I could cite the stats. I have before:
90% of all homeless and runaways come from fatherless homes. 63% of youth suicides. 85% of kids with behavior issues. 85% of all kids in prison. 71% of pregnant teenage girls. 71% of high school drop outs. All from homes lacking a father. This is not an abstract concept for me, either. A few weeks ago, I was taking a carload full of middle school boys home from our youth group when I realized that the majority of kids in my car had no dad or had a terrible dad. Over and over and over again, I hear stories of kids who have been abused, neglected, mistreated or abandoned. I hear again and again from boys that feel unloved, unwelcome, and unwanted. It’s appalling how common this problem has become, and how it has become for so many the norm and not the exception.
I tweeted the other night that sometimes the only hope I can still hang on to is knowing that some people, many of them fathers who left their kids, will one day have to answer to a very angry God.
That may sound terrible. It may make me a terrible Christian. And you’re probably right.
But when I look at the lives that have been devastated by being fatherless (or, at least, lacking a good father if not actually physically lacking a father), I’m not sure you could blame me.
We were made, designed and created by God to have a mom and a dad who love each other and who love us as their kids. And there are a lot of guys I know that have had that robbed from them by their dads. I hate to even call it an ideal because it makes it sound like something that should only happen in fairy tales and Disney movies, but that ideal of a loving family is something every boy (and girl) is entitled to. It was something they are hardwired for. Something they crave. Something they need, desperately.
And it makes me so desperately angry that so many of my middle school guys don’t get the love, appreciation, and affirmation they were made to receive from their fathers.
And while I was driving all these guys homes that night, another thought popped into my head that’s just overwhelming:
I might be the one and only man in these guys’ lives pursuing a relationship with them and a relationship with Jesus. I might be the one and only up close example they have in their lives of what it looks like for a man to try to follow Jesus. And I might be the only man that has said anything positive and encouraging and life-giving in their lives in a long time.
Holy &^*#@. No pressure, right?! That’s not the case for every kid, and it’s probably not true for even most of my guys, but I do know of a handful of cases where that’s absolutely true. And it’s crazy to me that the things I say and do could matter that much to anybody.
And I’m not the only one. I know a lot of great guy leaders that have a lot of guys that need those great leaders to be the best Jesus followers they can be.
Because when it’s all over, we can’t do this by ourselves. I can’t do this by myself. I’ve never felt like I needed Jesus more than realizing I might be the only person in some guys’ lives modeling what it means to try to follow Jesus.
I can’t stack up. But knowing that nobody else is even trying for some guys–that’s motivating. It’s motivating enough to try to get me to come as close to Jesus as I possibly can.
I always say that the most difficult passage of scripture to follow has to be 1 Corinthians 11:1: “And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.”
Because that’s exactly what I’m asking a bunch of guys to do. And I don’t think I ever did it on purpose, it just sort of happened because they didn’t have anybody else to show them the way. But if God has given that to me for a time and a season — then I’m going to try to be the best at it as I possibly can. Leaders go first.