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Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story Paperback – October 4, 2010
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John Sowers is the "voice crying in the wilderness," calling us to turn our faces toward the devastation caused by fatherlessness. This beautifully written book is not a wringing of the hands, but a powerful and strategic call to action. --William Paul Young, author of The Shack
I believe that the church can solve the problem of fatherlessness. And this book is our call. It is our call to something that the biblical writer James calls "true religion," our call to do something that matters deeply to the heart of God. --Gabe Lyons, author of The Next Christians
Fatherless Generation illuminates the longing and hurt that fuel the decisions of a generation seeking acceptance, hope, assurance, and truth. With prose that is personal, direct, and eloquent, Fatherless Generation is emotionally charged and boldly honest, and it holds the key to real healing for the reader, whether they are fatherless or love someone who is. --Dan Merchant, writer/director of Lord, Save Us from Your Followers
John Sowers has tapped into the powerful theme of belonging and accurately describes the fatherless generation that is longing for it. Through John's personal story, he exposes the shame of millions growing up without fathers and points the reader in the direction of hope and compassionate action. This is a powerful book. --Dr. Tom Phillips, vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
From the Publisher
Drawing from culture, stories, and his own personal experience, John Sowers presents the desperate reality of fatherlessness in his generation. Fatherless Generation is a hard-hitting, descriptive look at this issue, showing how awareness, compassion, and mentoring are the keys to writing new stories of hope.
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Here is the synopsis of this book:
What happens when our givers of life give us a lifetime of tears? The story of fatherlessness is being written into the heart of our generation. It is heard in our songs, seen in our movies, read in our blogs. It is a story of shame, loneliness, and rejection. A story of missed potential and wasted lives.
But fatherlessness is more than a personal tragedy. It is a growing epidemic. Fatherlessness is the driving force behind gangs, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and suicide. And all too often, the fatherless are either marginalized or ignored.
Weaving in his experience of fatherlessness, John Sowers shows how awareness, compassion, and intentional intergenerational mentoring can offer a generation hope - hope that will write new stories for generations to come.
Here is the biography of this author:
Dr. John Sowers is president of The Mentoring Project, a movement that exists to inspire and equip the faith community to provide mentors for the fatherless. He has also been part of the White House Task Force conversation on Fatherhood and Healthy Families. John received his Masters of Divinity degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where he wrote his doctoral thesis on the crisis of fatherlessness. John and his wife, Kari, reside in Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Sowers explained what happened to him after his father abandoned their family:
Fatherlessness creates an appetite in the soul that demands fulfillment. Over time, the unmet needs created by Dad's absence turns into something that author Robert McGee calls "father hunger." And in America alone, millions are starving to death. McGee states, "People who grow up starved for a father's love become victims of an anonymous mugger or a faceless cancer."
To live with father hunger is to live with sadness of what will never be. Perhaps the worst thing about this rejection is living with the knowledge that someone has chosen to turn his back on you. Someone has chosen to leave you. Someone has determined your value and decided you are not worth having around - or that he would be better off someplace else, without you. (p. 19)
This need for a father is inside of all of us:
Each of us has this visceral longing, a primal urge to be accepted by our father and to make him proud. The urge is something like hunger or the need for sleep - it stays with us our entire lives. When Dad is not around, this urge becomes a haunting. The ghost usually takes on the form of a question. We may bring our question to other men, or every man we meet. We may bring our question to the world of women. We may bring our question to the mirror and remain haunted by its booming silence. We wonder, "Do you see me? Will you validate me?" All the while, the question grows louder in our hearts. (pp. 26-27)
Shame and the feeling of inadequacy are dangerous effects of fatherlessness:
Conflicted, we bring this shame-induced inadequacy into everything we do - the relationships we have, the way we think, live, and believe. We bring our inadequacy to the workplace, with something to prove, and we either quit or become workaholics. We bring our inadequacy to our peers and become people pleasers or rebels. We bring our inadequacy to a relationship, and when it doesn't answer the question, we blame, move on, or wallow in despair. We face our inadequacy and become victims or performers. We escape the inadequacy and become irresponsible or addicted. We project our inadequacy onto God and feel that God is ashamed of is and that we must perform flawlessly to earn and keep his approval. (p. 29)
Fatherless girls are not exempt from the hurt:
Fatherless girls struggle with shame as well. Girls mourn the missed opportunities to stand on the living room table and spin their twirling dress for Dad. They dream of being beautiful, adored, noticed, of shining for him and captivating his attention. They wonder if they are even worth noticing at all. (p. 31)
Dr. Sowers shares reader comments from his blog. Beth made this comment:
We all handled it differently. My older brother chased Dad's car. My mother cried and basically stopped functioning for months... And I just kind of held it in. Seven years later, I still, to this day, hold it in...I have issues with my self-esteem. And find it hard to trust people. I hope that one day, the wounds I have inside will heal. (p. 31)
There is huge fallout from fatherlessness. Dr. Sowers shares some sobering statistics (pp. 36-37):
63 percent of youth suicides
71 percent of teenage pregnancies
90 percent of all homeless and runaway children
70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavioral disorders
80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger
71 percent of all high school dropouts
75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers
85 percent of all youths sitting in prison
A talented musician who dealt with fatherlessness is Matt Redmond, worship leader and composers of such Christian standards as "Blessed Be Your Name" and "You Never Let Go." Matt shared with Dr. Sowers that he had many mentors in his life that helped him work through his shame and feelings of inadequacy:
There were definitely a few years of pain and struggle there in my childhood and early adult teenage years - but to be truthful, I never felt very "fatherless." I think that has a lot to do with God being true to his word. Scripture tells us that he is a Father to the fatherless, and I knew a massive measure of that as I grew up. In fact, so many of the painful things in my childhood, by his grace, propelled me toward God and not away from him. I would go so far as to say that these times of turmoil were actually the things that solidified my walk with God and made me want to walk and talk with him. Throughout the whole season, however, I had a very real sense of God being my Father - and a very strong and compassionate one at that. (p. 82)
God is involved in this process of mentoring:
God fathers us through intimacy of his Spirit, but also by bringing people - spiritual mothers and fathers - into our lives. These mentors teach us what it is like to be loved, what it means to be a man or woman. A mentor's presence in the life of a young person declares to him or her, "You are not rejected. You are important and valuable - you matter."
