In selecting material for this feature on Teenage Years we thought that an article from a member of a family without a father to assist in bringing up the children may be of assistance to others. We therefore asked members of the family to reflect upon those years and now present the following article which we feel will be of benefit to all. We would mention, for the benefit of readers, that the family consisted of the sister and her seven children. The seven have all accepted the Truth, the older six being now married in the Truth.

In ancient times the fatherless and the widows were a group in Israel who were easily forgotten and very much exposed to the problem of obtaining even the basic necessities of life. Ezekiel says that as a result of war the widows in Israel were increased (Ezek 22:25), and the Lord referred to the depressed state of Israel when he said that there were many widows in the famine in Elijah’s day. The need of the widow was often a desperate one (cp 1 Kings 17:12). The great promise that Yahweh gave was that He would support the fatherless and the widow. In fact He deemed it a fit punishment to utterly destroy those who forsook the fatherless and widow: “Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless” (Exod 22:22–24).

Specific provision was made under the law, and the most beautiful illustration of the spirit of the law is the story of Boaz’s support for the fatherless and the widow, Ruth and Naomi.

Today things differ little in this regard. Although federal and state monetary support is given, great mental and moral pressure is placed upon those who are in this position. The following brief thoughts and observations come as a result of a period as a youngster, adolescent and brother in a family without a father. Some background may help the reader to appreciate that life was quite different materially from that of a household with a father figure and income earner. I had younger family members and as one of the older ones I was called upon to be an example to those younger. We owned less than fifty percent of our suburban Australian home and none of us was yet working; our income was the state pension. Conversely to popular belief, probably the lesser concern of mother’s worries was related to money. It was more the pressure of an ungodly age and young minds that were growing and learning in an unnatural and less than normal environment that was her main concern. As I reminisce on my childhood and teenage years the practical issues that follow were very important aids to assist all of our family members to ultimately accept the Truth.

Friendship

 As young children we were very susceptible to the environment we were in and therefore it was essential that this was of the highest standard. Mother discerned critically between the types of peers we would be amongst. The influence of these friends was to play one of the most important parts of our maturing later in life. This meant more than just telling us who we were to mix with. She encouraged us to invite other Christadelphian children to come with us on holidays, weekends and family outings. In this way Mother maintained a pattern of control and these children had to conform to the things we did. School camps were shunned, not only because of limited financial resources, but because the company of school children was discouraged as every effort was made to ensure that a family and Godly-orientated atmosphere was maintained. I well remember an exasperated headmaster exit plaining to my mother that her children were not worldly wise and a very meaningful, “Thankyou, I am glad to hear it”, coming from mother in reply. We relished the companionship of other children and always learned (oftentimes the hard way) from those who came from stable families in the Truth. Not unexpectedly we would later in life choose companions from amongst those with whom we mixed as a family and this was perhaps one of the greatest benefits of these associations.

Family Tasks and Prioritising

 Family life is generally busy and more so without a father. Two things resulted from this environment.

  • We learned most things in the “school of hard knocks”
  • We learned to work together whilst getting tasks done.

Mother insisted that we were to complete weekly tasks and rostered daily jobs to keep things running smoothly. This meant that playing, reading or our own personal interests (including preparation for study weekends and Bible study) came second to these tasks. This in itself was good enough motivation to ensure our jobs were done fairly and promptly. We came to realise that we were part of a “family” and this was of primary concern. Furthermore this kept our household in a measure of order and cleanliness that certainly would not have been the case had we been unrestrained. This was of significance in a family of seven children as there always seemed to be a never ending stream of repairs, lawn mowing, cleaning and the like to be accomplished. Cleanliness and orderliness are Godly characteristics (Prov 24:30–32) and although the tasks were often meagre and seemingly unimportant it taught us the great lessons of diligence and respect for others.

Finance

 This did present a number of problems that could only be solved, as we were to find, by patience and a diligent application to managing the funds that were available. We were however richly blessed with frequent and anonymous support from the brotherhood in the form of food baskets, clothing, visits and even a car! The spirit of this encouraged us in troublous times. We never went hungry or had insufficient clothing, for which we thank our Heavenly Father. The following criteria applied however and to some degree made this possible.

We ate the things put in front of us at dinner— there were no options (we weren’t even given an alternative to tripe one night).

The word “fashion” was not in our clothing language; and yet I never remember any of us looking shabby despite this. We were satisfied to be clothed in what had been given us or handed down—there was no shame in this. Clothes were often patched but never untidy. Sadly today’s materialistic world would have families believe that vogue shoes and dress are the only appropriate clothing.

A regular schedule of costs was kept and if the “budget” didn’t allow an activity it was accepted that there might be a time later on, if we saved hard enough, to enjoy this particular event as a treat or special occasion. I never once remember anything being put on credit through this period and we have all benefited from our experience in this regard. We were encouraged from the time we received our first week’s wage to put a small portion away for a “house”. This small piece of advice was never really appreciated until we had to buy a home. Further advice included to “only buy what you have sufficient money for”. Simple advice, but very worthwhile as the world pursued an endless stream of debilitating and disappointing credit and lay-by options.

Authority

 As young people this topic became of major importance. Mum’s word was considered law and was rarely, if ever, unfair. This alone however didn’t take all the pressure off a busy household, as every parent will know. Frequently Mum sought the advice of the arranging brethren or an older brother or sister who were involved with us as a tutor or Sunday School teacher. For Mum this provided fundamental support when arguments would have resulted (and often did) in a situation of tension and unrest. This became even more critical as we became older teenagers and thought we knew it all anyway. We grew to respect the balance and wisdom of older brethren. I say “grew” because this didn’t happen overnight nor without tearful incident and we had to learn, as all young people do, that God (and our parents) want us to listen. “My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov 4:20–23).

Another source of relief to the burden of a busy family was to make the classes and lectures a priority. This is all we had. I well remember (even though I was only 10) a dear widowed sister who regularly stayed with us while Mum went to the Bible class. This was my first introduction to Bible marking and we did simple but very useful projects such as colouring in the Name and titles of Deity or the many different forms of the word “love” in the New Testament. How valuable these little projects have been in our readings ever since.

The Readings

 When pressure was evident and fear prominent it was the family gathering around the readings that inspired us all. We became reliant on these few moments to sit in the lounge and contemplate a Bible story and share ideas. As I look back now I realise how little we knew of the great things of the Word but it was truly our Rock upon which we trusted. We appreciated the unplanned and frequent arrival of an older brother and sister at our door who would often come just to do the readings. This kind of visit was of the most useful kind. As every household finds, we rush around with lots of “things” to do; however all other matters became insignificant when the older couple arrived. We were always richer for their visits and all we needed was encouragement to stop all the “things” that had to be done and start the readings.

As a family we are most thankful to our Heavenly Father “who hath not left off his kindness” and has given us much, despite hardship and struggle. We shared times of great joy and times of trouble and sorrow. We are thankful also to many brethren and sisters whose patience and advice was wholesome, direct and Godly. For us there is no greater joy than to see our own families now growing in Godly ways because of the diligence, determination and wise advice given us by those who unselfishly helped us. To widows, fatherless or single mothers we can offer no better encouragement than the words of Solomon, whose wealth of experience and Spirit-guided pen wrote, “… a woman that feareth Yahweh, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates” (Prov 31:31).