Always in Debt

Community Foundation Higher Ground 0 Comments

To sisters and brothers of dignity and honor, there are few situations more humiliating than having to ask a relative or friend for a loan sufficient to bail us out of debt.
We lower our heads, trying to avert their glances: “You see something came up and it caught me short. I’ll repay you as soon as I can, OK?”

We’ve all been there. Circumstances have suddenly arisen after we foolishly lost control of our finances. We couldn’t even meet our personal expenses. We felt incompetent and embarrassed.

But now let’s turn from our personal economic indebtedness, to our relational indebtedness. The Psalmist declares, “God sets the lonely in families.” (Psalm 68:6). However, it is not a cure-all. For some of us, the jury is still out regarding our families. Hurt feelings, sibling rivalries and bitterness have destroyed the ties that should draw us closer together. Occasionally, we are in relational debt to our families also.

This is national family month and we are reminded of the mothers and fathers working to provide positive role models for all of us.

In most instances, we harbor more hostility toward fathers than mothers, but we cannot stay here if we are to have any possibility of developing stronger family ties. We certainly need each other. This is our relational debt.

First let’s review the unique plight of many families in 2013, focusing on the challenges to fathers:

  • An estimated 24.7 million children (36%) live absent from their biological father.
  • An estimated 17 million children (25%) are living with their single mother.
  • 1.25 million or 32% of all births of children were out of wedlock.
  • Nearly four out of 10 first marriages end in divorce.
  • One out of every six children is a stepchild.
  • 26% of absentee fathers live in a different state than their children.
  • 40% of children who live in absentee father households haven’t seen their father in at least one year.
  • 50% of children who don’t live with their fathers have never stepped foot in their father’s home

Children that live absent from their fathers, on average, are more likely to be poor, experience educational, emotional, health and psychological problems, be victims of child abuse and engage in criminal behavior.

Yet, there are 1.9 million single fathers living with their children under 18 years of age. In fact, 57.7% of all black children, 31.8% of all Hispanic children 20.9% of all white children are currently living in single parent homes.

A number of additional excellent suggestions are available online (Absentee Fathers: The Current State of Fatherhood — 5/31/2013).

So many young people are angry at parents, especially their dads.

But anger only destroys. This is not an easy task, but if possible, you should start working through your anger with your Dad. Assisted by others, you will probably have to take the initiative.

Erskine Johnson is a great example. He spent 28 years in a maximum security prison for a murder he didn’t commit in Tennessee. He had never set foot in the state. Furthermore, his life hit rock bottom when he received news of his mother and sister’s death in an automobile accident.

Yet, here was his saving grace: He had artistic gifts, and painted scenes beyond the prison walls, pictures of women and children with gentle, smiling faces.

He was asked, “Were you bitter about the years you spent in prison for a crime you didn’t commit?”

He replied, “I let go of anger a long time ago. In letting go of anger I freed myself.” What a model Mr. Johnson is for all of us.

None of us are debt free, so why not start paying relational accounts today? Paint some family pictures beyond your walls and share your stories with Higher Ground.

-Rev. Joseph L. Roberts, Jr.