A Man and His Ultimate Priority

Author:
Dr. James Dobson


It occurred first in 1969, when my book Dare to Discipline was being written. I was running at an incredible speed, working myself to death like every other man I knew. I was Superintendent of Youth for my church, and labored under a heavy speaking schedule. Eight or ten "unofficial" responsibilities were added to my full-time commitment at USC School of medicine and Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. I once worked seventeen nights straight without being home in the evening. Our five-year-old daughter would stand in the doorway and cry as I left in the morning, knowing she might not see me until the next sunrise.

Although my activities were bringing me professional advancement and the trappings of financial success, my dad was not impressed. He had observed my hectic lifestyle and felt obligated to express his concern. While flying from Los Angeles to Hawaii one summer, he used that quiet opportunity to write me a lengthy letter. It was to have a sweeping influence on my life. Let me quote one paragraph from his message which was especially poignant:

Danae [referring to our daughter] is growing up in the wickedest section of a world much farther gone into moral decline than the world into which you were born. I have observed that the greatest delusion is to suppose that our children will be devout Christians simply because their parents have been, or that any of them will enter into the Christian faith in any other way than through their parents' deep travail of prayer and faith. But this prayer demands time, time that cannot be given if it is all signed and conscripted and laid on the altar of career ambition. Failure for you at this point would make mere success in your occupation a very pale and wash-out affair, indeed.

Those words, written without accusation or insult, hit me like the blow from a hammer. It contained several themes which had the ring of eternal truth. First, it is more difficult to teach proper values today than in years past because of the widespread rejection of Christian principles in our culture. In effect, there are many dissonant voices which feverishly contradict everything for which Christianity stands. The result is a generation of young people who have discarded the moral standards of the Bible.

Numerous studies have documented the steady increase in promiscuity occurring among teenagers and college-aged young people. For example, the American Journal of Diseases of Children reported that of 677 seventh, eighth, and ninth graders in a mostly white, lower middle class junior high in Indianapolis, 55 percent had had sex. More than 50 percent of the boys had intercourse by age 13, and more than 50 percent of the girls had intercourse by sixteen.

Quoting from Josh McDowell's book The Myth of Sex Education, "A 1987 study by the National Academy of Science discovered, 'the attitude shift has been best documented among girls. From 1971 to 1982, the proportion of unmarried girls aged 15-19 who had had sexual intercourse at least once increased from 28 percent to 44 percent."*

This is the world in which our children are being raised. We need all the help we can get to lead them through the mine fields of adolescence.

The second concept in my dad's letter was the one that ended my parental complacency. He helped me realize that it is possible for mothers and fathers to love and revere God while systematically losing their children. You can go to church three times a week, serve on its governing board, attend the annual picnic, pay your tithes and make all the approved religious noises, yet somehow fail to communicate the real meaning of Christianity to the next generation.

I have since talked to dozens of parents whose children are grown and married.

"We thought our kids had accepted our faith and beliefs," they say, "but somehow, we failed to get it across."

For those younger parents whose children are still at an impressionable age, please believe the words of my dad, "The greatest delusion is to suppose that our children will be devout Christians simply because their parents have been, or that any of them will enter into the Christian faith in any other way than through their parents deep travail of prayer and faith."

If you doubt the validity of this assertion, may I suggest that you read the story of Eli in 1 Samuel 2-4. Here is the account of a priest and servant of God who failed to discipline his children. He was apparently too busy with the "work of the church" to be a leader in his own home. The two boys grew up to be evil young men on whom God's judgment fell.

It concerned me to realize that Eli's service to the Lord was insufficient to compensate for his failure at home. Then I read farther in the narrative and received confirmation of the principle. Samuel, the saintly man of God who stood like a tower of spiritual strength throughout his life, grew up in Eli's home. He watched Eli systematically losing his children, yet Samuel proceeded to fail with his family, too! That was a deeply disturbing truth. If God would not honor Samuel's dedication by guaranteeing the salvation of his children, will He do more for me if I'm too busy to do my "homework"!

Having been confronted with these spiritual obligations and responsibilities, the Lord then gave me an enormous burden for my two children. I carry it to this day. There are times when it becomes so heavy that I ask God to remove it from my shoulders, although the concern is not motivated by the usual problems or anxieties. Our kids are apparently healthy and seem to be holding their own emotionally and academically Danae finished college in 1990 and Ryan was entering his junior year at the time of the revision.) The source of my burden derives from the awareness that a "tug of war" is being waged for the hearts and minds of every child on earth, including these two precious human beings. Satan would deceive and destroy them if given the opportunity, and they will soon have to choose the path they will take.

From Dr. Dobson's book Straight Talk To Men.



Related Resources

Straight Talk to Husbands

My Greatest Challenge as a Dad

Your Wife Is Under Attack

Donate today and
support our mission

Donate