On November 1-3 about 20 of us from all around the country who work with fathers gathered at a conference hosted by the National Center For Fathering in Kansas City. The timing of the conference was significant. We met on the eve of the mid-term elections when our country is sharply divided between “red and blue” states, Democrats and Republicans. After the election a few political commentators noted that our nation today is more divided than ever --despite the slight Democratic edge now in Congress. Maybe we have become “The Divided States Of America.”
As we gathered In Kansas City, the noticeable distinction was not necessarily red and blue but black and white. 12 men were African-American at the conference and the rest of us men were white. We were there to learn from each other how we can better work together to address the needs of fatherlessness in our nation. Each of us functioned in different contexts: we worked within churches, schools, prisons, hospitals and community organizations. One common bond that we did have was that we each professed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
On our last evening together, George Williams, an African-American staff member of the National Center For Fathering brought up the issue of race relations in America, particularly the polarization that still exists between blacks and whites in our nation. The pain among our black brothers in Christ was soon evident. The enormity of the problem became increasingly clear to each of us and the solutions to this problem seemed to become harder to see the longer we talked about it.
But then my friend, Marvin Charles, an African-American man who has founded a dynamic fathering ministry in urban Seattle, spoke up. He reminded each of us, in his own simple and yet profound way, that as brothers in Christ we each now had the same Father, a common heritage that was attained through the cross of His Son Jesus. He reminded us that we could choose to make a difference right then and there to begin to reverse the curse of racism that we have inherited in our country. He challenged us to live and model black and white working together for our OWN families as he had begun to do for his kids, quoting Joshua 24:15, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Marvin then did something I will never forget. He grabbed two chairs and invited a white participant to come and sit down next to him. We then gathered around these two men laying hands on them. George prayed for both of them as representatives of the two races and then they prayed fervently a blessing upon each other. Afterwards the walls just came tumbling down! We were hugging each other and from that point onward there was a noticeable difference in the way we related to one another.
What could not be accomplished by simply talking and listening to one another, as important as that may be, could be achieved by going to the cross together, side by side approaching reverently OUR heavenly Father in united prayer.
Isn’t this the same road to reconciliation we must take to heal our marriages and families? I have become increasingly aware of how persistently our enemy seeks to create divisions, not only between the races but within our marriages and among parents and children. He wants our conflicts to remain unresolved and to fester. He delights when hearts harden and pride prevents reconciliation.
But the Father has provided a way, a road that leads right through the cross of His Son. Just as Marvin led us as men down that road in Kansas City so we as husbands and fathers need to lead our families down that same road. What does that road look like? It is simply the admission of MY need for the cross in a given situation and the invitation to my wife or child to join me. The Father longs for His highly loved and valued sons to stop the endless cycle of accusation and self-justification and humbly lead our wives and children to the foot of the cross where true and lasting reconciliation can take place.