Severing The Extended Family

Stephen Arterburn

Our nation’s sons lost more than their fathers during the industrialization of the twentieth century. They also lost the most viable alternative for masculine input provided by extended family. When a man uprooted his family to take a job in a distant city or state, he detached his children from their extended family. In earlier days of farming communities a boy commonly enjoyed daily interactions with not only his father but also his grandfather, uncles, brothers, and cousins. They worked, ate, and played together. Moving away from this network seriously reduced the flow of necessary masculine nurture and influence in a boy’s life.

A father’s work is now outside the home, consuming his private interests and energies. His physical, educational, emotional, and spiritual input to his son is now largely limited to his so-called ‘free time.’ That is, those few hours or minutes per week when he’s not working, traveling to or from work, or recuperating from work.

The result is today’s young men are often restless and off-center for lack of mentors. They’re not just looking for someone to teach them a trade; they’re starving for masculine emotional input. Boys become men in the presence of men. They sense a deep need for affirmation and validation from men who love them and are committed to them.

If you’re a dad, I encourage you to fight for every minute you can get with your sons. If you’re an older man I encourage you to consider mentoring a younger man.

Century Of Change

Stephen Arterburn

Only a hundred years ago, the majority of American boys worked with their fathers from a very young age. They’d spend hours each day together, and in the process, be trained and ushered into manhood by him. Dad would teach his boys about weather, agriculture, and commerce as they worked the land together. He’d use farm animals to teach them about life, growth, and death’including the details of sex, reproduction, birth and infant care. And because dad usually worked at or very near home, his sons would get ample opportunity to learn from him how to be a husband and father. Dad would be the boys’ primary mentor, guide, counselor, and friend. And when they grew into young men, he’d accept them as partners in the family business.

Now fast-forward a century. Most fathers leave home early each morning and don’t return until six or seven at night. If young boys spend any significant time with a parent at all, it’s usually with mom, not dad. Apart from school, most of what today’s young boys learn about life, work, and people comes from her instruction and example or from the schools and his peers. As a result, boys are substantially deprived of fatherly instruction, guidance, counsel, and friendship. They’ll soon grow to be men, but their limited interaction with dad provides them little understanding of what it actually means to be a man.

Therefore, I encourage you to counter this trend by doing everything in your power to actively father your son!

Refocusing

Stephen Arterburn

When Jesus walked the earth, He directed the focus off of the apparently ‘good’ people doing apparently ‘good’ things,’ and redirected people’s focus on to God. The religious leaders were pointing to the rules; Jesus pointed to Himself, through whom relationships are restored to God.

A healthy, growing faith is always focused on the person of God Himself, not on cheap substitutes. A healthy faith begins and ends in God, not in rules, regulations, and sheer duty. Jesus Christ, not religion, is at the core of a robust Christian faith.

Today Jesus Christ offers men like you and me the same opportunity He gave to those people in the early church. The choice is ours. We can insist on performing and conforming out of obligation and can try to feel good by chalking up good deeds.

Or we can choose Christ’s way. We can love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. We can experience His love and come to know Him intimately. We can stop hiding behind religious facades and meet Him right where we are. We can focus on Him and find sanity, rest, and peace when all hell seems to be breaking loose around us.

Men, it’s not about you. Surrender yourself to Christ’s love and acceptance. Grow closer to Him. Make Him’not your ‘good deeds’ or anyone or anything else’the focus of your life. You’ll never regret it.