A Father’s Role
There are many reasons why a boy becomes a delinquent. I believe a father’s role is of the most important is the relationship between a father and son.
A young man I’ll refer to as Johnny was a well-built 17 year old, had tattoos on both arms, and dressed in gang attire. He was definitely a tough, intimidating young man. Despite his tough exterior, there was a soft side to him that most people never saw. He could be very sensitive and longed for the opportunity to share his feelings. We’d met in Juvenile Hall, and once I’d earned his trust it was like opening a floodgate of emotion. He told me many hair raising stories of his upbringing, but none touched my heart more than following incident, which he related with tear filled eyes. One day I was going to my friend’s house when I saw him and his father standing in the driveway yelling at each other. They were arguing because his father was trying to keep him from going out to the streets. In anger, my friend shoved his dad aside out of the way and left. I stood there and cried because I wish I had a father who would try to keep me off the streets. Every boy needs a father who will fight to save his son’s life.
But in all my years of ministry in Juvenile Hall, I’ve heard far too many stories of fathers who fought with their sons rather than for them. William Penn wrote, “men are generally more careful of the breed of their horses and dogs than they are of their children.” My heart breaks for young men and young women who have fathers like that. Another young man at Juvenile Hall showed me the scar he had from a staff wound inflicted by his father. I’ve lost track the number of stories I’ve heard of boys and girls being physically and sexually abused by their fathers. It’s no wonder that so many of the boys and girls I see speak of their fathers with hatred. Although Johnny had no father, he had himself become one. His daughter was born while he was in custody. The baby was several months old by the time he was released, and he went to her house to see her. The mother of his child was no longer his girlfriend. So when he approached her house and asked to see his baby, she refused.
An argument ensued, and the girl’s new boyfriend stepped out of the house with a gun. The first bullet entered Johnny’s skull. The next five were pumped into his chest as he lay bleeding on the porch. Johnny never had a father to fight for him. He never had a father to keep him off the streets, nor to cry over his death, as King David cried for his dead son, Absalom. “Oh my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom. If only I had died instead of you Absalom. My son, my son.” Johnny would’ve made a good son, and many a father would have been proud to have him as a son. Johnny’s death was a waste. He deserved better. He deserved a chance to live and to try to be the kind of father to his daughter that he never had a chance to. Now his daughter will never know her father, and that’s another tragedy. What will her future be like and her children’s? How many times will this scenario be repeated in our society? There seems to be no end to this sort of cycle.
The Frankel Prussian war was a short lived affair, from 1870 to 1871. But for Louis Pasteur it seemed like an eternity. He’d lost three daughters to sickness. Now his only son had been sent to the front lines and Louis had not heard from him in weeks. Laying aside his work on viruses and human beings, Louis set out to find his lost son. France was being routed by the Germans, and the roads were clogged with casualties. Finally, he found his son’s company only to learn that three fourths of his son’s original unit had died. Pasteur continued to search the ranks of the wounded, who fled the chaos of the front lines. He wandered the muddy road searching broken wagons and other detritus, looking into the faces of dead soldiers. Finally, he appeared in the eyes of a tired and cold soldier wrapped tightly in a military overcoat. The soldier was weak and dirty, but there was no mistaking those eyes. Father and son embraced in silence. That is what fatherhood should be like, for both boys and girls.
There are many reasons why a boy or a young lady becomes a delinquent, but I believe that one of the most important is the relationship between a father and son or a daughter. Boys in particular will always push the limits and get into trouble. That’s a normal part of growing up. But for boys and girls who have no father, or have one who is abusive and neglective, the road to recovery is very, very difficult. I am very grateful that I had a father who was willing to go to the wall to fight to keep me in line. I have been in trouble often back in my teen years, and we had many verbal arguments. But I always knew in his heart he was fighting to save me, not to defeat me. It’s hard to go wrong when you have a father who loves you that much. Johnny’s father, whoever he was, wherever he may be, had no idea what a fine son he had, and what a wonderful relationship he had missed out on.