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Breaking the Cycle

In his book, Man Alive: Transforming Your 7 Primal Needs into a Powerful Spiritual Life, Patrick Morley describes how his grandfather abandoned his family when Patrick's father was only two years old and the youngest of four children. He writes, "That one fateful decision set forces in motion from which our family has still not fully recovered." Patrick's dad never had a good role model for fatherhood, so when the size of their family grew to four young boys, his dad sent them to church. But their church had no vision to help men like Patrick's dad become disciples of Jesus. So Patrick grew up never having a good role model for fatherhood. When Patrick became a dad, he brought his father's and grandfather's brokenness with him. Morley confesses, "It's hard to silence the echoes of the past." Fortunately, Patrick sought help and Christian men discipled him and taught him how to be a godly husband and father.

Our nation is pandemic with generational brokenness due to poor fatherhood or father-absent homes. According to, 26% of all children in the U.S. are growing up in a household with only one custodial parent, and 84% of those parents are mothers. Among African-American children 49% are growing up with a single custodial parent. Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse." Children in father-absent homes are more likely to get pregnant as teenagers, have lower grade point averages, lower college aspirations, poor attendance records, more likely to be incarcerated, and are twice as likely to drop out of school.

I’ve shared this in a previous blog, but when I served as a prison chaplain in New Orleans, I asked hundreds of inmates two questions over the course of two years: (1) How many of you had a dad at home when you grew up? (2) How many of you are a dad? Over that two-year period of time, I only had two men tell me they had a dad at home who helped raise them. Many of them said they were raised by their grandmothers or extended family members. The answer to the second question was that almost all of them were dads. I asked the men if they believed their life would be different if they had a dad who stayed at home, showed them love and discipline, and helped raise them, and the men completely agreed. I would then tell the men that they have an opportunity to break that generational cycle, and they can be godly fathers who raise their sons and daughters to love the Lord and make a Kingdom difference in the world.

We need to break this cycle! And the only way it's going to happen is for older men to teach the younger men how to be godly husbands and fathers (Titus 2:1-8). We need godly men to come alongside single-moms and be role models to their sons and Christ-like examples to their daughters. We need Christian fathers to pour into other fathers how to love, discipline, and raise their children in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and others (Luke 2:52).

For those of you who have generational brokenness, you can break the cycle. You can move forward with your life in the love and truth of Jesus Christ. There's an old Irish proverb that says, "You've got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was." Regardless of how good or bad you had it when you were growing up, regardless of whether you had an abusive or absentee father (or mother), you can rise above and “do your own growing.” Prayerfully seek out a mentor whom you would like to emulate as a parent. And be sure to break the cycle of your own sin patterns. Be honest and own up to the destructive behaviors you may have learned or inherited and that you, unfortunately, might be passing on to your own children. Grieve what could have been, but then forgive, ask for forgiveness, repent for all the ways you have sinned against others, ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse and transform you by His power, and then be patient. For most of us, mending takes time. But gradually, incrementally, we discover that we "are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17). And praise God that He does bring us freedom from generational brokenness through our Lord Jesus Christ!