Pastor Tim Ayers of Peace Church UCC, Gladbrook, IA
Derek Redmond wanted to make it to the finish line. This was possibly one of those chances of a lifetime. He might never again run in the semifinal of a 400-meter Olympic race. Yet the chances of this British runner’s making it were slim. More than halfway into the race, a torn hamstring rendered one leg useless. Running was impossible; he could hardly walk. Determined to cross the line, he hobbled onward, the grimace on his face and his awkward gait signaling that each step was agonizingly painful. The sympathetic crowd cheered him on, fearing he would give up and collapse on the dirt.Suddenly, a man ran out of the stands toward the track. Avoiding the security guard’s efforts to stop him, he reached the struggling athlete. When he grabbed him around the waist, Derek slung his arm across his shoulders. While the crowd cheered and millions throughout the world watch on television, derek Redmond finished the race, supported by his father.The touching father-son drama from the 1992 Olympics was broadcast on television over and over again. Had it been his coach or his mother or a friend the effect would have been different. Not that a man doesn’t need his mother’s backing or that she is any less important than his dad in any way. It’s just that a father and mother are different. God is responsible for this difference. Males and females are created in God’s image. While they are equal in value and in many ways very similar, they are not the same. As they each play a crucial role in a child’s life, their roles are somewhat distinctive. That story is lifted from the pages of a book I wrote many years ago on parenting entitled Power Dads. Are you a dad? Or a granddad? The more I study the role of fathers, the more I see how important it is. Just as kids need vitamins to be physically healthy, so they need contact with dad, or a male substitute, to be psychologically healthy. A kid can suffer from dad deficiency just as he does from a lack of vitamins. The absence of fathers may be as damaging to the home as the absence of mothers. And the damage of them not there? It is considerable--to the child and to society.As we close in on Father's Day, I want to remind Dads that we do have a heavy responsibility. Our kids need us emotionally to mature. If we can't grow up and mature then our sons and daughters are doomed to repeat our mistakes. I've seen too many young men following after the model their father's set forth into broken relationships and painful futures. Dad, you have a special place and job to do in the lives of your children. Even if you live apart from them, they still need to see a mature male role model.