Excerpts from “The Affirmation Crisis”
My Personal Awakening
There is an Affirmation Crisis. It is the result of fatherlessness. Generations have grown up without a father. Whether physically or emotionally absent, it leaves in the child a wound of absence.
The “father wound” has created broken humans and people who carry an Orphan spirit. Lost-ness, identity confusion, broken relationships, and emotional dysfunction have been some of the results.
But that is not God’s plan. His desire is that you and I be healed and restored in our hearts, to know that we are capable, loved, and confident in who we are.
“We live in a time where most men (and boys) are essentially fatherless. Whatever their circumstance, they have no man actually taking them through the many adventures, trials, battles, and experiences they need to shape a masculine heart within them. They find themselves on their own to figure life out, and that is a lonely place to be. Their fears, anger, boredom, and their many addictions all come out of this fatherless place within them—a fundamental uncertainty in the core of their being.”
—John Eldredge, The Way of the Wild Heart: A Map for the Masculine Journey
Present but Absent
As a young man of twenty-six, I answered the call of God on my life and entered the ministry. I had spent the previous seven years of marriage pursuing a carrier in music while doing various jobs, including as an interstate truck driver, to make ends meet. My wife Renee and I were just kids when we began our lives together. We were “kids having kids.” I was eighteen and Renee was seventeen when our first son was born.
To say that I was a novice at fatherhood is a gross understatement. I only knew what I had learned from my father. He, being an interstate truck driver himself, was gone most of the time. My memories of childhood are mixed with times when he was there with times when he wasn’t.
It seemed natural to relegate the raising of my children to my wife. That was the role my mother was forced to fill in my father’s absence. It never occurred to me to be emotionally involved with my two sons. I loved them, enjoyed them, but left the actual raising of them to Renee, who did an amazing job despite my preoccupation with my desires and plans.
After rededicating my life to Christ, I was seemingly plunged into ministry as a youth pastor and adult Sunday school teacher. Looking back, it seems like it happened overnight. Years passed quickly as I transitioned from youth pastor to associate pastor to senior pastor in a matter of six years.
1987 found Renee and me and our two boys living in Reno, Nevada, as I served as senior pastor. Scott and Brian, my sons, were also plunged into the pressures of being preachers’ kids (PKs). While not oblivious to their situation, I did little to change the dynamic of the family in light of the new challenges. I was busy building the church, meeting with leaders, and launching programs both in the church and the community.
Decisions that I made as a pastor and community leader always affected the family, as they were involved in the interaction with the people and leadership families in the church. Some of their best friends were those in the church body.
There were, however, outside influences affecting my children of which I was unaware. Unscrupulous pedophiles were targeting my oldest child as a teenager. He was also enticed to use drugs as a middle schooler. I did not know the extent of his wound.
As he entered his twenties, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol as he tried to self-medicate his wound and the emotional trauma of some of these assaults. After many failed relationships, he continued to struggle with substance abuse through his twenties and into his thirties.
He was in his thirties when I realized I had been somewhat absent in the raising of my own two boys. After doing some research on the biblical and secular studies on the subject, I could see that the missing element was the affirmation of my children. Like my father, I had developed the habit of emotional detachment. I did not know then the extent of the “father’s wound” my sons carried.
I began to teach from the pulpit on the problem of “fatherlessness.”
At a small men’s meeting at the church, I began ministering to our men concerning this epidemic of the “father wound.” I was shocked and encouraged by what we experienced.
In a room of men, including my own grown sons, I began to explain the need for the father’s blessing and the wound that needed to be healed in most men. These men began to break down and weep as the realization of the hurt they had carried became known and recognized.
Beginning with my two sons, I hugged them and affirmed them as men and blessed them with my love and declaration of their greatness, competence, and ability. They both wept in my arms as I pronounced my blessing on them. My oldest son admitted, “I just assumed I was never going to get that, Dad.”
And then one by one I was able to stand in the gap for the missing and absent fathers of the men present in that meeting. Each one coming to a place of inner healing as they forgave their fathers and received affirmation from the Holy Spirit and from me, the representative “father.”
One of the men had been raised in an orphanage, another by his prostitute mother. Some had been raised by a brutal and abusive father. One had been abandoned by his father and had struggled with his sexuality for all his adult life. One by one they received the father’s blessing and felt the strong and powerful arms of their heavenly Father lift them and encourage them.
One older gentleman who had been involved in men’s ministries for over twenty years said, weeping, “This is the best men’s meeting I have ever been in.” After ministering this truth on a Sunday morning, an elderly gentleman came up to me and said, “I have gone to church most of my life, but this is the first time I have ‘been to church.’ Your message has changed my life.”
