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The Dad in the MirrorHow to See Your Heart for God Reflected in Your Children
By Patrick Morley David Delk
ZondervanCopyright © 2003 Patrick Morley and David Delk
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWhy Another Book on Fathering
"Why another book on fathering?"
That was the question that immediately came to mind when we decided to write this book. And it deserves an answer.
The short answer is this: This book will show you how to move from "fathering for performance" to "fathering the heart." But what do we mean by "fathering the heart"? And why is it so important?
Fathering the Heart Means Not Fathering for Performance
Even the dullest observer, taking only a cursory look at the statistics, can see that the state of the family is getting worse, not better. So what's the problem? Is it because children are tearing their families apart? Sometimes, but it's the exception. Is it because mothers are abandoning their children? Every now and then you hear a sensational story like this, but only rarely. Who, then, is most responsible for this crisis? Could it be that fathers are not equipped to hold their families together?
We think it's about the dads.
Don't get us wrong. Most dads want to do the right thing-they just don't know what it is or how to go about doing it. So they do the best they can to control behavior, keep peace, urge better grades, keep "Mom" happy, and get through it. In short, they "father for performance." Because most of us know only the "fathering for performance" model, untold numbers of dads (who really want to do the right thing) are instead alienating yet another generation of kids. They pass on the sins of their fathers, repeating rather than breaking the cycle.
This book will show you how to build a gospel-based parenting system to "father the hearts" of your children. So what's our answer to the question? We do need another book on fathering, a book about fathering the hearts of your children to help you break the cycle of fathering for performance.
Fathering the Heart Means Breaking the Cycle
We have a second, more personal, reason for writing this book. When a dad who grew up in a dysfunctional home breaks with the past, he sets an entire family on a new course for many generations. Does this sound like an overstatement?
Actually, we both know from experience the power of a dad who breaks the cycle and fathers the heart. We know, because both of our fathers broke the cycle for us, for our children, and for our children's children.
When my dad, Bob, was just two years old, his father abandoned the family. To make ends meet, my dad's oldest brother, Harry, went to work on a bread truck before school, at the butcher shop after school, and at the filling station on weekends-at the age of ten.
When my dad turned six, he, too, went to work, helping out on the bread truck and delivering papers. The brothers got up at 3:00 A.M. every day and had a permanent tardy slip for school.
My dad's mother, Mae, suffered a stroke. The family soon lost its small farm and moved into town to live with two of Mae's sisters. Together these women reared my dad and his three siblings. And they did a great job! God gave these women grace, and God himself became my dad's dad. God said he would be "a father to the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5).
My dad never knew the warmth of a father's embrace, never felt the scratch of his dad's whiskers, never overheard his dad whistling or singing while he worked, never smelled his work clothes, never heard him joke around or read a bedtime story, never heard him say "I love you, son" or "I'm proud of you, son," never received a father's approval or guidance, and had to guess at what it meant to be a father to me.
My dad passed away last year. Dad never wanted his legacy counted in money or achievements. He had one mission in life: to break the cycle. By his determination and sacrifice, my dad was determined to give my three brothers and me what he missed.
I have many fond memories. My dad loved me. My dad invested in my life. He gave me his time. He attended my games. He took me to work with him. We shared chores on the five acres where we lived. My dad taught me what it meant to be a man-how to live with integrity, how to practice a strong work ethic, and how to treat a woman. I am what I am today because my dad refused to follow in his father's footsteps.
Like every man who misses out on having a good father, my dad had to decide if he would repeat the sins of his father or break the cycle. By God's grace, my dad chose to become a real man. My dad became the man he was in spite of his father, while I am who I am largely because of my father.
As I've considered Dad's life and the odds against him, I have, by God's grace, come to understand something important. While you measure the success and legacy of some men by how far they go, you grasp the secret to my dad's success and legacy only by seeing how far he came.
But all was not perfect in paradise. The problem was that Dad didn't know what a "normal" father looked like. He knew what he didn't want to be like, but he had no mental image of what he did want to be like. So he had to, in the words of dysfunctional family systems expert Janet Woititz, "guess at what normal behavior is."
My dad and mom became religious. They wanted to bring us up in the church. They were looking for help in raising "normal" kids. Regrettably, while our church had many fine qualities, they had no vision or strategy to help my dad become a godly man, husband, and father. So part of this story is sad. My dad wanted to break the cycle, but instead, at the age of forty, after serving in all possible leadership positions in the church, he pulled our family out of church. I was in the tenth grade at the time. It threw our family into a twenty-five-year downward spiral from which it is only now recovering.
It's interesting. Dad wanted to break the cycle. It should have taken twenty-five years. By God's grace, my dad did build enough into my life that I was able to break the cycle for my children. But it took fifty years, not twenty-five. Our family went through-I went through-twenty-five additional years of pain and misery because no one taught my dad that which, ironically, he wanted to know. What kind of pain? I started out my adult life as an angry young man. My brother Robert died of a drug overdose at the age of thirty-one. My other brothers, though now doing well, have struggled with many difficult challenges. I can't help but wonder, What if my dad had been part of a church that discipled him to be a godly man, husband, and father? How might our lives have been different?I will never know. But you can.
My son, John, recently married. He and I were talking one day about the kind of career he wants to pursue. "Dad," he said, "you were always there for all my games. That really meant a lot to me. That's what I want to be able to do for my kids. I need a career that lets me do that."
It's true-I was there. I was there for him because, even though my dad didn't know exactly what to do, my dad was there for me. Because my dad broke the cycle and was there for me-even if imperfectly, I could offer my son and daughter an entirely new legacy. Whether your fathering experience more closely resembles mine, my dad's, or my dad's dad, in this book David and I will share some lessons to help you father the hearts of your children.
