One would be hard-pressed to imagine a more universal experience than that of fatherhood. Fathers are common to all of us and a significant minority of us are or will be fathers. And yet, fatherhood is in trouble, particularly in the United States, where 25 percent of the children are born out of wedlock, mostly with absent fathers, and fully 50 percent of our children experience the trauma of divorce.
This edition of the Beacon is dedicated to fatherhood and to the truths and actions that will make us better actual and surrogate fathers.
One of the great privileges of my life is that of fatherhood. My 26-year-old son, Mark, is pursuing a Ph.D. in political science. As I have pondered about our relationship and its many pleasures and challenges, I am reminded of a classic father-son experience, that of learning to drive a car. When Mark was in the 10th grade, my wife and I found him a used car with a high crash safety rating (our choice) and a fire engine red paint job (his choice). He still drives the car.
I vividly remember as we drove around a parking lot at Anderson College, him turning to me and saying, “I don’t think I can do this, I don’t think that I’ll ever learn how to drive.” Seizing the teachable moment, I replied, “Son, you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to do and look around you everybody learns how to drive and if they can do it so can you. Here is the key: believe that you will succeed, take it one step at a time and practice, practice, practice.”
This advice remains good in so many ways and for so many goals we attempt. Of course, Mark learned how to drive and to succeed in so many other ways too, serving his community and his Lord and making his parents very proud.
If you are a father, strive to become a better father. If you can substitute for absent fathers, do so. Take the mentoring opportunities that fatherhood affords. I hope this issue of the Beacon will inspire in each of us a new appreciation for the human fathers who guided us to the best of their abilities and a renewed love for the Heavenly Father who guided them in their efforts. May we all learn from our Heavenly Father the highest lessons of fatherhood.