Two little girls were kidnapped and murdered recently and their stories filled the airwaves this past week. Jessica Ridgeway was only 10 years old and Autumn Pasquale was 12. In each situation they had innocently left home headed for school or play and were then confronted, assaulted and ultimately killed. While there are many horrible crimes that take place in our country each day, these two incidents had an unusual connection. Both crimes were committed by teenage boys who did not have dads active in their lives.
As the media looked for new angles to cover in this unfolding story they found the father of the two brothers who took the life of Autumn Pasquale after a dispute over a bicycle. I was watching the evening news when this story broke and got to hear what he had to say. Sadly, he admitted that he had not been involved in the boys’ lives for many years. This clear disconnect with his children became even more apparent as he stated that he did not know if he would “support” them in any way during the coming trial or even go to court.
Jessica Ridgeway’s apparent killer, Austin Sigg, was only 17 years old himself. His father, Robert Sigg has been divorced from his mother for several years. According to the Associated Press, Robert Sigg has a long history of run-ins with the law that stretches back to the 1980s. His rap sheet includes multiple arrests in various Denver metro counties for domestic violence, burglary, DUI, assault as well as selling and distributing drugs.
While it would be really easy to jump the conclusion that simply having a Dad in the home would have made a difference in the lives of these boys, I am not so sure. There are plenty of statistics that do show the value of a two parent home and much data that supports the idea that an active dad in the home does make a real difference – especially in the lives of boys. That said, the reality of the world that we live in today is that many Dads may be physically present and emotionally absent on a regular basis. It seems to me that some of the resentments and bitterness that develop in a young man whose Dad is actually absent from the home can be similar to the things that fester when a Dad “checks out” every chance he gets.
Our world promotes the idea of multi-tasking as a goal to be achieved and an ability to be celebrated. I am more and more convinced that men do not do this well and that Satan uses distractions as primary tool to keep us from fathering well. We can easily blame the distractions that our kids face with the plethora of technology options available to them while being distracted by the very same technology ourselves.
As a father of teens, I have come to the conclusion that intentional fathering is not as fun as it used to be. There was a time when they wanted me to be their playmate at any opportunity. We would often throw a baseball or kick the soccer ball or shoot a basketball as a part of our daily activities. While their demands on my time were exhausting at points, I knew that I was a part of their lives and that they needed me. As they have gotten older, peers took the cherished place I once held – especially in the arena of sports and outdoor activities.
Intentional fathering now requires far more creativity and thought. This does not happen well when I am distracted and busy with my own issues and even good things like ministry and work. It is especially impaired when I attempt to multi-task with Facebook, e-mail, reading and television – and yes I have tried to do all four at the same time.
As I consider my own failings as a father, I am comforted by the fact that I serve a perfect heavenly father who has placed me in a church community of Dads who are experiencing some of the same things that I face. Weekly, I meet with a small men’s group and each of us is fathering young men growing up in this current culture of distraction. We challenge each other to spend focused time pursuing our guys, even if it is hard and we get rejected or ignored on a regular basis. I am so grateful that I have both a heavenly father and an earthly father who pursued me even when I ignored and rejected them. May the church at large encourage men to stand up, stop trying to do two things at once and simply focus on pursuing the children that God has placed in their lives.