Why Do Fathers Leave Their Families?
- Matt Haviland and Dawn Walker Founder, A Father's Walk, Founder and Director, Single Parent Missions
- 2014 9 Oct
I did not set out to become a single dad, but without any sort of strong male role model, I was forced to find my own way. And the way that seemed right to me was one of blind ambition, unhealthy relationships, and indulging all my fleshly desires. I will share more in the upcoming chapters, but being raised without a full time or responsible father left me with a huge void in my life: my own personal daddy gap. Consequently, at nearly every crossroad in life, I chose the wrong path. It is only through overcoming some pretty devastating personal experiences that I am even somewhat qualified to address this topic.
Men, let me take a few minutes to speak to you directly here. We are set up for failure the moment we enter the world. In short, we are at battle the second we are born. Paul tells us in the book of Galatians that the flesh and the spirit wage war on each other (5:17). And like any other battle there is a defined line that has to be drawn and maintained in order to ensure victory. So where is this line? And as men and fathers, how do we fight and win this battle?
First, by understanding our position. By design, we are natural leaders. God made us first and gave us the responsibility to steward and maintain his creation. Ultimately, he gave us a companion as well—“one who helps.” Just as the passage earlier states, once those roles were reversed, the balance of our created design was thrown off tilt and life has not been the same since.
So what are we as leaders to do to reestablish a firm foundation and help bring order back from chaos? For starters, let’s take a look at some traps we as men face and what we need to do when we are caught.
I am not speaking of getting caught as in “busted,” although that may be the case for some of you reading this. What I am referring to is the traps that are set up and designed to target our hearts, minds, and flesh—and to steal that attention from our families. You see, all our enemy has to do is knock us off course just a little bit at first to begin his assault. A compromise here, some justification there…it is the small and subtle beginnings, often the ones that are the hardest to recognize, that get us going down the wrong path.
If you do some research on the tragedy that struck Korean Airlines Flight 007 back in the 80’s, you will get a clearer picture of what I’m talking about. KA 007, a civilian passenger plane, was heading from New York City to Seoul, Korea via Anchorage when it found itself in trouble. This was a time when the Cold War was at its peak and tensions with the Soviets were extremely high all around the globe. KA 007 somehow had veered just a tiny bit (a couple degrees) off of its initial heading. Undetectable to the captain and rest of the crew, this minor deviation, over the course of hundreds of miles, left the airplane over enemy territory.
The tragic consequence was that it was gunned down by Russian aircraft. All 269 passengers aboard were killed. I wonder how many thousands of men and fathers have found themselves in similar situations? Not navigating a plane from one country to another; but on the journey of life have diverted off course just a little bit and over time found themselves in enemy territory. Pornography, alcohol or other addictions, extra-marital affairs, and other devastating tragedies usually begin with the “captain” not paying attention. As I stated before, all it takes is a compromise here, some justification there. It is all too often the undetected dangers that lead to the biggest mistakes. Men, our enemy is very sly when it comes to such diversions, which is why we must stay in constant relationship with the Lord to protect ourselves and our families.
Enduring the Storm
I have a close friend who experienced this pattern of getting caught up in the wrong activities, which led to a crisis in his life and ultimately the end of his marriage. Amazingly, he clung to God after the crash and has been able to restore a good portion of his life and his relationship with his children. For confidentiality purposes, I have changed all of the names in this story.
I met Jim back around 2009. He was invited by another single father to our small group. Jim is a larger than life man—standing nearly seven feet tall—but has the demeanor of a kitten. Once the group began and all formal introductions were made, Jim was very open to sharing his story and all that had occurred in his life over the past several months. He opened with the traditional background of how he was raised in a Christian home and had attended church all of his life. He told us about his marriage, his job, and about his two children, Allie and Jonathan. Within moments of beginning his story, I realized this was not going to be just another testimony.
Jim had begun to dip into internet porn the way most do—curiosity. He shared how he would literally sneak out of bed and get online while his wife slept. To my surprise he said a few of the sessions lasted the entire night. He would jump into various chat rooms, which eventually led to meeting up with women on the side. (Again, small compromises led to much larger sins.) As the affairs and addiction grew, so did the risks Jim was willing to take. On one fateful night, he engaged in sexual talk and the promise to meet up with an underage girl.
Unfortunately for Jim and his family, that “underage girl” was really an undercover cop. The silence of the night was broken as police arrived at his house in the middle of this very quiet and extremely conservative neighborhood—not the type of place that gets much police activity. Jim was arrested on the spot and booked on felony charges as his wife and kids watched him get hauled off.
A crisis had occurred and there were a lot of unanswered questions. Over the next several months, Jim faced not only the anguish of the severity of his charges, but also the humiliation of a scarlet letter labeled “sex offender” in the small town. He was unable to attend any of his kids’ school or sporting events, and was even called out by one unbelievably cruel man right in front of his daughter. The kids were too young to understand what their dad had done, but due to the overwhelming embarrassment and pain his wife endured, she divorced him almost immediately.
Now, I have a pretty strong testimony... Yet, nothing could have prepared me for Jim’s story, especially since he had just shared it in front of a room full of strangers he had met only minutes before. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m rarely at a loss for words, but this one did it. What was even more surprising to me was the way Jim held his composure throughout his story. The pain was evident, but there was more to him than just a tragic story. Although I had only known him a short while, I could see there was something within Jim that was holding him together.
As the rest of the year went on, our single dads group had its share of attendees. Some became permanent fixtures and lifelong friends; others were only around for a season. That was over five years ago, and I am happy to say that Jim and I still talk on a regular basis. His relationship with his children is being restored. He is able to see them regularly, take them to church, and even attend their events now. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 the parable of the two foundations. Over the years I have witnessed men and fathers hit almost every sort of test and trial there is. One thing I have noticed is this: it is the man who clings to the Lord and decides to build (or rebuild) his foundation on Christ who will be able to endure the storms. Jim is one of those men.
This is an excerpt from the book The Daddy Gap by Dawn Walker and Matt Haviland, which will be released this fall.
Dawn is a single mother and is the Founder and Director of Single Parent Missions, a ministry dedicated to raising up single parent families to transform generations. To subscribe to her daily “Hope Notes” for single parents, visit www.singleparentmissions.org. Matt is a single father and is the Founder and Director of A Father’s Walk Single Dad’s Ministry. To follow his blog, visit www.afatherswalk.org. Both are speakers and work with churches to envision and equip them for effective single parent ministry.
Publication date: October 9, 2014