It is much easier to become a father than to be one.
Kent Nerburn, Letters to My Son

Men, you are the leaders of your families. You might be reluctant to assume that role. You might even deny that it falls to you. Nonetheless, you are your family’s de facto leader, whether you choose to believe it or not.

Leaders are always the highest-priority targets in any war. The enemy knows that if he can kill the commander, the troops will be easier to defeat. Cut off the head and the body dies. The body in this case is your family—you are the head. One way to fight back and be the leaders God created us to be is to be aware of our roles, our responsibilities, and our influence with those we lead.

The Indispensable Father

You may not think of yourself as being particularly influential or even successful in life. Maybe you don’t make a lot of money, lead a large group of people, save lives, or invent amazing gadgets. Maybe life has even beaten you down, and you’ve lost confidence in your abilities. Consequently, you don’t think of yourself as a big deal. But you can bet your boy does. He thinks you’re a very big deal. He doesn’t know or care what the outside world thinks. He only knows that between the walls of your home, you are about the biggest, wisest, most powerful person alive. Oh, he knows you’re not perfect. But he doesn’t care, because you’re just good enough to be indispensable in his life.

Fathering is at the heart of masculinity, of what it means to be a man. Godly fathers put others’ needs before their own. If you’re like me, you spend the majority of your conscious thought and effort on satisfying your own wants and needs. It’s almost an automatic response to life. But if we are to be authentic men and fathers, we need to rethink that attitude and consciously make sacrifices so others can benefit and prosper.

When fathers neglect this duty or are absent from the home, families are attacked by predators. Young men, such as gang members, who are raised without the influence of older men often become marauding wolves themselves—predators preying on women and children for their own self-gratification.

Families are like flocks of sheep. Children, like lambs, are naive and simple in their understanding of the world. Fathers are like sheepdogs, guarding the flock from marauding wolves. We protect our families from human predators and from corrupt television programs, movies, music, books, friends, and other people or influences that enter into a child’s life.

By the way, sheepdogs come from the wolf genus, so they are no stranger to wolves’ traits and habits. Fitting, isn’t it? We dads often find the hackles rising on our necks when we sense a wolf in sheep’s clothing parading around our kids. I once told my teenage daughter, "I might not always know why, but I know a wolf when I see one; I can sense him." Of course, my daughter says that I think all boys are wolves, but I just tell her that’s because I used to be one. It takes one to know one.

When I was dating, I was, like all young guys, deathly afraid of the fathers of the girls I went out with. If the majority of fathers showed any interest in meeting the boys their daughters were dating, I suspect that nearly all young men would be forced to remain celibate until marriage.

The other day I stopped by an apartment complex to visit a young boy whose single mother had asked me to meet with him. As I pulled into the large complex, I noticed at least thirty-five or forty kids playing in the parking lot. The kids were of all ages, from toddlers up to teenagers. Several of the older boys were wearing gang attire, aggressively posturing, smoking pot, and swearing loudly. A number of young ladies wearing suggestive clothing were hanging around them, trying to get their attention. Rap music was blaring from a speaker for all the kids to hear, no matter how young. The lyrics of the song were so vulgar that they would have embarrassed the sailors on the Navy ship I was once stationed on. Yet these children played amidst this chaos as if it were a normal part of growing up. The only adults around were a few predatory men who skirted the perimeter of the action, looking for weakened prey.