by Chad Hennings, Christian speaker and former Dallas Cowboy
We live in an era when we’re totally inundated from the media about how to think and act. You can get instantaneous access to anything on the Internet, and that includes access to belief systems, different perspectives, different spins on things. That means people can get their outlook on life from any source other than those that matter the most—the Bible, the church, and especially, the family.
We live in an era with a lack of role modeling by our fathers. In our society, there is a 50-plus percent divorce rate. In the African-American community, 70 percent of children are raised by their mothers in a single-parent setting. In too many families today, there is no role modeling whatsoever on the part of fathers. There’s no balance, because it takes a mother and a father to raise a family. You need the father’s masculine side to offset the mother’s nurturing side. God is both masculine and feminine. He created the marriage unit to be both of those things, to have both the masculine and the feminine. One-half to two-thirds of society, or more, is raising their children without that sense of balance, and we see the disastrous results every day.
Fathers have abdicated their responsibilities to their sons in all too many cases. Fathers have checked out, quite frankly. They haven’t shown their kids the right way. We may tell our kids, “Don’t drink alcohol, don’t drink beer, don’t drink and drive.” But when they see Dad coming home from work, he’s got a beer in his hand, and then he jumps behind the wheel. I call that checking out.
We fathers are not taking the God-given role that God gave us, to be the heads and leaders of our families. That doesn’t mean that we’re supposed to be dominant over our wives. Couples have to make decisions on a mutual basis. So what is the father’s role? To cast the vision for his family. You as a father have to define for yourself who you are and what you believe before you can give your family a clear direction. That’s why knowing yourself, and knowing your relationship with Jesus Christ, is the starting point. Because otherwise, if you don’t have guidelines or rules of engagement for yourself, how can you possibly play a leadership role in your own home?
At some point in our culture, the father’s role changed from being the mentor, being the rock, the foundation of the family, casting the vision, and “naming” his kids. Today, however, the attitude is, “I just need to provide material things for my family. My kids have all the blessings of life. They live in a good house. That’s my job. I’m done.”
We fathers haven’t followed up on the most important thing, which is mentoring our children and helping them define who they are as Christians. We need them to know not only who they are, but who they are and who they need to be in Christ. And that can happen only if we know who we are and who we need to be.
Today, the focus has changed in our society for men. We are no longer expected to provide a life for the members of our family—a financial living, a material living, certainly, but never an inner life or a spiritual life. Men today are expected to provide a living, but not a life. When a man makes a living, he makes available to his family food, shelter, and clothing. But when he offers his family a life, he provides not just for his material things. He also provides a spiritual foundation and a sense of balance.
We men are caught today in a dilemma. On the one hand, society tells us to seek immediate gratification in whatever form that may take, at whatever cost we and others we love might pay. If marriage is disposable, and if I have only one life to live, then why can’t I do what I want with whom I want whenever I want? The other side of the coin for men is deferred joy—the statement that always begins, “I’ll be happy when.” As in, I’ll be happy when the kids graduate, when I get that promotion, when I get that raise, when I retire.”
We men lull ourselves to sleep with the false promise of “I’ll be happy when”—and then we wake up decades later with nothing to show for our lives but a 401(k) if we’re lucky. Somewhere between the constraints, and I truly see them as constraints, of immediate gratification and deferred joy is a life of true meaning, service, commitment, growth, and accomplishment. And the foundation stone of all these things is character. When we develop and define our character, it will make it more difficult for us to take the easy road out and “check out” of the calling God has for each of us.
From “RULES OF ENGAGEMENT: Finding Faith and Purpose in a Disconnected World” by Chad Hennings. Copyright © 2010 by Chad Hennings. Reprinted by permission of FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group, NY. All rights reserved.