Posts tagged ‘Mother’

One Perfect Parent

Turpin House

The Turpin House / Credit: Reuters

One of their only contacts with the outside world was when four of the kids were allowed to step outside their house in Perris, California to install some sod in the front yard, with their mother coldly watching from inside the front window.  A neighbor who passed by and offered a friendly greeting to the children was surprised when none of them spoke a word in return to her.  But one of the children, a 17-year-old girl, had been plotting her escape from the family compound where her parents, David and Louise Turpin, had held her and her twelve siblings, who range in age from 2 to 29, captive for years.  She ran away and called the police using a cell phone she had found in the house.

As details of the children’s living arrangements have emerged, the picture that they paint is nothing short of horrifying.  To keep their abuse from being discovered, the Turpin parents made their children stay up all night and sleep all day.  They also tortured their children by feeding them next to nothing while they ate pies in front of them, by punishing them for getting water on their wrists while washing their hands, by allowing them to shower only once a year, and by tying them up with chains and padlocks.  The couple has pleaded not guilty to the accusations and are each being held on $9 million bail.

Obviously, it is difficult to deduce and decipher the pure evil that would move two parents to commit such heinous crimes against their own children.  Then again, it is also difficult to overestimate and over-celebrate the righteous bravery of a 17-year-old girl whose phone call to the police not only led to her own rescue, but to the rescue of her brothers and sisters.

It is at a time like this in the face of a story like this that we need to be reminded that, even as some earthly parents do their worst, we have a heavenly Father who loves us well.  The Turpin children were forced to stay up in the dark.  We have a heavenly Father who invites us to walk in His light (Isaiah 2:5).  The Turpin children were deliberately starved.  We have a heavenly Father who gives us food at just the right times (Psalm 104:27).  The Turpin children were denied basic hygiene needs and baths.  We have a heavenly Father who invites us to joyfully bathe in the waters of baptism (1 Peter 3:21).  The Turpin children were tied up.  We have a heavenly Father who sent His Son to untie us from that which binds us (Luke 13:15-16).

As a pastor, I have heard story after story of people who have been hurt by their parents.  Though, thankfully, none of the stories I have encountered have been nearly as horrific as the story of the Turpins, there are many children – both young and grown – who carry around deep scars.  There are many children who need the Father to fill what their father, or mother, would not or could not give to them.  There are many children who need the Father to love them like their father, or mother, would not or could not love them.

Our Father in heaven has the love that we need.  He loves us so much, the Scriptures say, that even our worst sins need not incur His eternal wrath.  In the book of Hosea, the nation of Israel is repeatedly betraying the one true God by chasing after many false gods.  Yet, even in the midst of their deep sin, while the Father declares His displeasure, He nevertheless promises, “I will show love…and I will save them…they will be called ‘children of the living God’” (Hosea 1:7, 10).

While some earthly parents may abuse their children for no apparent reason, we have a heavenly Father who loves us in spite of our sin for just one reason – the reason of His grace.  His grace is a grace so strong that it makes us His children through His Son.

Now that’s some awesome parenting.

January 22, 2018 at 5:15 am 1 comment

For Fathers Only

Father and Son“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

These famous words from the apostle Paul are meant to call fathers to Godliness as they raise their children.  Negatively, fathers are not to “exasperate,” or anger, their children needlessly or vindictively.  Positively, they are to “bring them up,” or rear them, in the Lord.  The Greek word for “bring them up” is ektrepho, meaning, “to feed.”  Fathers are to feed their children.  But this means much more than simply “bringing home the bacon,” as it were.  This also means feeding children’s souls with time, affection, discipline, and grace.

Sadly, this call to fatherhood is lost on far too many men in our society.  And the effects are devastating.

Kay Hymowitz, writing for the City Journal, a quarterly affairs journal for Manhattan, recently published an article titled “Boy Trouble”[1] in which she attributes much of the dismal performance in school, in jobs, and in life of a great number of boys to absentee fathers.  In other words, fathers who fail to bring their children up in the training and instruction of the Lord because of their non-presence have a profoundly negative impact on their children.  Hymowitz expounds:

By the 1970s and eighties, family researchers following the children of the divorce revolution noticed that, while both girls and boys showed distress when their parents split up, they had different ways of showing it. Girls tended to “internalize” their unhappiness: they became depressed and anxious, and many cut themselves, or got into drugs or alcohol. Boys, on the other hand, “externalized” or “acted out”: they became more impulsive, aggressive, and “antisocial.” Both reactions were worrisome, but boys’ behavior had the disadvantage of annoying and even frightening classmates, teachers, and neighbors. Boys from broken homes were more likely than their peers to get suspended and arrested. Girls’ unhappiness also seemed to ease within a year or two after their parents’ divorce; boys’ didn’t.

