A Far Better Alternative to Politics

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2017 by jcwill5

Have you ever wondered if, maybe just maybe, politics isn’t the answer?

The Inherent Failure of Politics

Perhaps it has never really been the answer.

At best, it is a temporary truce between competing interests, a sequence of ugly compromises that allow groups at perpetual odds with each other to muddle through an endless series of crises.

A way of slowing down those who want to steamroll others, a way of checking and balancing the selfish, evil urges of our ruling elites.

At worse, it is a venue for all the worst aspects of our fallen nature–unbridled greed, outright thievery, unchecked egotism, rapacious lust, and domineering power.

An arena for individuals and groups to express dominance and control over other individuals and groups.

A devil’s playground for the most ruthless, vicious, and merciless power-craving kinds of people.

The Lie of Environmental Change

It seems to me there is a lie underneath this idol of political power, this religion of salvation through politics, this church of ideological beliefs.

And the lie is this:  people only change from the top down, and the best way is from the outside-in.

Tinkering with our environment, altering our society, fixing the system that we blame for everything bad–all without any character change or soul transformation or new choices on our part–will make it all better.

If we can pass the right laws, if we can get the right reforms, if we prevail over our political enemies by winning elections, the kingdom of man will come in all its glory.

If we can elect the right president, our group’s messiah will reign and all will be well and peace and prosperity will arrive with his or her coming.

And we’ll send the bill to somebody else, and “the other” that we blame for all of our problems will pay for it.

The Gift of Political Disenchantment

The older I get, the less faith I put in ideologies, the less confidence I have in political parties, and, above all, the less I expect out of elected officials and high leaders of our land.

But instead of cynicism and despair, I have arrived there as a blessed, gradual release from my unspoken birth rite of idolatry.

Especially the idolatry of false expectations that inflate hopes and dashes them, that undulate between exaltation and despair.

It is in the irrelevance and incompetence of politics that true hope can take root in a kingdom which cannot be shaken and in a Messiah who is above all systems, parties, times, and societies.

We must first be disenchanted of our idols, and see them collapse and fall in tatters on the ground, so that true faith can happen.

Not a faith in fickle, fallen, sinful human beings.

But a faith in an all-capable, all-good, utterly eternal and supreme, unchangingly perfect Messiah who transcends us all and who changes us from within from the inside out.

Readied For the Real Thing

Christ is simply not in the business of patching up fallen humanity or propping up a system.

He is in the business of quietly creating an entirely brand new human race one transformed person at a time.

He is happily infiltrating all peoples, tribes, nations, and tongues in a quiet, unsung revolution of redemptive love for sinners.

At our national moment of political despair, of mass disenchantment and eye-opening recognition of the utter failings of politics, He is shining as brightly as He ever was.

His arms are outstretched, and His invitation to simply come to Him if we are weary and heavy-laden and find rest for our souls through relinquished control, still stands.

All-Conquering Powerlessness

Without any political force or dominant power, He is melting hard hearts, bringing us to the end of ourselves and our schemes, and stripping us of our illusions of control and of creating a heaven on earth on our own.

Not to torment us, but to free us in ways we can hardly imagine and at levels we cannot self-arrange.

He wishes to lavish us with the riches of His grace so we will need nothing from “the powers that be” and fear nothing these powers can do to us.

He conquers hearts by redemptive love, and creates a counter-society of joyous, liberated souls.

When we already have everything because we have eternal life, and there is therefore nothing they can give us or take away from us that ultimately matters.

Then we are truly free.

It is there we cannot be bought nor threatened, and can smile upon our deluded enemies in serene, inexpressible joy.

It is there the truth that sets us free exposes their lies and reveals that, truly, the Emperor has no clothes.

It is there that the power of bullies and dictators and totalitarian ideologies and corrupt parties and greedy elites and corrupt systems and wicked societies and evil leaders is broken.

In the New Testament, a group of protesters complained to the local magistrate about the early Christians, saying, “these men who have upset the whole world have come here also!”

Exactly.

Political Burnout

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2017 by jcwill5

Unless I am sorely mistaken, the vast majority of us are getting sick of the constant barrage of pro- and ant-Trump headlines, tirades, and gotch-ya attacks.

We really don’t want to spend the next 3.5 years in a state of hyper-vigilance, chronic anxiety, and perpetual rage.

But we are not being given that option.

Collectively Burned Out

We have political burnout.

