Book review: Father as patrolman

21 Jan 2009

By The Record

Point Man: How a Man Can Lead His Family by Steve Farrar
Reviewed by Mark Reidy

IN December last year, Archbishop Barry Hickey named the growing absence of fathers as the biggest family and social problem that faces society today.
It is “…bigger than anger, aggression, alcohol, drugs, crime and under-achievement by children”, he lamented, “because it is the biggest single contributor to all of them”.
His words summed up everything I have experienced in almost two decades of working in the welfare field and explains why I felt so drawn to Point Man.
As a Pastor in the US in the 1980s, author Steve Farrar began to recognise that men’s failure to embrace the role that God had called them to, was the force behind 90 per cent of his counselling issues.
He recognised, as does our insightful Archbishop, that the inability of fathers to fulfil their role as spiritual leaders of the family is the key to the moral and social unravelling that we see today.
A “Point Man”, Farrar explains, is the man who walks in the front of a patrol in a war zone. His role is to be alert to any danger so that he can forewarn those who follow. Today’s family is at war, he states emphatically, and it is necessary for fathers to be more vigilant than ever in protecting their families from the ravages of, amongst other things, divorce, prostitution, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide.
However despite the increasing casualty list of those falling victim to such problematic behaviours, Farrar is quick to acknowledge that children can also be robbed of their full potential in more subtle ways. 
An emotionally absent father can be as devastating as a physically absent one, he claims, and it is essential that moral strength is consciously and constantly built into a child’s life from an early age so that are equipped to weather the storms of the teenage years.
This strengthening is the responsibility of the father and can only occur if he is physically and emotionally present.
 The author believes that it is very easy for men to become inadvertently alienated from their wives and children under the guise of work and other “positive pursuits”, however it is vital, he writes, that men become passionate in their desire to become better fathers than they are attorneys, salesmen, foremen, pastors or doctors.
Farrar intermingles his insights and experience with just the right balance of humour, anecdotes, quotes and the wisdom of professionals, to produce an easy read that was effective, for me at least, in producing an awareness of how far I had drifted from my God-appointed role.
Farrar focuses attention on the importance of a father’s commitment to a mother and sees this as the foundation of effective parenting. He also stresses the need to be eternally vigilant to the temptations of adultery and how easily and unexpectedly relationships can be hijacked in this way.
However after spelling out the pitfalls and dangers that stalk any relationship, Farrar provides the reader with suggestions on how men can become “spiritual self-starters” which he says is vital in a world that will pull men in many directions.
He offers a plan for an effective and practical prayer life that is compatible to the busyness of the life, which, as a father of three, he clearly understands. He also provides a study and discussion guide for those who desire to explore this issue deeper, whether individually or as a group.
Farrar is distinctly American in his approach, especially with his sporting analogies and references, but the messages he portrays are still clear. He is passionate in his desire to inspire men to become better husbands and fathers and he effectively outlines the spiritual, emotional and physical rewards that come to the families of men who embrace their God-given roles. This is a book that addresses the most important issue that faces our society today and one that I hope will be seen by many fathers, and those who desire to be fathers, as possible.
I would be surprised if any one could read this book and not become a better man for it.