father is like, and for those who need to learn to mentor those without a father. And in the end, it points back to the One who makes men good and gives a godly standard for fathers.
Read more about the inspiration and founding of one of AFA’s newest branches here.