We are bone-weary, drained and exhausted, and emotionally worn down by it all.

Both the President and his mostly Left-wing haters, quite frankly, come off as exactly the same:

Narcissistic, thin-skinned, nasty to anyone who disagrees, a bad case of diarrhea of the mouth, etc.

Both are absorbed with attacks by the other, and both denounce the other for possessing exactly the same character flaws.

Both sides are absolutely convinced they are right about everything, and that their perspective is the only one that matters.

It’s why both are very much at risk of being completely tuned out.

And leaving us all in a chronic state of societal burn-out.

If Only…

Had Trump tweeted far less, shown more graciousness, and had a thicker skin…

Had the Media exercised a bit more restraint, been far less ideology-driven, and not presented so many inflammatory rumors as “news stories”…

Had the celebrities and musicians and comedians and “entertainment personalities” who spewed out their own stream of bitterness through their creative arts instead given it a long rest…

Had the congressional Democrats not attacked every single nominee for every job, and had Obama’s holdovers in the executive branch simply allowed Trump’s new appointees to be the ones to tell him the facts…

Our political burnout might have taken longer to develop.

But here we are.

Burned out.  Fed up.  Disgusted.

Our reaction is much like stepping outside when a chronically unhappy married couple is bickering, or leaving a room when everyone’s screaming at each other.

The Double-Danger of Our Collective Burnout

The danger, of course, in all this emotional distancing is two-fold.

When something significant is truly happening (like North Korea’s missiles), being outraged about everything minor every single day numbs us to it.

It’s just one more shock instead of shocking.

We simply shrug and mechanically go on with our lives.

When every little irritant is loudly objected to and when molehills are turned into mountains, big violates of ethics and major breakdowns of precedence and historic lines that are crossed don’t cause a stir.

It’s just one more controversy to an all too long list of brewing controversies.

Which, ironically, is far more of a threat to the long-term viability of our Republic than the stupid stuff our President tweets in the middle of the night!

Sadly, I’m not sure there is much we can do to recover at this point.

The Players Are Addicted to Controversy

The first reason is the principal players have little incentive to change.

The traditional and online Media have discovered that hating/defending Trump and playing up the controversies has sent readership, ratings, and ad dollars soaring.

Trump’s ego, while intensely hating the criticism and reacting to everything, appears to have an almost unlimited capacity for basking in attention and being the subject of everyone’s conversation.

His celebrity detractors get too many strokes and accolades from their peers to leave off now.

Congressional Democrats have scored big points with their base through their opposition and incessant criticism of Trump.

I’m virtually certain that virtues like self-restraint, humility, and discretion will not be found in any of these quarters for the foreseeable future.

Burnout is Hard To Escape

The second and more troubling reason is burnout is easy to get oneself into, but extremely hard to get oneself out of.

It takes a season of prolonged disengagement and complete disentanglement from the abusive, toxic system.

It takes a lot of soul care and heart therapy to sort through all the toxicity, trauma, and failure to protect–to regain perspective and put fire back into our emotional tanks.

It takes receiving a lot of sustained care and lavished love from a surrounding, grace-giving community to find the energy for new challenges.

And where will we find these rare things?

And who will we turn to for national healing and collective soul care?

I know where I go and to whom I turn.

More on that the next time….

Evangelicals and America

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2017 by jcwill5

Like most people, we American Evangelicals has a mixed, often-conflicted relationship with our own nation.

And, like most people, we are tempted to veer from extremes of nation-worship to nation-loathing, from “My country–right or wrong” to “My country can do no right”.

So, on this July 4th, I wanted to share a particularly thoughtful cluster of articles that some of our community’s best thinkers have published today on the subject of God and Country.

I hope it both encourages you where you need it and challenges you where you need it.

Giving Thanks for America

On the plus side, we believers have very much to be thankful about as those who live, work, serve, and worship in the United States.

Kevin DeYoung sums up this positive, proper, grateful kind of holy patriotism well:

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2017/07/04/the-idea-of-america/

Thomas S. Kidd also voices a balanced, nuanced view that does justice to both biblical faith and proper appreciation for one’s nation:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-united-states-of-ambivalence

There’s a reason why the distressed peoples of the earth are seeking to leave their lands in order to come here!

Think about it…and be grateful for the multitude of blessings, freedoms, prosperity, opportunities, and privileges you enjoy as an American, despite the burdens, sorrows, and responsibilities you also bear as an American.