Both my sons are now in healthy, loving marriages and have beautiful and healthy children. I am now a great-grandfather to two beautiful babies. My son’s lives are prospering as we have developed a verbal and experiential, loving relationship. Although I was late in imparting to them, I believe they are now able to pass on the blessing to their children and affirm them into their destinies.
In 1992, American country music artist Reba McEntire released the song “The Greatest Man I Never Knew.” The song was written by Richard Leigh and Layng Martine, Jr. Richard Leigh has described the song as being about his own father.
The song expresses the disappointment of an emotionally absent father who lived in the same house but who barely spoke with his son. Because of the father’s silence and disconnection, the son had no idea that the father thought he “hung the moon.”
The son mourns the fact that he never really knew his father, although he lived with him all his growing years and was around him all his life. The final stanza of the song is a eulogy to the deceased father who was good at business but left the important business of assuring the son of his love and support undone. He never told his son he loved him, and the son is left to assume the father believed the son knew.
The song perfectly describes the feelings of a child who has a present but absent father. In some ways, having a present father who is emotionally absent can be more damaging to the child than being physically absent. The conflict of emotions and detachment leaves children to wonder and often believe that they are the reason for the dysfunction. This often results in self-abasement and low self-esteem issues.
While writing this book, I spoke with a single mother raising a beautiful teenage daughter. It was a brief encounter but emphasized the need for what I am trying to share.
I told her the premise of the book I am writing. She shared, “There are things I cannot give my daughter.” She explained that as a teenager, her daughter was having absent-father issues. We agreed that a father’s influence is crucial to a young daughter. The single mom was brought to tears as I told her the illustration of a mother who has made all the preparations for the big night in her daughter’s life: a prom or a big night out. She buys the dress, fixes her daughters hair and make-up. She looks at her in a full-length mirror and expresses how beautiful she looks. And then the daughter says, “But what does Dad think?”
This daughter does not have that father’s input. She is experiencing the pain of an absent father. Needless to say, my project was immediately validated.
We can look at numerous stories of fathers who were great bread winners and providers who were present in the home but absent emotionally. Career distractions, business stresses, and cultural training have caused some fathers to withdraw and see themselves as necessary for the financial success of the family, but not its emotional stability.
The Culture of Fatherlessness
Fatherlessness has become a major social problem in America, even an epidemic, with approximately 50% of children under the age of eighteen not living in the same home as their respective biological fathers. It has been documented in many ways and, yet, it is a secret hidden in plain view.
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The Family Under Siege
It does not take a learned scholar to see that over the last fifty years the family has been under attack. Concepts and opinions concerning the family have changed and a new perception of family has emerged. Much of the destruction of the family has been popularized and normalized through media—the arts and entertainment.
The large percentage of marriages that end in divorce and the increasing trend of out-of-wedlock births seems to have contributed to a widespread belief that being a single parent is somehow a noble venture, and that the father is unimportant to raising children. There are indeed many exceptional single parents. But these are the exceptions to the rule, as statistics prove.
It is as if there were a systematic scheme in the works to destroy our society by using progressive cultural engineering. The influence of popular approaches to the family, in the media that rejects traditional and biblical norms of family construction, is creating a confused, depressed, and fractured population. Men and women with a confused self-identity and self-confidence are the product of this fatherlessness epidemic and this affirmation crisis.
The Father Wound
In his 2003 groundbreaking book, Healing the Masculine Soul: How God Restores Men to Real Manhood, Gordon Dalbey identified the fact that men’s souls have been torn between strength and sensitivity. He called the emotional damage the “Father Wound.”
Every child comes into the world helpless, dependent, and needing acceptance. Each comes with inherent needs such as needing to be treated as worthy, be affirmed, and receive a blessing.
As we have seen through the many studies, fatherlessness has a great impact on children. The absence of the fathers leave children with questions they can’t answer, dreams they can’t dream, and a wound they can’t heal.
Today, the situation is even worse. The politically correct crowd cries out for men to be more sensitive, to tame their masculine nature. They have coined a new term—“Toxic Masculinity”—where being masculine is a pejorative. On the opposite side, the media bombards men with “macho” images of violence and lust. Is it any wonder men are left bewildered about who they should be?
There have been many men’s movements throughout the years, such as Maximized Manhood, Promise Keepers, and others that sought to bring men into wholeness and challenge them to be all they could be for their wives and families. However, there is a missing part. That missing element has kept men from fully realizing their impact and potential as men, fathers, and husbands. That missing element has also kept many women from having the confidence to be all they can be as women, mothers, friends and lovers in their marriages, and families. That missing element is the result of fatherlessness. The missing element is the “Father Wound.”
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