When I was boy my dad and I would take regular fishing trips on Saturday mornings. However, there is one trip that stands out in my mind more than any other. The stream we were fishing in wasn’t very deep. In fact, I can remember it being up only a few inches above my ankles. At first glance you would think that a tadpole would have trouble living in the stream, much less a trout.
But we went out with our dough balls, corn niblets, and night crawlers and casted our lines in the cold waters. We fished for some time and caught nothing—anybody that’s ever been fishing knows that dreadful feeling. Then I remember we came to a little clearing in the stream and my dad was just a few feet ahead of me. I cast my line and the baited hook landed right between my dad’s legs. This was a total accident on my part and that I’m sure I could not do it again if I tried.
The instant my hook hit the water I felt a tug on my rod. I reeled as fast as I could and fought the whopper with all of my strength. About that time my dad looked down and saw a fish thrashing about under his legs and he started to dance around. I can remember laughing so hard and I was so excited that I could barely hold the rod in my hands. Right there out of that little shallow stream I pulled out the biggest fish I had ever seen in my young life. What made it even better was that I could actually say that I caught it from under my dad’s feet!
To this day I have never let my father forget the time I out-fished him. I could write a book filled with warm memories of my father. Who could forget shooting hoops in the driveway with dad, building wooden race cars for the annual derby or the unforgettable taste of his melt-in-your-mouth yeast rolls that came piping hot out of the oven during the holidays. Dad and I had some great times together down through the years and I learned everything about being a man of God from him. I thank God for his incalculable influence in my life.
My dad was there for me—leading, teaching, modeling—which is a rare thing considering the statistics today. Fatherlessness has become an epidemic in our culture. 43% of US children live without their father.  Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.
Given this information you could very easily make the argument that a good deal of the social ills we experience today from teen abortions, to drug addiction, to overflowing prisons could be dramatically decreased if dads were there in the home. Dr. James Dobson has said, “Though children of all ages, both male and female, have an innate need for contact with their fathers, boys suffer most from the absence or noninvolvement of fathers.”
I think he’s right on. The reason is because masculinity cannot be derived from femininity. Don’t misunderstand me moms, your job is vitally important. But no matter how much you love your son, the only way little boys understand what it means to be a man is have an example from another man. In this way, single mothers are facing a losing battle and boys are the ultimate losers. Boys without positive male influences are severely handicapped in life. If they don’t have a good male role model they will take one from somewhere else and it could be the hard drinking guy next door, or the womanizing athlete or the gang-banging rapper. This just perpetuates the cycle of dysfunctional men. The more I work with boys and men the more I understand that it’s far easier to build strong boys than to repair broken men.
Dads don’t underestimate your influence. By your absence or presence, successes or failures, you are shaping the next generation. God has called us to the daunting job of being husbands and fathers. Let’s stand in the gap, fight for our families, love our wives and lead our children into God-honoring lives. You might be able to rebuild a car engine, but can you father a child’s heart? You might know everything there is to know about a perfect golf swing, but what about knowing what makes your child tick? You can try and replace your presence with toys, electronic gadgets and stuff, but what they really want is you. Hang in there. Determine not to become a statistic. Don’t just be a sperm donor; raise a child in the way he should go.