The vast majority of humanity would gladly trade places with you as an American citizen.

So this first side of the coin basically says, “Stop your incessant bellyaching and don’t be such an ungrateful complainer!!!”

Guarding Ourselves Against Idolatry

On the other hand, human beings have the tendency to make idols out of great things, substituting and confusing and mixing the created good in place of the Uncreated Highest and Best–God Himself.

Which is why many thoughtful, biblically informed voices are concerned about the whole “God and Country” agenda that permeates many churches.

Here is Joe Carter’s passionate, yet gentle, reminder to not just blend “civil religion” with our faith or blindly give our nation the worship or veneration that belongs to Christ alone:

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/civil-religion-has-no-place-in-gods-house

This second side of the coin basically says, “Stop making an idol out of the USA and requiring God’s people to bow down to it!”

“Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (the State-coined money), and to God the things that are God’s (your God-made self)” is how Jesus puts it.

Bless This Land and Its People

We were born in a certain place at a certain time, and, with that sovereign choice of God, we are given a unique and personal stake in seeing His kingdom cause prosper here and now.

We were granted, much like the Apostle Paul, a particular burden for our own countrymen, our own nation, that they might be saved.

And this particular burden reflected a particular love for his own people.

Eric Metaxas has some words that fit well right here:

http://breakpoint.org/2017/07/breakpoint-why-we-must-love-our-country/

And yes, we were also granted a particular cross to bear, as we are first-hand witnesses to the follies, the evils, and the utter brokenness of our own people and nation.

I end this discussion with an strangely-titled Christianity Today article that basically says it’s OK to pray “God bless America” in the same sense we pray for our particular spouse instead of just a generic prayer for all spouses everywhere.

To us American believers comes the task of groaning and travailing for the spiritual welfare of our nation.

We are the ones who will urgently praying for revival and renewal for the church within it, begging God to save many souls out of it.

Our role is to continuously ask for timely grace to be given to our secular and spiritual leaders, our own culture and citizens, in all it’s particular blessings and challenges.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/july-august/you-have-gods-blessing-to-say-god-bless-america.html

So, yes, it is not only OK to ask the Living God to grace our land, it is absolutely imperative we do so!

And, by the way, we’re commanded by the Lord to do it.

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

From Approval to Grace

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2017 by jcwill5

We all long to be received, embraced, affirmed, and celebrated in spite of our many failings.

But, as many before me have observed, our families are so often based on fickle, conditional approval instead of on the free dispensing of redemptive, celebrating love.

Heritage of Comparing

In my own case, my mom’s Asperger’s and my dad’s hyper-conditional German upbringing combined to deny my sister and I a sense of ever being good enough, sufficient enough, or pleasing enough to attain that coveted status of “fully approved”.

Whenever we brought our accomplishments to their attention, we were compared unfavorably (in our minds) to our sibling.

“That’s fine.  Now let me tell you how your brother (or sister) did even better in this other area of life (you happen to suck at)…”

My sister was the social butterfly with many friends, and I envied her this social strength that I had so little of.

I was the academic high-achiever, and she was always told by parents and teachers, “I hope you’re as good a student as your older brother….”

Instead of entering into our celebrations, there was this default kind of comparing response–like our best was never good enough.

Eye Openings In Adulthood

I never really saw it until our own kids arrived and, whenever we shared the great things going on in their lives, my parents’ only response was to talk about my sisters’ kids’ triumphs.

It was then I realized that’s exactly what happened to my sister and I all the time growing up.

Each of us thought the other was their favorite, while we felt like the goat of the family.

They were Jacob, and we were Esau.

When we traded notes later in life, we realized that both of us were constantly compared unfavorably to the other by this default response of my parents.

Both of us took great pains to celebrate our own children’s many little victories and never compare them to their siblings or their cousins (at least consciously).

And both of us now realize my parents did what they did not out of malice but out of ignorance and out of their own emotional deficits and upbringing.

Inability Not Malice

As my recovery progressed, I became more able to calmly ask my parents about their upbringing and hear their story.

Which helped me to see that, whatever their deficits, my parents truly did improve on whatever was done to them as children.

Having never been celebrated for themselves, and having grown up in the Great Depression period where economic survival was an all-consuming quest, they never learned how to enter into the victories of others and freely celebrate them without comparison to anyone else.

Their job was to be ever useful and expect no praise.

