Where can the fatherless turn? Two young guys in a dimly lit building with jeans hanging low and jackets oversized wore masks and brandished pistols. “We ain’t got to fatha’s round here so we just go be our own fatha’s.” Fatherlessness is at the root of almost all societal ills. When a father is absent, boys become their own fathers. Guns and bravado replace confidence and character.
Really, where can these guys find a man who can guide them to anything wholesome? Not every man’s scenario is this bad, still many missed out on Dad’s attention or emotional engagement. Too many dads were either harsh, expected too much, or left their boys to figure it out for themselves. There is a lot of father-failure out there, but boys aren’t doomed. A mentor or role model can make up a LOT of ground. Mentors rescued me from the failures of my alcoholic dad.
Dillard Wells was an old-school butcher who carved entire sides of beef into steaks and roasts. One evening after church he asked, “Hey, Steve. You want a job? I can get you on at our shop if you’d like to do clean up for us.” He taught me how to clean the machines and prepare meats, but he gave me more. Though he never gave me a single lecture, his life he showed me how to be honest, be hospitable, and honor God on the job, and he communicated value to me through the investment of his presence.
I thought Mr. Bradbury was sooooo cool! He moved slowly, spoke softly, laughed genuinely, and served behind the scenes. His hands were calloused, skilled, and manly — I loved to watch him work with them. To this day, I work with my hands and I love it when my kids note, “Dad you have manly hands.” I have also realized that I delight in slipping a tip under the corner of my napkin and exiting before the waiter returns to clear the table; or leaving someone a cash gift and a note without signing it. Of course, Mr. Bradbury served quietly.
As influential as these men were, two others informed and shaped my life more – Jesus and his father. The attitudes and actions I first saw in them as I grew up are at the center of my adult life. The private hours I spent in God’s Word and in prayer with them powerfully shaped my thoughts and attitudes. There are no perfect fathers, and there are no perfect mentors, but there is a perfect savior and a young man who will watch and learn from him will find both confidence and character.
Finding a good role model is very challenging, but I am confident that God can supply anyone with a mentor to guide his development into a confident and successful man. Here are three things anyone can do to find a mentor — even in the inner-city of Chicago.
- Read the Proverbs. — Dr. Terry Smith, who grew up in the poorest sections of Memphis, says, “Proverbs became my father.” He recommends reading one chapter of Proverbs a day in keeping with the date of the month. Chapter one is read on the 1st; chapter two on the 2nd; chapter twenty-three on the 23rd, etc. If an entire chapter is a bit challenging for you, read only a few verses from the chapter of the day. The advice of the wisest father ever is available to benefit us who need a Dad who will talk us through life.
- Watch Jesus – Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” There is no better father than the Heavenly One, and Jesus’ life displays what that means. Read the Gospels in the Bible and watch Jesus. How does he react to criticism? What kind of folks did he befriend? He talked about money, women, work, bullies, and eternity. Every aspect of life from morality to immortality are addressed in his teachings, his lectures, and by his life. Jesus lives out down-to-earth manliness and the best versions of it. He invites, “Come, learn from me.”
- Ask for one – God hears prayer. Him for a wise mentor and watch. Look for a man whose wife is joyful, children are obedient, content, and have true respect and trust (not fear or disgust) for their father. Watch for a man who is strong in his convictions, but humble in applying them. Look for a man who can be content even when he has little. Start daily asking God to put such a man in your path and when you find him, ask him to helping you know how to be a husband, father, and man. If he is the quality man you think that he is, he’ll welcome the opportunity and be like a father to you.
If you are looking for a mentor or would like to serve as one, check out www.fathersinthefield.com