We know this. We recognize the need for a solid education, a stable home, and parents who are present and involved in the lives of their children.
But too often we think of parenting in generic terms, and thereby minimize the distinctive contribution of a father to a family.
How important is fatherhood?
Sometimes, you don’t know how important something is until it’s missing.
A few years ago, my wife and I were caught up in the popular television drama, Lost. The intriguing storyline and compelling characters had us coming back every week to see what would take place next.
Midway through the series, I was struck by how many of the main characters had “daddy issues.” Much of the ongoing struggle and personal conflict was traced back to the characters’ unresolved issues with their fathers – some who’d been present (and bad) and others who were absent.
Most disturbing was how, in some cases, the anger toward fathers led to patricide. Lost presented a frightening picture of what can take place when the biblical vision of fatherhood is missing. Suffering, anger, pain and violence followed a father’s abdication of responsibility.
Flash forward a few years, and I’m sitting in my living room with a group of college students. We’re talking about the subject matter for a new book I am writing – a work of fiction that teaches theological truth in story form. As I talk with them about the main character, a young college student struggling with big questions about Christianity, they advise me.
There needs to be a dad problem.
I was puzzled. But they insisted.
If you want this book to resonate with lots of guys, the dad needs to be absent. College students will relate.
There needs to be a dad problem.
Those of us who seek to proclaim the gospel today cannot ignore the massive implications of a distorted vision of fatherhood – fathers who have failed or fathers who have left. Due to fickle fathers and distant dads, our culture’s view of God has been massively affected by the failures of our fathers.
And yet, the gospel becomes all the sweeter when it gains a foothold in the heart of someone longing for a Father who never fails. A Father whose gracious love for His creation led Him to reveal Himself as our Creator and Redeemer. In the gospel, we encounter a Son who was abandoned that we might be accepted, cast out that we might be brought in, crucified that we might be raised.
Jonathan Edwards understands the pain of fatherlessness. He also understands the sweetness of the gospel. His book, Left, is a raw and riveting series of reflections on life in the wake of parental abandonment.
If you are fatherless, you’ll resonate.
If you are like me and you’ve been blessed with an earthly father who faithfully models our heavenly Father, you will find this book to be a window into how best to minister and serve our friends from broken families.
Here is a book that gives us a taste of a particular kind of pain, a pain felt by those who are seeking to remember what’s good and forget what’s bad, cherish the true and discard the false, love and forgive…and hope again.
- adapted from my foreword to Jonathan Edwards’ book, Left: The Struggle to Make Sense of Life When a Parent Leaves. Available in print and on Kindle.