Which is why, upon hearing a child share a success, they saw it as opening up the subject of “success” and politely intended, “while we’re on that subject, let me tell you about other peoples’ successes”.

Like a deflector ray–always beam success away to someone else and never beam it back.

Which unintentionally starved their own children of emotional affirmation and unconditional approval.

And so my sister and I keep questing after freely-given approval and unconditional celebration in our own styles and ways throughout our lives.

And both of us found our answer by looking up.

Beyond Approval to Grace

God, instead of waiving the conditions that needed to be satisfied, met them all permanently and perfectly in His Son and now offers us the gift of perfect success and perfect approval.

It’s one of the reasons why the grace of God, which I encountered transformingly at 17, has been so precious to me–a lifeline and a key to healing.

And it’s one of the reasons why, after receiving oceans of saving grace, His grace has continued to patiently work with my own affirmation-starved, comparison-hurt soul these 35 years.

I’ll never “arrive” in this life, but the ministrations of God’s redemptive love keep opening my eyes, freeing up my heart, and training my mind and my mouth to speak grace to others in a grace-starved world.

What good we never can or will receive from our fallen parents, or whatever emotional injuries we received from them instead, there is an infinite source of the right kind of love that does no evil and that does us the supreme favor of breaking our generational chains of ungrace.

Though I relapse from time-to-time into depression and despair from encounters with disapproving, comparing, cruelly-judging human beings, I have a trusted, proven place I can always go to be re-centered, refreshed, and re-healed by re-encountering His grace at the bottom of my life.

There is a solution!

Recovering From Our Parents

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2017 by jcwill5

“The problem with our parents is they had parents.” – anonymous

This tongue-in-cheek quote is a healthy reminder that, whatever our parents failings, they, too, were once vulnerable little children at the mercy of their parents’ evils.

And the same parental faults and failings, the neglects and abuses, that they grew up under are likely the very same ones they inflicted upon us.

And that we’ll inflict to some degree upon our own children.

Which is why there is nothing harder in life than to break a self-reinforcing, generational cycle of sorrow and sin.

And nothing more shattering than to own up to this reality.

Beginning at the Bottom

So where does one begin?

How do we know we are finally on the right path of recovery from parental neglect or parental abuse?

Let me retell a story from the Old Testament.

The greatest prophet, Elijah, had just experienced a peak moment of defeating the forces of idolatry and paganism.

He was publicly and remarkably vindicated at Mt. Carmel, while the idolatrous priests were slain and their gods repudiated.

Then the wicked, idolatry-promoting queen, Jezebel, threatened his life and he ran for his life.

He put two nations between himself and her rage, and went a day’s journey into the far southern desert.

Then he asked God to take his life and put him out of his misery.

The reason?

“I am no better than my fathers” – 1 Kings 19:4

Humility the Starting Line

There comes a time in our adulthood, if we’re fearlessly honest, when we realize we are no better than our parents.

That we have the same sin-nature, the same mix of faults and strengths, the same frailty and weaknesses and propensity to evil that they did.

That we have hurt our children despite all our efforts to be so different, and better, than our own parents.

All that ego scaffolding of adulthood comes crashing down and we are left exposed in our own childhood agony.

This hitting bottom, this ego-collapse and great humbling, is the most crucial step one towards recovery.

Our lives have become unmanageable and we are enslaved to the very same issues our parents were.

We are no better than our forefathers or our fore-mothers.

And we cannot fix ourselves nor can we heal ourselves.

Will we go on pretending to control it?  Or will we bring our soul wretchedness to God?

In Need of a Healing We Cannot Control

We need an outside intervention, and miraculous course of grace treatment

As long as we are under the unspoken mandate “to be better than our parents”, we will not get better.

As long as we are consumed with protecting our children from our parents’ problem, we live under our parents’ problem and it still governs us and defines our adulthood.

Paradoxically, it’s when we lay down the quest and surrender the impossible mandate and allow ourselves to be loved as someone who is “no better”, that we begin to get better.

The vows to be better, to spare our children from the pain we lived under, requires boatloads of control and makes us brittle and afraid.

We must therefore never fail–must never, ever do what was done to us.

So we either pendulum to the opposite extreme or we end up impacting our kids in the very same way.

Which produced, ironically, the very same pain in our children’s lives that we lived under, the same destructive toxicities, the same dominating quests the set-up the next generation to do the same.

The key is do have what happened to Elijah happen to us.