God is calling his body, the church, to step up and be his people, to represent his fathering love to a fatherless generation of children and youth. And he is giving us opportunities to answer the call. This is the heart of mentoring. Mentoring is about answering God's call, joining with him as he rewrites the broken story of a generation. Mentoring mirrors God's heart. Long before we ever consider him, God is taking the initiative and choosing to invest our time and energy into the life of a child or young person. (p. 88)
We must have a good relationship with God in order to effectively mentor:
A godly mentor needs to have a vertical relationship with God. A mentor doesn't need to have it all together, but he should be growing in his faith as he follows the one both he and the mentee are trying to emulate.
This is the foundational element of mentoring. We cannot show others something we have not known or understood. Our vertical relationship with God is the foundation of our relationship with others. God is our source and motivation behind our love, our example and model that we show to our mentee. We must be willing to be mentored by God if we wish to model our life after his and imitate his example. (p. 107)
This subject - fatherlessness - is near to my heart. My parents divorced before I was born, and I never met my father. I have never even seen a photo of him. He passed away when I was about twelve years old. I never had a father figure. When I married Fred, I hoped that hole would be filled by his father. Sadly, that relationship did not flourish as I hoped it would. That is a heartache as well. So I understand what it is like to miss that important part of life. As a result, I also have a hard time relating to God as Father. I have an easier time relating to Jesus as the Son of God.
I had never really looked at the subject of fatherlessness, and how it affects people, to the extent that Dr. Sowers does in this book. I had gained much insight on society and on myself, and I appreciate the research he has done and the wisdom he has imparted. I recommend this book to anyone who deals with this issue - and that is all of us, when you consider the cost that has been assessed on society in general. I pray that men who father children will accept their responsibility and look to God to help them fulfill that responsibility for the good of their child and of society at large.
This book was published by Zondervan Publishers and provided by them for review purposes.
Reviewed by Andrea Schultz - Ponderings by Andrea - [...]
It didn't take but one page to realize that this book will cut right to the heart of me. I was in tears before I flipped the page. It's honest in a way that breaks you down but it builds you up to know that we will be fine!
Thank you John for this read. Because of this book, I have better tools to let my son know all of the joys that I never got the opportunity to know!
This is a book that should never have had to be written, but as societal values change, the role of the family has changed also, and in the process we have lost a lot of what we used to call ‘family values’.
John Sowers book Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010) paints a heart-wrenching picture of one of the problems of today’s society: the pain of the children of ‘invisible dads’. Men who refuse to accept their responsibility and leave as soon as they find out that the girl friend is pregnant. Men who leave when things get tough at home. Men in mid-life crises who leave home for the fancy car and much younger trophy wife. In other words, males who are men by virtue of age and testosterone, but still just little boys when it comes to accepting adult responsibilities. And that doesn’t take into account the children who are left as orphans when dad goes off to war, has a fatal accident, or is struck with a senseless terminal disease.
Fatherless Generation tells of the pain of girls and boys, (25 million if Sowers’ facts are correct) who are looking for their Dad. Boys and girls who think the divorce is their fault; who wonder what they did that was so bad that Daddy doesn’t love them anymore. Girls and boys who are disappointed time after time when Dad doesn’t show as promised for the birthday, holiday, or other ‘important event’ celebration. All dressed up with no place to go when Daddy doesn’t show up for the visit, dinner, ball game, piano or dance recital, school play or graduation. Kids’ whose hearts are eventually hardened, they no longer care, but often carry around the guilty feeling of not caring.
And what happens to these kids with hardened hearts. Some survive; some go into therapy, some turn to other places to find the love they don’t get from Dad: gangs, drugs, prostitution. And some find positive role models through their church or school, with a Big Brother or a Big Sister, or a mentor associated with Sowers’ organization “The Mentoring Project”.
Fatherless Generation is more than just a stark picture of boys and girls growing up without someone to teach them how to be men and women. It’s a wakeup call for our communities. It’s a call to action for those who are tired of reading about another senseless murder or robbery or drug deal gone sour.
The book describes a problem but also offers a solution. Sowers describes way that men and women can get involved and make a difference in the lives of young people growing up as part of the Fatherless Generation. I was reminded of the prophet Jeremiah who spoke to the God's people: Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (Jer 29:7, NIV). Mentoring young people, being the adult role model, is a way to put those prayers into action.
Sowers writes from his perspective of being part of the fatherlessness epidemic. Friends, acquaintances and anonymous responders to his blog as quoted throughout the book. And whether they’re well known or anonymous, they are real people who know what it’s like to grow up without a dad.
Have the box of tissues handy.
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