Last month, those of us on the LIFE All Grace Outreach(AGO)subscription received a great book entitled “Point Man”, by Steve Farrar. In this book, the author details some of the effects that absentee fathers cause upon a family. This not just an issue confined to the inner cities or the poor classes of people. As the author points out, there are startling statistics that show even in “good” homes, the fathers are neglecting their responsibilities toward their wives and children. Dan Hawkins, at Men’s Leadership, did a fantastic job of outlining the critical principles of fatherhood and the importance of a Godly man on point for his family. The book and the talk caused me to reassess my personal effectiveness as a husband and a father, and caused me to reflect on the consequences of being raised without a father in my home. Having been mainly influenced as a child by my young single mother, my maternal grandparents, and paternal grandmothers, I found myself seeking and desiring the love and attention of a father in my life. The book points out the obvious but profound point…”a boy is the only raw material that God can use to produce a man.” With that in mind I want to share my personal journey to manhood and fatherhood from dread to dream.
In the late sixties, my 18 year old mother found herself in the unenviable position of being pregnant by a young man that was too immature to understand fatherhood. My mother being the oldest child, left my maternal grandparents in the tough position of raising her five younger siblings and dealing with a new baby. While my mother worked to get her high school diploma and her own independence, my father chose a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol. Being determined to make a better life for me, my mother ended the relationship, and my father became an inconsistent and often non factor in my development. As I grew older, I would often resent that fact that my father was not there to see my school play or concert. He missed my sporting events, and achievements, and even though I was angry, I still yearned his involvement. Once a year or so, he would show up at a game, and I would play my heart out just to earn his approval. On some weekends, I would get a chance to talk with him for a few minutes before he was out the door. At Christmas, I would long for a gift or some quality time, but neither came very often. In short, he was not a point man in my life, and I struggled early to fill that void. I was blessed to spend plenty of time with my paternal grandmother that loved and encouraged me to be my best. She too had been a young unwed mother, and left to raise her own six children by men vacating their point position. She would take me to Church, and read with me, and teach me valuable life lessons that I cherish to this day, but she could not be a father. She did her best to shield me from seeing and experiencing the horrible effects of the drug lifestyle that my father had chosen.
In my adolescent years, I saw the pain that my father’s additions caused my beloved grandmother and my mother, so I vowed to never miss being on point for my children. I ran from that dreaded example, and used that anger to fuel my education, my independence, and eventually my desire to be a good husband and father. The dread of my father’s shadow fueled in me a desire to do better, but there are inherent problems in only running from a dread. Dread only motivated me to become good, and often the enemy of great is good. My fatherhood dread pushed me from an “F” example to a very average “C”, so the question is lingers…Is average good enough when it comes to being a husband and father? The “Point Man” book, makes several good points about the importance of men spending not only quality time, but ultimately the quantity of time can be our most valuable gift to our families. Most men find themselves working so hard to provide sustenance for our loved ones, that we often forget to provide substance. We do a good job of appeasing our children with gifts, and our wives with token attention; while often oblivious to the fact that our wives and children need time and affection more than gifts and a kiss on the cheek. As I write this, I am often guilty of being the “good” but not great example of being on “point” for my family. I was blessed to have good example in my maternal grandfather, but his generation believed in men working and providing, and there was not much time for nurturing and developing.
Dan Hawkins often states that “we cannot tell whether a line is crooked until we compare it to a straight line.” In other words we cannot measure our effectiveness as a father by comparing it to a bad example. We must measure ourselves to the correct Biblical standard in order to truly see greatness. In Sidney Poitier’s autobiography, “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography”, he writes eloquently that the true measure of a man is not in wealth, fame, nor popularity, it is only in his provision for his family both physical and most importantly spiritual. For me, I found my straight line example in my father-in-law William Lee Potts. Even before Tina and I were married I observed him leading his family to Church, loving his wife, and being there for all of his children. They would have a picnic once a month after Church on Sunday in the summer. They would get together on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and love on one another because Mr. Potts set that example. He was tough but always fair. He would help, but not enable. He would fight for his family against wrongs, but he would not allow them to think like victims. In short, he provided a picture of a dream father that I could chase. No longer was being a good father good enough, the dread that chased me could never make me a great dad. I had and still have a dream that fuels me to get better and lead from the point for my family.
Of course none of us can arrive at perfection, but we can become better, and we can continue to strive for greatness as men, husbands and fathers. I only pray that God will give me the courage to do more and get better for my family, knowing that we all can chase a great example. As a testament to God’s grace, today me and my biological father have established a good relationship, I harbor no ill will towards him, and I love to have my children around their papa. Our relationship is a testament to the fact that it’s never to late to be on point for your family. While many men may not be able to find great living examples, we can learn to glean from the wonderful books, CD’s and mentors that the LIFE business provides. I encourage you men as I encourage myself to click on the FAMILY section of your LIFE business, and begin chasing greatness as a husband and a father. Our families, our communities, and our nation needs us!