Throughout my social work career, time and time again I came across the same set of circumstances. A family struggling to survive, invariably headed up by a single mother, the father (or fathers) of whose children had either departed the scene... or, when it came to shouldering some family responsibility, had never pitched up in the first place !
In fact, it has been estimated that there are currently 1.8 million single parent families in Britain today, 90% of which have a woman at the helm. But sadly, it has also been reckoned that 60% of these families would be lifted out of poverty if they were to receive the maintenance payments to which they are entitled. So, where are the missing fathers?
Surely they could and should be tracked down much more vigorously by the agencies tasked with this important responsibility.
The many single parent family circumstances I encountered made me so grateful for the father I had, even though his life was cut short at the comparatively youthful age (these days) of 58. Though he was no saint (and none of us is) on reflection I owe him a great deal. I guess he would have been considered a strong silent type. A joiner to trade he left most of the family and household affairs to my mother. Yet when not out working he was always there, a constant and consistent role model. He was the epitome of honesty, integrity and stability, offering my sister Lenna and me a solid example of fatherhood... one which was characterised by faithful adherence to Christian principled living.
With 'Father's Day' approaching just how many children are deprived of such wholesome lifestyle influences. And how many fathers fail to follow through on God's instruction to... 'Train a child in the way they should go...', as well as the Biblical concept of fatherhood...
Headship... when responsibility must be accepted; Protector... when adversity strikes;
Leadership... when direction needs to be given; Provider... when times are hard.
...as well as faithfulness to the mother of his children.
In fact, though it may seem counter-instinctive, the building of a sense of security in the life of a young child is dependent, not so much in terms of how well they are treated by their father, but rather how well their mother is treated by their father!
Sadly, so many children nowadays lack a stable father figure, or any father at all for that matter. Nevertheless, the Lord God can fill this void. He stands ready to become...
'A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows...'
In fact, He goes further than that in reminding us that when we become a Christian...
'…he is the father of all who believe...'
And even those who have never experienced the blessings of a caring mother or father can discover His warm, loving, welcoming acceptance...and can then go on to say...
'Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.'
So let's step up to the plate men... and with His help, fulfil our God-given responsibilities.