Fatherfullness

Article by Miles Trump

By now, you’ve probably watched or heard about the video.

A 26-year-old Atlantic City man, Ibn Ali Miller, intervenes during a street fight between two boys while a group of other young men egg them on from the street corner. Another boy is recording the altercation as Miller approaches, stops the fight and starts speaking to the young men.

He tells the two boys, presumably teenagers, that they’re not kids anymore. He tells them they’re turning into young men, and that they need to start acting like it. He tells them they won’t get anywhere like this.

He tells them that the devil will play tricks on them.

And he has some pointed words for the other young men standing around, recording the altercation, encouraging the fight. He tells them not to disappoint their parents. He reminds one particular boy that he came from humble beginnings. He tells another that his dad is doing life in prison, that this environment is no game.

He tells them that, with this kind of foolishness, they are going to end up just like the people they’re trying not to become.

And then he stands there, demanding that the two young boys – who a few minutes earlier were trying to hurt each other – shake hands. He says he won’t leave until they agree on this final gesture.

And they do.

When I took a deeper dive into this story, I wasn’t surprised to find out that Miller is also a married father of six children.

In a sense, he was helping raise those boys on the street that day.

*******

Fathers, do you know how powerful you are? Do you understand your significance?

Do you realize the collective impact that all of you can make on our society?

When I think about all of you, I can’t help but think about the effects you have on your children.

I can’t help but think about the positive, what the National Center for Fathering calls “Fatherfullness.”

Kids are more likely to flourish when they have loving, dedicated fathers in their lives. Studies show that children with committed fathers learn more, perform better in school and exhibit healthier behavior, according to the National Center for Fathering. When fathers are involved in their children’s lives, their children have less emotional and psychological distress and better relationships throughout their lives.

We know this, and we’ve known it for a some time. In 1996, a Gallup poll found that 90.3 percent of Americans agreed that “fathers make a unique contribution to their children’s lives.”

I also can’t help but think about the high rates of fatherlessness and the damage it causes.

Kids who grow up in fatherless homes are more likely to be poor, to abuse drugs and alcohol, to never finish school and to suffer from health and emotional problems, according to the Center. Boys are more likely to become criminals. Girls are more likely to become pregnant teens.

And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

If that isn’t crippling enough, this will be: In 2014, almost one in four U.S. children lived in homes where dad was absent. One in four.

When I think about you, fathers, I also can’t help but think about myself.

I met my biological father for the first time when I was 26 years old, on the corner of Hennepin and Lagoon avenues on a busy night in Uptown Minneapolis. It was an unexpected, yet long overdue meeting.

He was absent from my childhood, and his absence damaged me, in ways that I’m still coming to understand. I had, and still have, a father wound.

However, my stepfather – the man I call “Dad” – slowly helped heal my father wound over time. You know how? He was there. For me.

He was the loving, kind male role model I needed, the man in my life who could teach me about responsibility, give me direction and provide me with guidance and correction. He taught me about hard work and relating to other people. He taught me how to play second base. He taught me about taking advantage of opportunities in life. He taught me how to mow the lawn.

He disciplined me when I deserved it. He rewarded me when I deserved it.

He told me he loved me, and he told me it often. Sometimes, late at night, he would come up to my room, kneel by the side of my bed and have long conversations with me. He’d tell me that he always thought of himself as my dad, regardless of what a blood test would say.

And that saved me. It saved me from becoming a statistic. It saved me from seeking love from more destructive outlets. It saved me from the traps that await so many young kids who, to no fault of their own, don’t have a father like mine in their lives.

He changed everything for me.

*******

As a Christian, I know I have another, even greater, Father. A Father who embodies all the greatness I could ever wish for and, at the same time, so much more greatness than my mind could begin to comprehend.

The perfect Father.

And this Father sent his only Son to endure a brutal, shameful public death on a huge piece of wood and absorb the penalty of the world’s sins.

So that I could live freely. So that the barrier between God and I would no longer be unsurmountable.

So that I – and you, too – would be called a child of God and would strive to walk in His Son’s ways, bringing glory to Him.

So that, one day down the line, when (if) my amazing wife and I are blessed with children, I would look to God the Father as my blueprint for fatherhood, because “fatherfullness” is a word that only begins – and isn’t nearly enough – to describe Him.

*******

I pray that someday I will be a father. It’s an aspect of life that’s excited me since I was young.

But until then, I can’t claim to know about the fatherhood experience. I can’t claim to know about the stress some of you fathers endure, the weight of responsibility some of you fathers feel.

I do, however, know what it’s like to have an (earthly) dad and to not have a dad. And I know that you, fathers, do not have to be perfect. You do not have to be Uncle Phil. You do not have to be Danny Tanner, Carl Winslow or any other stereotypical 1990s sitcom father.

As kids, we just want you to be you, and to be there for us. When you do these things – when you’re present, loving, committed, responsible, guiding, correcting – we flourish as children, teenagers and adults. When you teach your children about God (through words and examples), about right and wrong, about the world, about people, about love, about responsibility, they will live richer, fuller lives.

That’s what Ibn Ali Miller seemed to understand. In a world full of fatherlessness – and pain and dysfunction and chaos – he displayed the kind of fatherfullness that so many people yearn for in life. The kind of fatherfullness that begins to bring real healing and reconciliation. The kind of fatherfullness that breeds love and acceptance.

The kind of fatherfullness that will, quite literally, change lives. And on a grand scale, it’s the kind of fatherfullness – empowered by our perfect Father – that I truly believe could begin to change our world.

 

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