My father, Bill Delk, is my hero. No man I know has started out with so little and ended with so much.
Dad grew up in a poor family in rural South Carolina. His father, a true renaissance man, succeeded at almost any task: repairing machinery, woodworking, farming, the trucking business, the pulpwood/logging business, selling and buying produce, sewing (he served in the Marines as a tailor), and working as a prison guard. He taught my dad many practical skills, including how to rebuild a tractor engine. He loved his family and generously helped those in need. Everyone in the community wanted to be his friend.
Just one problem: Those things were true only when he stayed sober, and my grandfather never stayed sober for more than six months at a time. Dad felt ashamed when his friends made fun of his father. He saw money wasted on alcohol that could have been used for clothes or food. Dad's family never had a television, telephone, or even an indoor bathroom. Worst of all, my dad lived in constant fear of what his father might do next to embarrass the family.
My grandfather's alcoholism forced responsibility on my father at a very young age. He became a surrogate father for his younger sisters. He also kept the business running-handling the bank account, getting equipment repaired, helping his mother talk merchants into selling groceries on credit, and paying enough to creditors to keep them from repossessing equipment.
At the age of fourteen, Dad helped my grandfather with the logging business. On many Saturdays, Granddad got too drunk to pay the workers or carry out his other responsibilities, so Dad had to handle everything for him. He drove to the pulpwood buyer to collect the week's money. Then he went to the bank, deposited the check, and withdrew cash. He calculated the workers' wages, deducted what they had borrowed against their wages, and paid them in cash on Saturday afternoon. My grandfather stayed in the pickup the whole time, either asleep or embarrassing my dad with his behavior.
My grandmother didn't go to church when Granddad got drunk, for fear that he would come looking for her. But Dad had an aunt who took him to church. Through this church he came to faith in Christ and vowed that, with the Lord's help, he would live a life very different from his father.
After graduating from high school, Dad went to Georgia Tech, equipped only with a place to stay (at his aunt and uncle's),a co-op job, and $10 in his pocket. The $600 he made for his first three months of work was just enough to cover his first semester's tuition.
Early on he determined to give something better to his family. For him this meant providing materially and, even more important, providing spiritually. As a father, he made the investment to lay a spiritual foundation for his sons. I am who I am today because God graciously gave me a faithful dad who broke the cycle.
Whatever your own growing-up experience, whatever legacy you received from your own dad-good, bad, or none-there's hope. Pat and I honestly believe this book will fully equip you to help your own children love God and love others from their hearts. If you need to, you can break the cycle. You can leave a legacy that matters.
Fathering the Heart Is God's Plan
The family lies at the heart of God's plan. From the very beginning, God planned that, through the family, his message should be passed on to future generations (Deuteronomy 6; Psalm 78).
Picture yourself in church on Sunday morning. Let your mind wander around the congregation. Take a look at ten teenagers sitting near you. There's Jeff who works at the grocery store. Becky from down the street sits with her parents. Luis quietly talks to his girlfriend, Tammy.
With the faces of these young people still in your mind, consider this: Eight of these ten children likely will drop out of church by the end of their senior year in high school, and only four of them will return. Why? What's going on? And what can we do about it? That's what this book is all about.
According to two Boston College professors, we have entered a period of the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history. They predict that an astonishing $40.6 trillion dollars will get passed down from parents to children during the years 1998 to 2052. Yet at the same time, we are squandering a great spiritual heritage-so much so that, in many cases, very little spiritual wealth remains to transfer to the next generation. As we see more and more young people drift away from Christ and his church, one cannot help but wonder, What will become of us? Will the church remain a viable force in the world in forty more years? Dozens of other equally chilling questions demand answers.
The Bible shows us that this decline starts when a generation of dads fails to "deliver the goods" to the next generation. Judges 2:10 observes, "After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel." And what happened to them? The following verses show that this new generation "did evil," "forsook the Lord," "followed and worshiped various gods," and "provoked the Lord to anger."
And what did God do to them? Judges 2:14-15 tells us that the Lord "handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist" (at this point think alcohol, drugs, pornography, unwed mothers, sexually transmitted diseases, materialism, and so forth). God opposed them for a season, and they suffered greatly.
None of us dads, after even a moment's reflection, would knowingly "transfer" this kind of tragedy to our kids. Yet many of us received just this sort of legacy from our dads, and now we are repeating the cycle. That's why we suggest that unless God intervenes to turn the hearts of our fathers toward their children, we will lose this entire generation of kids.
Frederick Taylor, the father of Scientific Management, said, "Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting." Imagine yourself as a manufacturer of bicycles, and every third bicycle comes off your assembly line without a front tire. Your manufacturing system is perfectly designed to produce these flawed results. It works the same way in the family. Many Christian parents have a system perfectly designed to yield mediocre and even devastating results.
Even though most Christian dads would say their number one concern is making sure their children turn out well, many of these dads appear stuck on autopilot. They just hope and pray that somehow, some way, by the grace of God, their children will live for Christ. They love their kids, but they let them have too much say (any kindergarten teacher will name discipline as the number one problem).
More diligent dads often think they're supposed to get their children to do all the right things. They work hard at getting them to conform and to live up to a set of expectations. But they don't focus on their children's hearts. That's why so many "moral" children grow up to reject Christ. They say, "All Dad cared about was getting me to obey-but he didn't really care about me. Not personally."
We need a fathering "system" perfectly designed to disciple our children to love God and others from the heart.
Excerpted from The Dad in the Mirror by Patrick Morley David Delk Copyright © 2003 by Patrick Morley and David Delk. Excerpted by permission.
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