Beware of the Sharks! A Reflection for Father’s Day
by Dale Reeves
This coming Sunday is Father’s Day. In our worship experience at Christ’s Church this week, we will talk about the number of children in our nation who do not live with their biological father. There has been a lot written about the absent father in black communities, in white communities, in Hispanic communities, and many others. According to fathers.com, an estimated 24.7 million children (33% of American families), live absent from their biological father. Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.
In my opinion, it is a national emergency, and many of our societal ills stem from this epidemic. Do we as men need to do a better job of leading? Absolutely. We need leaders in our country, in our communities, in our churches, and in our families. We can either wait for others to step up and lead . . . or we can embrace the opportunity in front of us and have the confidence and conviction to be the leaders God needs us to be.
A Challenging Task
As parents, our job is to be there physically, emotionally, and spiritually for them—ultimately to give our kids all the necessary tools they will need to survive in the real world—then release them into their future, and let them go with our blessings. The society we are currently trying to navigate is not for the faint of heart. And my prayers go out to all parents and grandparents trying to teach their children and grandchildren the right things, “with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NLT).
Nobody ever said fatherhood would be easy—but that’s our task. Sometimes, I envision this challenge as similar to that of the seals off the coast of South Africa, who raise their pups only to see many of them devoured by Great White sharks lurking offshore. Have you ever watched Shark Week on the Discovery Channel? Not pretty—unless, of course, you’re a fan of sharks. Somehow, I got my daughters to watch this with me every summer as we vacationed in Daytona Beach Shores in Florida. It was Bob Ross’s painting that lulled them into naps in the afternoon, and Shark Week that provided the excitement for the evening.
A Sea of Sharks
Over the course of six years, my wife and I moved one or both of our daughters to college every August. The first year we took our eldest to Miami University, we packed up everything we thought she’d need, including adapters for all manner of electronica. She took way more clothes than necessary (considering it was still over 90 degrees most days, and she wouldn’t be needing the winter coat for quite a while). My wife and the mother of our daughter’s roommate helped the girls unpack, made their beds, and debated whether it would be better to go bunk style, or side by side (thus losing valuable floor space in a dorm room about the size of an average closet).
Sweating profusely after carrying all the boxes in from the car, I let the women do their thing, while I headed for the porch swing and chilled with a bottle of water. That’s when I began to notice a few sharks lurking about (some of whom would even be in my daughter’s dorm—which was coed). There were other “sharks,” as well . . . things that could deter her from her studies, distractions of all sorts, being swept up into a sea of thousands, the fear of losing her identity and individuality, and even her faith. I wondered how my “baby seal” would fare in these cold waters so far from home. (OK, it was only a forty-five-minute drive from our house, but that first year it seemed farther than that.)
My quiet reflections were interrupted when I was informed that we would be heading to the local Walmart. “But I thought we brought everything from home already. What more could she possibly need?”
A Legacy to Leave
I soon learned that every August would include this same trip to the Walmart located at 5720 College Corner Pike in Oxford, for whatever it was we’d forgotten or had never fathomed she could need. Inevitably, we’d see a raft of other feverishly shopping college kids and parents—snapping up window fans, big-screen TVs, ramen noodles, backpacks, door mirrors, adapters, photo frames . . . as if these were the last to be had in the developed world. It’s quite a ritual to behold.
As the dads were busy calculating in their heads how much this trip—and the whole four years’ experience—was going to cost them, the moms were checking off “necessary” items on the list for their prince or princess. As the years progressed and our girls moved off campus, IKEA became a code word for putting together furniture (or anything else) with minimal tools and no directions in English—only pictures.
Suffice to say, each year the process of moving in got a little easier. But after dropping the girls off at their dorm, or house, or apartment, I always found myself wiping away a tear or two as my wife and I drove off into the sunset. In our wake, the sharks still swam about. God help our baby seals.
At the end of the day, Dads, our job is to prepare those whom God has entrusted to our home so that they will know how to face the shark-infested icy waters they will encounter in the future. And, we know that more is “caught” from you than taught. Little eyes and ears are watching all the time, and what you say and do will determine the kind of legacy you will leave. What are you speaking, what are you living, what are you modeling?
“We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them—even the children not yet born—and they in turn will teach their own children” (Psalm 78:4-6, NLT).
This is an excerpt from Dale’s book, The Smart Dad’s Guide to Daughters: 101 Real-World Tips to Improve Your Relationship and Save Your Sanity, © 2014, Barbour Publishing.