It’s a word that brings to mind either some of your happiest memories… or some of your deepest resentments. For too many kids (and young adults) in North America and around the world, “Dad” is a shadowy figure, a fading memory, a hurt feeling; but never someone they knew deeply.
Some boys look for approval in gangs; others channel their resentment toward an unhealthy work ethic, wild behavior or excessive competitiveness. Many young women seek out affection from boys (and “men”) who are only too happy to oblige.
This fatherless generation has never been more unsure of their place the world and the results have been devastating
That’s why John Sowers, the president of the Mentoring Project, wrote Fatherless Generation. In this short book, Sowers relates the tragic experiences of fatherless boys, girls, men and women (including himself), while showing readers that there is hope to change their stories; to be a part of transforming their lives and helping them discover the God who is the Father to the fatherless.
Throughout the first half of the book, Sowers shares his experience growing up without a dad, along with those of several others who originally shared their story on his MySpace page. And the damage that’s been inflicted, the pain that all have suffered, is palpable. Young women share how they were Daddy’s princess—until he left. Some write that they don’t hate their dads, but they can’t forgive them either. Hopelessness and despair are the undercurrents of every story.
What I appreciate about how Sowers presents these stories, including his own, is that it’s not sensationalized, manipulative or voyeuristic. He is careful to protect the dignity of every person whose story he shares, as raw and often heart-wrenching as they are. This is extremely difficult to accomplish as, too often, in seeking to protect the individual’s well-being, their story can be reduced to emotionless propositions.
As careful as he is with the stories he shares, his use of statistics is equally so. Rather than overwhelming readers with data, he uses it to support the stories shared—the lives affected by not having a father in the home. They’re effective and disturbing.
For example, Sowers writes on pages 36-37 (perhaps the only really stats heavy section of the book), that children from fatherless homes account for:
- 63 percent of youth suicides
- 71 percent of pregnant teenagers
- 90 percent of all homeless and runaway teenagers
- 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
- 85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorder
- 80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger
- 71 percent of all high school dropouts
- 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers
- 85 percent of all youths sitting in prison
For those who have ever doubted the impact of an attentive father in the lives of children, one needs only look at this and see that dads really do make a difference. The impact of being fatherless is so overwhelming, that it seems like there’s nothing that can be done, doesn’t it?
But there is a solution: caring men and women becoming mentors to a fatherless generation.
In part two of Fatherless Generation, Sowers shares how godly mentors spoke words of life and encouragement, taught him to be a man and ultimately transformed his life.
“Both of these men sacrificed their time in order to be mentors and father figures in my life, and because of their sacrifice, I came to see that being a man was not really as intimidating as i had made it out to be. I learned that i didn’t have to be afraid of other men. I learned that I didn’t have to be afraid of becoming a man myself,” writes Sowers (pp. 91-92).
The love that Sowers has for these men is obvious, as is his passion for seeing Christians take on the role of mentoring a younger generation. In doing so, by showing love to those who believe they are unloveable and modelling maturity to them, there is a powerful opportunity to be a witness to Christ and see lives transformed both in the temporal and eternal.
In this way, the book carries through it the implicit reality of the gospel (which, in terms of presentation, has its strengths and weaknesses). Sowers touches on aspects of the gospel to be sure (see pp. 82-84), and does speak of a desire to see the fatherless come to know the God who is Father to the fatherless, but it’s something that I would have preferred to see beefed up a bit more.
Reading Fatherless Generation hit close to home on a number of levels. The first is that I could relate all too well to the stories Sowers shares, because they were my story, too. I grew up without my dad being much of a physical presence in my life and that led me to try to be his opposite, or at least what I perceived his opposite to be. In doing so, I also sinfully treated him with thinly veiled contempt. In recent years, by God’s grace, our relationship has experienced much healing and I’m thankful for this. But not everyone has that opportunity.
Secondly, I have three boys living near me who don’t have a dad, and I don’t know how much interest their dads have in them. Perhaps they’re waiting for someone to speak words of affirmation into their lives?
Finally, as the father of two young girls, it reminded me of the powerful influence I am on Abigail and Hannah (for good or bad). I pray that my girls truly know how much their daddy loves them, and that my influence will be a godly one.
Fatherless Generation shines a light on the trials of all who are going to bed tonight without a dad. Their challenges are real. Their pain is deeply felt. But they don’t have to live their lives feeling shame, anger or resentment. This book offers its readers an opportunity to be a part of transforming the lives of a fatherless generation. Are we willing to take the first step?
Title: Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story
Author: John Sowers
Publisher: Zondervan (2010)