I recently finished Dennis Rainey’s new book, Stepping Up. I’ve already ordered another copy for a young man I’m mentoring, and I anticipate I’ll work through the book’s insightful and well-crafted chapters with many others over the years to come as well. It’s simple yet compelling, issuing a call to biblical manhood that I believe many (even most) men today have never heard—yet would respond to robustly if given the chance.
One section on mentoring fatherless boys particularly struck me. It’s easy to think of the “fatherless” or “orphan” as being only the destitute child overseas. But truth be told, that same vulnerability (and statistical likelihood of a troubling future—from poverty to the prospect of crime) often lives right next door.
Just on the financial side of things, for example, as reported by the Heritage Foundation last week, “Households headed by single females have two-fifths the median income of married families. Even when compared with married families with only one income, the single mother’s average salary is still lower. This relative lack of income means a child born to an unwed mother is six times more likely to experience poverty than a child born to married parents. In fact, over half of children raised by a single mother currently live in poverty.”
Stepping Up includes a compelling challenge for godly men to mentor fatherless boys. Dennis Rainey quotes one man, Bill, who is now mentoring one of his son’s friends. As Bill describes, he’s passing forward gifts he once received. “I had a family who reached out to me when I was fatherless. Mr. Reed took me and his son Mike (my best friend) fishing and on trips. I was at their house more than at mind. He even paid for a bike my mother gave me (I found out later that he paid for it.) This past summer, the Reeds celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary with a party of family and friends. I had the privilege of being introduced as their second son.”
Not all men can bring a child into their home via foster care or adoption. But most any man can step up to play an active role in a young man’s life. It’s the boy whose father died or abandoned his mother, or even the young dad who’s never had a good example of how to parent or love a wife. Stepping up for a fatherless male serves not only him, but also all those he’ll eventually touch over the years, from his wife and children to employer and friends. It’s a powerful way to live out Isaiah’s words: “defend the cause of the fatherless.”