My parents didn’t have much in the way of solid, Christian parenting books when they were raising us back in the 80’s and 90’s, so I’m extremely grateful for the influx of resources like Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Gospel-Powered Parenting, and Give Them Grace that have been published for the next generation of dads and moms. I am no less grateful for the book I just finished: My Friend, My Hero, My Dad by Stephen Altrogge. Actually, I am more grateful for this little book than any book I’ve read on the subject for four of reasons.
- It’s a parenting book, but it’s also a biography – Altrogge uses his father’s example as a catalyst for instructing other fathers in the ways of raising their children in the admonition of the Lord. This approach was powerful for me because all of the instruction given in the book had been exemplified by a real man. And you never get the impression Altrogge’s dad is anything but an ordinary guy, unlike the impression you get when you read a biography on Charles Spurgeon or George Muller. His faithfulness combined with his normalcy seemed to say, “If you trust the Lord and obey his Word, you can do this too.”
- It’s a parenting book written by a son about his dad – This matters because it takes more than the experience of mediocre parenting to inspire a child to write a parenting book based on his parent’s example. This book would mean something quite different if it were written by a friend or colleague of this man. But his son wrote it, which means he saw his dad at his worst and weakest and yet still thought there was a wealth of help in his example to fill these pages.
- It’s a parenting book that includes principles and practices – Altrogge makes known the biblical principles his father operated on in his parenting, but he also details the practical side of his experience which I think other parenting books sometimes neglect. The reader is shown the precision with which one man chose to obey God’s Word, so that we see a father’s gentle rebuke of his children’s sin, his ability to lovingly probe his kids’ hearts with questions, his humility in accepting rebuke from his teenagers, and the many creative ways he sought to have fun with his family.
- It’s a parenting book that shows a father’s need for Christ – At every turn Altrogge makes it clear that his dad was a great father because he knew he was a great sinner who had a great Savior. This book is a story of a man who, by God’s grace, sought to faithfully serve his family as Christ had faithfully served him. This isn’t the story of a man who overcame all odds by pulling himself up by his own bootstraps and plodding forward in his own strength toward success. No, it’s a story of a man who faithfully parented out of the grace God lavished on him through Jesus. It’s a story that reinforces 1 Corinthians 15:58: be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. In our parenting, if we serve the Lord in his power, his way, for his glory, then he will not waste our labor.