Like people who are born colorblind, fatherlessness changes the very essence of the way one sees the world. It may be something that is not readily obvious, but attitudes, perspectives, and missing pieces become evident throughout a child’s maturation and well into adulthood.
In his new book, Father Fiction: Chapters for a Fatherless Generation, Donald Miller paints a picture of his own life without a father. Challenged with his own deviance, he speaks with the perspective of a man who has hope that lives can be changed and healing can come. Miller talks about the destructive path he was on and how the influence of a strong, compassionate man made all the difference for him. While a book on being a boy without a father, many of these same things can be said about those who have lived with a neglectful or emotionally unavailable father. We need to be directed to our Heavenly Father.
The hope that Miller gives is a challenge: to seek out the fatherless, to mentor them, and to help them to live a better life. He believes that we can reduce the number of prisons simply by seeking out young men who lack that basic influence and raise them up to be more responsible adults. In the biblical economy, the fatherless were to be given the same respect and compassion as widows. No doubt Miller’s hope is reflected in Scripture, and this book can help to challenge and inspire people to take the next steps to find healing in their own lives, but to also work to influence others toward a life committed to our heavenly Father.
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As a professional counselor I share Miller’s hope. I have worked for years with men who were addicted to alcohol and illicit drugs and found that so many had lived in homes where they either completely lacked a father or struggled with life lacking positive male influence. It was amazing to see the healing that takes place in a man’s life just to have another man come alongside him and challenge him to consider a new way of living.
Yet, as hopeful as my experience has been, the discouragement has also been there. Men who have taken steps to change their lives often fall back into the pit of their pain and continue in their sin. It is discouraging and often heartbreaking to invest so much and yet see men shipped off to prison. Like Miller, I too have shared that naive hope that the world can be so impacted by our influence, but the reality is that sin still has freedom to wreck lives and destroy families.
Our only hope is in Christ, and his saving power to infect our world. God is not only our Father, but he is the reason for our being and the giver of all good things. Just like the dry bones in Ezekiel 37, those who do not know God have no hope. It is through Christ’s self-sacrifice that we have new life and are then able to become bears of that good news to others. More than a father, the fatherless need new life.
This is not to say that we need not try. In Ezekiel 37 the prophet is told to preach to the dry bones, and at that moment he had no hope that anything that he could do would make any difference in that hopeless situation. We, just as Ezekiel, are called to obedience: to care for and to protect the fatherless in hopes that what we do with the power of Christ will make an impact not only on their lives here and now, but for all eternity.
It is this perspective that brings hope to this hopeless situation. This is how I can look into the eyes of those who have tried to avoid drugs, only to fail again and be sentenced to prison. These men continue to use drugs because they are addicted; we continue to sin because we are sinners. The hope that we have is that in spite of the fact that we continue to make mistakes, that we continue to sin, we have been made right with God by the work of Jesus Christ. This is what makes “father fiction” into reality.