Receiving a Love Larger Than Failure

In his utter vulnerability in the desert, in the place of regret and wishing he was dead because he failed so profoundly, God profoundly and perfectly loved him.

It’s when we have lost all illusions of control, and when our failings cannot be airbrushed away, that we are finally ready for the redemptive, self-sacrificing love of a Savior.

Because to receive His love for us in our utter failure requires profound vulnerability and abandonment of all pretensions of control.

We are in an agony we cannot numb and in need of a healing we cannot generate.

We are stuck in the muck of generational evil, and need a Hand far greater and infinitely above our own hand to pull us up and out.

So we look up–away from the failing self and towards heaven.

The Paradox

The paradox is this:  the key to our healing is to allow our selves be loved in the very place we had no control and needed good parental love the most as children.

It’s the place we have spent a lifetime avoiding and evading, hiding our true and wounded selves from our selves, God, and others.

It is why receiving God’s redemptive, grace-giving, failure-receiving love is so paramount to our recovery journey.

And why re-receiving it over and over, again and again, when the depths of our utter need is re-revealed to us over the rest of our time on earth.

Only God can break generational cycles of family pain and evil, of parental abuse and neglect that cascades down through the generations.

As Peter says, Christ redeems us from “the futile way of life inherited from forefathers.”

There is a solution!

Mother Deficit

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2017 by jcwill5

Toxic fathers and the effect of bad fathering receive a lot of negative attention–deservedly so.

The Other Parenting Crisis

But what happens to children when there mothering fails to happen or when toxic of mothering happens?

How might that maternal abandonment or trauma impact their adulthood?

What are the signs?  And what can be done to recover?

Mothers, of course, mother us.

This attentiveness, nurturing, meeting of physical needs, noticing of our distress, and physical holding and emotional embrace are all needed.

Consider the impact of not having it, as witnessed by Dr. Russell Moore:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/july/10.18.html

Silence, social withdrawal, retreat into an inner world, eventual and abiding despair, and giving up all hope of ever being loved.

If not even our mother loves us, or is hateful towards us, we have truly reached the bottom of human experience!

We’ll end up with what psychologists euphemistically call, “Attachment issues”.

Hidden Epidemic

In addition to showing the effects of non-existent or poor fathering, so many in the upcoming generations exhibit the signs of a maternal deficit.

How many of them were hugged and held far too seldom by their too busy, affluent, upwardly climbing mothers?  Or by their impoverished, working-two-jobs-to-just-survive, single parent mothers?

How many of them were raised by diverting and amusing devices instead of receiving unhurried time, focused attention, and nurturing that only a mother can give?

How many of them were required to do household responsibilities, made to share things with others and care for others, and tenderly taught the truths of God and of life on their mother’s knee?

The hard thing about all this is, with fathering, the signs are so evident and the anger is so open.

But with a lack of mothering is usually held deep within in a kind of silent suffering.

Terrible and false life narratives, and incessantly negative self-talk, are built around the theme, “not even my mother really loved me…”

And the unspoken, relentless quest to find a better, more reliable maternal care or even any kind of substitute for what one never received from our mother.

My Own Journey

How well I know this painful journey.

My own mother, bless her soul, was the classic adult child of an alcoholic father with a role reversal twist as a child taking care of irresponsible parents.

In addition, my sister and I now realize she was “on the spectrum”: an intellectually brilliant woman with some kind of facial processing disorder that left her unable to read social cues and clues–particularly from her own children.

She didn’t really like physical touch, and we both remember being stuck in playpens, shunted off to babysitters, and and sent to daycare at the earliest possible opportunity.

Of course we now realize none of this was meant personally and was not done on purpose or with any malice at all.

But we sure took it personally and, as children, we couldn’t understand why our mother failed to do certain maternal things that our peers’ mothers did all the time.

The impacts on us emotionally, of course, were deep and we both ended up with attachment issues from it and with life-long battles with anxiety and depression.

Practical Struggles With Faith and Love

Speaking for myself, I have found it difficult to maintain regular contact with the compassionate, nurturing, tender side of God’s love and so easily default to the “I’m all alone and on my own” programming of childhood.

And I have therefore found it hard to extend compassion and nurturing care to those I love–having to work harder than most to do it well and regularly.

I have to work three times as hard at the spiritual disciplines of receiving God’s love, accepting His grace when I fail, and practicing His ever-present caring presence.

I have to watch my tendency to isolate, to retreat into an inner world, and live in exile from all love.

