The fourth chapter of Proverbs contains a beautiful picture of three generations of fathers passing along Godly wisdom to their sons: King Solomon taught his sons, and he remembered his father, King David, who taught him at a tender age. Each was taken under wing by a loving father and given instruction to prepare him for manhood.
“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.
For I too was a son to my father,
still tender, and cherished by my mother.
Then he taught me, and he said to me,
“Take hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands, and you will live.” (Proverbs 4:1-4)
|Author with sons, 2000
Proverbs is especially useful to prepare young men starting out in life, but we can apply it more broadly to any parent-child instruction – and to all of us who are adopted as children by the Father above, who freely offers us His wisdom and love.
A few years ago, author Gordon Dalbey led one of our men’s retreats and he told us a story about a Catholic nun who worked in a men’s prison. One day, she said, a prisoner asked her to buy him a Mother’s Day card for his mother.
She did, and the word got out to other prisoners, and pretty soon this nun was deluged with requests, so she put in a call to Hallmark Cards, who donated to the prison several large boxes of Mother’s Day cards. The warden arranged for each inmate to draw a number, and they lined up through the cellblocks to get their cards.
Weeks later, the nun was looking ahead on her calendar, and decided to call Hallmark again and ask for Father’s Day cards, in order to avoid another rush. As Father’s Day approached, the warden announced free cards were again available at the chapel. To the nun’s surprise, not a single prisoner ever asked her for a Father’s Day card.
I understand that Mother’s Day is the biggest calling day of the year for the phone company. However, in terms of call volume, Father’s Day is like any other day of the week.
Before his passing last year, Irving Kristol quoted the startling fact that “almost two-thirds of rapists, three-fourths of adolescent murderers, and three-fourths of long-term prison inmates were abandoned by their fathers. Another study revealed that 92% of prison inmates hated their fathers.
This is a grim picture. Something has gone terribly wrong. Why are there so many deadbeat dads? Why have so many young men and young women been wounded by the absence of a father – a father who’s been either physically or emotionally absent, perhaps both. Others have been deeply hurt by the presence of an abusive father.
Dalbey refers to this phenomenon as the “father wound.” I believe that many of us have been wounded to some extent by one of our parents, because none of us had parents who loved us perfectly.