Fathers are slipping off the screen of contemporary society.
According to official government data, in 2008 10.6 percent of the U.S. population got married, 5.2 percent got a divorce—close to half the number of those who married. Even more devastating, in 2008 40.6 percent of all children were born to an unmarried mother and 29.5 percent of children were being raised in a single-parent household.*
As a father of three girls, still married to the same wonderful woman after nearly 21 years of marriage, I feel at times as if I belong to a dying species. Hollywood, which both mirrors and shapes society, seems to have only two roles reserved for fathers: either as a disinterested, insensitive, or, at times, abusive individual; or as the laughingstock of the entire family, overshadowed by an incredibly efficient superwoman who juggles a full-time job and a demanding household effortlessly.
The father image plays an important role in Scripture. God is the Father of all, including the fatherless (Ps. 68:5). He is as compassionate as a father (Ps. 103:13) and ready to embrace and carry His children (Jer. 31:9). Hosea paints another facet of the father image: God patiently teaching Israel, His son, how to walk (Hosea 11:1-4). In the New Testament Jesus tells a story about a father who restlessly spends days on the front porch, watching for his lost son. When he finally sees him slowly making his way up the familiar path, he runs toward him, embraces the prodigal, and kisses him (Luke 15:20). The Father is all over the New Testament. In John, in particular, Jesus speaks numerous times about the heavenly Father. And then, not to be overlooked, there is the first line of the model prayer that Jesus taught His followers: “Our Father in heaven . . .” (Matt. 6:9). Fathers are important in God’s view—that’s why this particular metaphor is repeated in Scripture in contexts describing God.
Father’s Day is celebrated the third Sunday of June in the United States. While diminutive when compared to Mother’s Day, it nevertheless attempts to shine, for a brief moment, the light upon the important and formative roles fathers play in the lives of their children. In a time in which fathers seem to have taken a backseat it is good to be reminded of their importance.
My father passed away in Germany more than nine years ago while we were serving in Argentina. Unexpectedly, in a moment, his life ended. As I traveled home for the funeral many small and large moments came back to mind: the time he let himself be talked into “repurchasing” the racing bike he had originally given my brother who was trying to raise money for a mission trip. No, my father did not need the bike, and returned it quietly to my brother several months later. But he wanted his sons to go on that mission trip having the feeling that they had raised the money themselves. My father loved writing and worked hard at it—I know he would have been proud and happy to see me involved in something that he was passionate about.
To be sure, my father was not perfect. He was not always patient. He was not always consistent. But then, neither am I or most people that I know. He was, though, my father.
Perhaps now would be the moment to encourage fathers in the Adventist Church: when fatherhood is (seemingly) at its lowest. Tell them that you love them, that you value them (even if they at times mess up). Tell them that they too can ask for strength from our heavenly Father.
* The data in this editorial has been gleaned from a comparative table published by the U.S. Census Bureau and can be found at www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2011/tables/11s1335.pdf.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of the Adventist Review. This article was published June 16, 2011.

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