So, yes, I know the journey of recovery all too well from maternal absence and neglect.

And, yes, I know enough about the signs to spot them in others, and I therefore see so much evidence of an appalling maternal deficit in the up-and-coming generations.

But unlike the crisis of fathering, who in society is even talking about the crisis of absentee mothers, lack of maternal care, toxic mothering, and the impact of these things on children?

Very few if any, I’m sad to say.

Next time, I’ll talk about recovering and finding peace if one finds oneself with a mothering deficit.

Father Thirst

Posted in Humble musings on today's culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2017 by jcwill5

Just because Father’s Day is over doesn’t mean the conversation about fathers is over.

Deep down, many of us are on an unspoken quest to find the perfect father who will love us utterly, unconditionally, and unceasingly.

Our own fathers, however great, were flawed people who overdid and under-did fatherly things that we needed done.

What is Good Fathering?

Good fathering provides consistent boundaries and voices an authority we cannot just ignore.

Good fathering takes action when we defy our mother, and stands with her and stands up for her when she’s besieged by non-listening, rebellious offspring.

Good fathering ushers us into a world of honorable living, respecting the created order of things, and completing dangerous but needed missions in life.

Yet good fathering is also compassionate–loving us at our worst and seeing potential in us when we are tempted to give up.

It calls us to action, motivates us when we are lazy, and models provision and production through hard, faithful labors.

And good fathering celebrates us and champions us–the picture of a small child lifted overhead and riding joyously on daddy’s shoulders comes to mind.

On a Quest to Find the Good Father

However damaged by bad fathering or deprived of good fathering we might be, we all desperately needed it and will always need it.

Just as God put eternity in our hearts, He also implanted within our hearts an unfathomably deep need for an infinitely good, all-knowing, ever-present Father.

He could have revealed Himself in so many ways, yet choose “father” as the chief metaphor of His self-revelation.

While effective and excellent earthly fathers can somewhat satisfy this quest, even they age and die and, sooner or later, leave a deep hole within us.

As I encounter many college students and hear many of their stories, I find their generation has been unfathered and under-fathered in so many practical ways.

Divorce, however right the reasons, usually keeps children with their mothers and physically and emotionally distances them from their fathers.

Mass incarceration rates, mental health prevalence rates, homelessness rates, addiction rates, and single parent household rates are all affect males at far higher levels and therefore all take children away from their fathers–which, in many cases, is good for their welfare.

But, whatever the reasons why, these social pathologies all leave a huge gap inside the souls of countless American children.

Not Just About Poverty

But even in busy, two-parent, affluent households, I find a pattern of paying for things to be done for the child instead of fathers training children to make repairs, take care of property, manage money, and learn basic life functionality skills.

And the techno-isolating aspects of modern life impact family conversations, family teachable moments, family spontaneity, and real-life adventuring where fathers used to shine.

We can numb our father-deprivation pain, and we can distract ourselves from the ache within us, but it never goes away–however well medicated or numbed it might be.

All this results in cries against our father, generational rebellion, and buried, ever-present, displaced anger we cannot put our thumb upon.

A breakthrough comes when we realize our cry against toxic fathering or fatherly neglect is a disguised cry for a good father.

A Few Good Men

And therefore those of us who are older men of faith, who are the elders and leaders with access and voice into the lives of younger adults, are so needed right now.

We are God’s men of the hour.

We are uniquely positioned to voice and speak fatherly life into the souls who have never received that grace.

We can speak to their crippling fears that keep them from courageous adventures and holy risk-taking.

We can point them to the kind of Father God would like to be to them, the kind of father they might have given up on finding but cannot live without.

We can offer something so rare and needed in the wreckage of today’s culture:  hope that points to ultimate hope in an ultimate Father.

Bridging the Gap

It can certainly be challenging to bridge the gap between the generations.

My anti-communist, values-voter conservatism does not mesh well with their starry-eyed, big government-trusting progressivism.

It won’t be angry political arguments, in other words, that gets the fathering the fatherless job done.

I think part of the problem is we talk past each other:  we want to instill our cherished, biblical moral values, and they want someone to take care of them and all of society without imposing boundaries on anyone.

So I listen to their stories and listen, above all, to themes in their lives that tell me their unspoken quests.

Then I speak grace to those quests and pour love into those holes in the name of Christ–fathering them in the name and power of the only Good Father

There is a solution!