America, we have a dad problem.
Today in our country, one out of every four children is growing up in a home without a father in it. That doesn’t mean the other three kids in that statistic have it made: abusive fathers, performance-based fathers, antagonistic fathers––all dads are shaping childhoods and ultimately, adulthoods.
The cultural ramifications of our dad problems are visible everywhere. Widespread anxiety and depression are hitting society hard––especially Millennials and Gen Z. According to the US Department of Health, more than 60% of youth suicides happen in a fatherless home.
The correlation between anxiety and fatherlessness is hiding in plain sight. In kids and in adults, self-confidence has been eroded over time, thanks in part to cultural shifts such as no-fault divorce, which, though well-intentioned, has simply made checking out of the family unit and its responsibilities easier than ever before.
We’re floundering because we don’t know the answers to fundamental questions. Who will be there for us? Who’s got our back? Who believes in us?
We want it to be our father.
Before we go much further, let me say that I do not want to tumble into a psychoanalytical rabbit hole. Neither do I ascribe to the belief that everyone is suffering from a “daddy wound.” I do, however, believe that the longing for our father’s approval and the lasting influence of a father––negative, positive, and somewhere in between––is inescapable, whether we are conscious of it or not.
I’m not alone. In an article in Psychology Today, research psychologist Dr. Peggy Drexler examined a study that analyzed 75 high-performing women and their relationships with their fathers. The takeaway? No matter the arena for their success––business or home––every single woman interviewed said that she views her wins and losses through the lens of what her father would think of them.
Like it or not, we all long for the blessing of our father. It’s a hunger that will never be satiated, even for children with present, loving, and well-adjusted fathers, because a quest for approval from another flawed human being can never be perfectly completed.
The impossibility of perfection does not let dads off the hook. Dads can and should be present. Dads can and should strive for their best. But instead of trying to solve the problem of how to help imperfect dads be worthy gatekeepers to our own feelings of self-worth, or even trying to figure out how to eradicate the longing for a father’s approval all together, we should ask ourselves what this inborn desire for a father’s blessing is trying to tell us.
My short answer? Our dad problem is not one we can solve because our dad problem is actually a divine message––a shove, a spark––trying to tell us what life is actually all about. And it’s not us.
I’ll say it again, in a slightly different way: The reason you exist is bigger than you. Today’s society tells us the opposite––that we are our own source of meaning. It’s a tantalizing option. We want to believe that we are the center of our existence, in control and capable of transcendence if we just love and improve ourselves in the right ways. It is a compelling suggestion. It’s also a lie.
No, we are not the meaning we seek––but the meaning we seek is out there, seeking us.
I believe that the longing for a father’s blessing that we all can’t shake has to do with something greater than our earthly fathers. I believe this longing is the first nudge toward a spiritual awakening––toward our roles in a much bigger story written by the Creator of the universe.
On this Father’s Day, I know that many of you will be honoring amazing dads, while others will feel the void and distance of a strained relationship But no matter what your relationship with your father is, that nagging feeling that you want him to care––to be proud––can lead you to discover something even greater.
I want to encourage you today to not get stuck in the disappointment you may have faced with your dad, and listen to the immortal whisper. That voice is urging you to discover there is a God who is first and foremost a father, a perfect Father, who loves you … cares for you … believes in you, and wants you to live under the waterfall of his blessing and approval.