June 16th, 2012
10:00 PM ET
By Tony Evans, Special to CNN
(CNN)–All I had ever known up until I was 10 years old was chaos in my home.
I was the oldest of four children and the atmosphere was volatile for all of us. My father and mother were in constant conflict, making divorce seem like the only possible outcome.
Having married young, they were still trying to figure out how to make life work. They often argued about how to handle finances, especially when there was little money to go around.
I could have ended up a casualty of a broken family, like so many of the kids around me in inner city Baltimore. But my life was forever changed the year I turned 10.
That was the year my dad turned to Jesus. He’d been invited to visit a nearby church for a special event. While there, two men asked him if he knew if he’d go to heaven when he died. He said he wasn't sure.
The men explained Christ’s sacrificial and all-encompassing atonement and, for the first time, my dad understood the path to salvation.
He didn’t just accept God’s salvation; he immediately became fired up about God and the Bible. He became an instant evangelist. Whenever my dad wasn't working, he’d take me along to pass out biblical tracts on street corners or in visits to the local prison.
If I went downstairs to get a glass of water late at night, I’d see Dad reading the Bible or praying on his knees. He had to do that when my mom wasn't watching.
My mom didn’t like my dad as a sinner, and she liked him even less as a saint. She did everything she could to make his life difficult. But my father did everything he could to show her love.
When my mom would start with him, he would stop what he was doing and start praying for her on the spot.
One night, my mom came down the stairs with tears in her eyes. My dad was reading his Bible.
She told him that she could not understand how the more she rejected him, was unkind to him and tried to prove that believing in God was wrong, the kinder he was to her and the more he invested in God’s word.
“I want what you have,” she said, “because it must be real.”
They got down on their knees and my dad led my mom to Christ. He led all of us kids to him too and modeled the value of making God the central focus in all that we did.
He held weekly Bible studies at our kitchen table and instilled a love for church in his kids. On the Wednesday nights that he had to work late, I would walk four miles to get to our church. Dad taught me to view all of life through a spiritual lens.
If my dad had not exhibited the courage to change, my home would have become another statistic. I would have ended up a casualty, and my own four children might have ended up casualties, too. It is common for children to end up as statistics when men do not accept their God-given responsibilities.
Forty percent of our children go to sleep at night with no dad at home, and the percentage is even higher among minority groups and in the inner city. Divorce is part of the problem, but many men father children without helping to raise them. They have become like the abominable snowman – their footprints are everywhere but they are nowhere to be found.
When fathers come home after a tough day at work, they should come home to serve, like my father did, teaching lessons around the dinner table and leading the family in worship and prayer.
For 35 years, my father had to lift heavy boxes as a longshoreman. But on Sunday mornings, even if he had to work all the night before, he'd wake us up. And I'd say, “But dad, I'm tired.”
He'd say, “No, son. I'm the one who’s tired. But we are going to church. Because for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tony Evans.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.