Since then, externalizing by boys has been a persistent finding in the literature about the children of single-parent families. In one well-known longitudinal study of children of teen mothers (almost all of them unmarried), University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg, a dean of family research, found “alarmingly high levels of pathology among the males.” They had more substance abuse, criminal activity, and prison time than the few boys in the study who had grown up in married-couple families.

Hymowitz goes on to consider some of the ways in which societies have sought to compensate for absentee fathers.  Some societies have tried to provide robust social support programs, ensuring single mothers have all the financial resources they need to give their sons opportunities that will serve them well.  But these social support programs have not stemmed the tide of troubled, fatherless boys.  Others have tried to encourage male role modeling in the form of coaches, teachers, and even stepfathers.  But the problem remains.  Indeed, Hymowitz cites one study done on boys who were raised by their stepfathers and notes that these boys were “even more at risk of incarceration than the single-mom cohort.”

Finally, Hymowitz reaches an inevitable, even if unsurprising, conclusion:  “Girls and boys have a better chance at thriving when their own father lives with them and their mother throughout their childhood—and for boys, this is especially the case.”  A household needs a father.

Please understand that I do not mean to belittle or disparage the contributions that mothers – and especially single mothers – make to a household.  Indeed, I know and have known many faithful single mothers who do all they can to raise their children faithfully, compassionately, and evangelically with great success.  To them, I say, “Thank you.”  I am saying to men, however:  You are needed.  The stakes are high.  You cannot afford you to be derelict in your duties toward your families. 

So get with it.  Heed the call of the apostle Paul.  You have more influence than you may ever know.  Which means you have more responsibility than you could ever dream.  Take that responsibility seriously. Little eyes are watching.


[1] Kay Hymowitz, “Boy Trouble,” City Journal 23, no. 4 (Autumn 2013).

January 6, 2014 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – A Father’s Love

One of my favorite country songs is by Rodney Atkins.  It describes a father whose son seeks to emulate him, sometimes for good, but also sometimes for ill.  As the song opens, Rodney sings about a non-descript curse word that his son learns…from him!  Rodney confesses how ashamed he is that he, no matter how inadvertently, taught his son such language.  As the song continues, however, we also hear about how his son watched Rodney pray and so prayed like his father.  I love the song’s refrain, sung in the guise of Rodney’s son:

I’ve been watching you, dad ain’t that cool?
I’m your buckaroo, I want to be like you.
And eat all my food and grow as tall as you are.
We like fixin’ things and holding momma’s hand
Yeah, we’re just alike, hey, ain’t we dad?
I want to do everything you do; so I’ve been watching you.

With touching lyrics, this song expresses a simple truth about how a boy learns to be a man – he learns from his father.

Sadly, though a boy can learn good and magnanimous things from his father, he can also learn sinful and aberrant things.  From his father, a son can learn how to cuss or how to pray.  From his father, a son can learn how to abuse women or how to be faithful to one woman.  From his father, a son can learn how to nurture his kids or how to neglect them.  A father’s influence can hardly be overestimated.

With fathers carrying such a heavy responsibility to faithfully parent their children, to whom can fathers turn to learn how to be men, especially if they did not have good role models in their own fathers?  The apostle Paul helps us answer this question when he writes:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansingher by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (Ephesians 5:25-28)

Two things are especially notable about this passage.  First, though this passage does not describe the relationship between a father and his son explicitly, if a father wants to raise his children well, he should always have these verses about his relationship with his wife in the forefront of his mind.  As Theodore Hesburgh reminds us, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”  A father’s most powerful example to his children of what love is and looks like is how he loves his wife.  If he claims to love his children, but does not show love for his wife, that father’s positive influence will be greatly diminished.  Thus, a father must love his wife well.  Second, we learn from this passage that a father learns how to love his wife – and by extension, his children – by how Christ loves him.  Paul says, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her… In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives.”  Husbands are supposed to love their wives and children “in the same way” as Christ loves them.    How does Christ love His men?  He loves them with compassion and mercy and patience and bravery.  Husbands ought to love their wives likewise.  This way, when a son watches his father, he will see not only how his dad loves his mother, he will see how Christ loves him.

And so, fathers, love your wives and your children!  For your kids are not only watching you, they’re learning from you.  May they learn Jesus from you!

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June 20, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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