3 lessons I learned from my husband about fatherhood

August 7, 2019

Grim statistics arise when you search anything about “fatherlessness” in the United States. Children without fathers are more likely to live in poverty, face abuse, abuse drugs, drop out of high school, and commit crimes. There’s very little good that comes from a child growing up without a father.

Yet, God can and does redeem even the most wretched situations for good. A recent news story illustrated that redemption perfectly. The headline read: "Man who grew up in foster care adopts three boys.” 

The standout quote was this: "Fatherhood has been everything I imagine it to be because I'm the father I wish I had growing up."

My mind’s eye immediately tracked to my husband's face. He grew up fatherless and abused and neglected by his mother, who suffered from substance abuse issues and mental illness. Despite his background and never meeting his father until he was in his mid-20s (a predictable disappointment even then), he is a devoted, loving, and committed father to our two young children. His experience growing up fatherless ultimately secured his loyalty to parenting with excellence. 

I never doubted he would succeed in this endeavor when we married, but societal assumptions and statistics were stacked against him. While it’s important to consider data, we mustn’t let it define outcomes. God’s redemptive power can restore and liberate even the most dire situations, including those where a parent has failed. 

Here are three things I’ve learned about how the fatherless can vindicate fatherhood in their own parenting journeys. 

1. Fathers as nurturers

My husband has changed just as many diapers as me—and happily devotes his evenings to getting our toddler through a lengthy bedtime routine. The first weeks of our 1-year-old daughter's life, he was up more nights than me, and he's currently reading a stack of books with titles like "How a Father's Love Protects and Empowers His Daughter." He’s ruthless about ensuring she has what she needs and often comes home from Target with crinkling bags full of new items neither kid really needs. 

His superior devotion shatters cultural assumptions about male failures in childrearing and home-care. Having had no male model to follow, I was curious how my husband instinctively knew how to be a good father. The Bible provides one explanation in Romans 4:17: “ . . . God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.” While statistics may point to a different outcome for him, the power of faith in his life cultivates that which does not exist—the supernatural ethos of fatherhood through God the Father.

My husband has few emotions about his earthly father because he didn’t know a life that included one. And yet, he innately knows what it is to be a father of honor, integrity, and devotion now. He defies the future his past laid out for him by clinging to the nurturing aspects of the God who tended him in the darkest of nights so many years ago. Because he is aware of how God sustained him then and Christ saved him years later, he takes seriously his role in providing that guidance to our children. 

2. Fathers as spiritual leaders

In that vein, we are teaching our 3-year-old son now that he has two fathers—his Dad and his Heavenly Father. The song "Good Good Father" holds special meaning for the fatherless, but the concept is still one every child should grasp, as even the best earthly fathers can falter. The words to the song say: "You're a good, good father. It's who you are, it's who you are, it's who you are. And I am loved by you. It's who I am. It's who I am. It's who I am." 

The repetition is essential, leaving the listener without a doubt that God loves and equips them well despite difficult circumstances. Our son and daughter, thankfully, don’t have to navigate life without an earthly father. Because he is active and present, my husband recognizes the importance of teaching them that, while his love is good, it merely emulates the even greater love that the Father God has for them. 

Looking back at his fatherless past, my husband has valuable lessons to teach our children about the faithfulness of God when humanity fails them. Psalm 78:14 reads: "He led them with the cloud by day and all the night with a light of fire. He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths. He brought forth streams also from the rock and caused waters to run down like rivers." While I would never wish fatherlessness on anyone, golden bits of God’s character are often reflected most brilliantly through windows of pain. This is what my husband experienced as he grew into his faith and strives to imprint on the privileged lives of his children now.

In my book about his life, I write of a beautiful moment where he confessed a profound notion about our son. Even though he had always longed to be a Dad and loved his first child so fiercely the anxiety about keeping him alive gave him panic attacks, he dutifully presented our son to God from the moment we learned he was growing in my womb. “God has given him to me to raise,” he told me days after we welcomed him into our tiny apartment. I had never felt more assured of the extravagance of fatherhood our son would soon experience.

3. Learning From fatherlessness 

My husband takes his responsibility as a father so solemnly because he knows deeply the disappointment and heartbreak of growing up without one. He knows the emptiness that comes by walking through the fiery blaze of life, without a shadow in which to find solace. He was deeply wronged as child, and for that, he suffered greatly. But today, he can look at our children and know—without a doubt—that he is the father he wished he had growing up. 

Others, like the man in the article, relate to that feeling. Actor and podcast host Dax Shepard talks openly about growing up without a dad on his show. He says it took becoming a father, and reveling in the delight of his children, to realize this profound truth: It was his father who missed out far more than he. He learned, from fatherlessness, that being a dad and watching your children grow is the greatest blessing his dad never got because he chose absence.

God takes the ugliest of situations and transforms them into the greatest beauty. There is a reason parenthood is the most meaningful part of many of our earthly lives. It’s because it all began with a good, good Father. Therefore, even the fatherless have the supernatural capacity to bring God as Father to life for their children. 

That is the full circle of God's redemptive spirit.

Ericka Andersen

Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer. Her first book, Leaving Cloud 9: The True Story of a Life Resurrected From the Ashes of Poverty, Trauma and Mental Illness was released by Thomas Nelson in 2018. She lives in Indianapolis, Ind., with her husband and two children. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24