Dr. Ed Young - Father Knows Best?
Ed Young: Recently, my son, Ben, interviewed me about what our home was like growing up. Let me tell you something confidentially. I was nervous. I assure you, as you will be able to see in a few moments, it was unscripted and unrehearsed. But in our conversation, we uncovered some Biblical truth that I pray you can use as you take one of the highest callings any of us can have, and that is to raise godly children.
Ben Young: Hey, let's start off talking, first of all, about your own father. Tell us what he was like and what your relationship was like.
Ed Young: Right, my dad was the hardest working man in the world, he literally was. Everybody knew Homer Young. They said he got up at 3:30 in the morning, he was at work at 4:00 if he got a minute late, and he'd was driven. All during the Second World War, he held two jobs. He'd work eight hours Richfield Power Company, he would immediately go and work for a mail company all into late at night. So, there were six days a week when I was a teenager or a young boy really, I wouldn't see him. My dad was, when I was a child, a young boy, he played with me, and we had a lot of fun together. He was an electrician. He would fix things. He'd show me how to fix things. It didn't take, of course, as you know, but we were very, very close until somewhere in the teenage years. My dad had a health challenge, and there... was he withdrew from me. I felt, as I look back, and I was frightened of him. I stayed away from him, I dealt with him as little as I could. What little money we had, he was very generous with me, but I had no relationship with him, really, in my teenage years all the way into adulthood. And so, I missed that father that I felt appreciated me, loved me. He had a real trouble with my going into the ministry. When I was studying engineering, University of Alabama, and when I felt God calling me to the ministry, I remember him saying you could really be something. You're throwing your life away, because he looked on the clergy as the laziest, most unproductive people in the world, because early on he was not a Christian. Now, he became a Christian, hopefully that helped a little bit, but still, he had no high view of my profession. So, my dad was hard working, he was diligent, he was honest, he was scrupulous in what he did. He loved my mother, he loved my brother, I felt that. I'm sure he loved me, though he never said I love you. Different generation, different time, and I miss, today, and I miss in that day. I tried, Ben, when I got older, I tried to sit down and talk with him. It was too late, it just could not happen. So, there's a vacuum in my heart that was never satisfied, so to say, God is our Father, I had to overcome that, and that may sound strange, but that's what happened in my home.
Ben Young: Do you feel like, at that time, when you were in high school, when you kinda felt the separation from your father, that someone else came into the picture, whether you were conscious or subconscious of that, to fill that role?
Ed Young: Absolutely, my coaches did. Floppy, Bishop, who was one of my coaches, and Flop, they loved me and reached out to me. I had a Bible study teacher, I had fathers of other of my friends who were just out there with us, and they got involved in our lives, and a lot of people. God put people in those gaps there for me, and that made a big, big difference.
Ben Young: There was a philosopher that said, you know, we have our biological fathers, but there also comes a point in time in our life that we choose, in a sense, a second father, or a second father chooses us. And they help kinda filling gaps that we have as kids growing up.
Ed Young: And we just need affirmation, just a little bit affirmation. I'm sure, coming up, when I said, Ben, that was good, that was fine, I went to every basketball game I think you ever played until you got to college. And so, that was what I loved. I identified with you. I tried to build the right stuff in you to let you know I was there, I cared, I, loved you. And I'm sure my dad did, but my mother was a strong disciplinarian, and and my dad sort of floated away, I felt, from me. But there were other men there who affirmed me. Just a little bit of praise for a child goes a million miles, particularly a teenager.
Ben Young: Right, that's huge, and I think there are a lot of people that are watching today that are single-parent moms, and they're wondering what can I do with my son or my daughter to have that experience if they're disconnected from their biological father? And what would you say to that and how does the church come in?
Ed Young: Well, this is who we are. These are the teachers in church, that's the reason. You know how careful we are as to who teaches, who leads our kids, our teenagers. We spend a lot of time in prayer tryin' to find those right guys, as well as female, who will be there and really help those parents build into those kids what God knows they need to get if they're going to survive in this crazy culture we live in.
Ben Young: Sure, and I can look back in my life and you and mom were always there at the same time. I needed those Bible study teachers. I needed my youth leaders. I needed my coaches also to affirm me and who I was as I was growing and maturing. And that's one of the great things about our church. We have so many avenues and ministries that allows for that kind of relationship to occur. Does that make sense?
Ed Young: In any area. Everybody didn't play sports, sometimes it was art, sometime it was travel, sometimes other interests that kids would have, and we try to keep all those doors open where they'll find a place that, you know, to identify this group, that group. Whether it was the intellectual group, whether it was a groups that they had to work to survive as well as go to school. So, you have all these different entities, and we as a church have to have that kind of openness and and that kind of ministry that touches the needs of so many different type of kids that come our way.
Ben Young: Sure, I wanna share a word from Scripture with us here today, and I want you to comment on it. And this is, by the way, this is unscripted, but I know you can comment. I think you've preached from this before, but I want you to comment on it as it relates to fathers. And it's in Ephesians 6, and it's where Paul says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord". So, talk to me about this verse off the cuff, because I know you've studied it for many decades, and what that means.
Ed Young: Well, you know, it's a mistake that I made many times, I think, as a father. It seems every time, Ben, for example in your life, you'd want to talk. It would be you'd come in from somewhere on Saturday night about, you know, 11:15, 11:30, and, all of a sudden, you wanted to talk. Well, I had to go to work the next morning. Sunday was my day. I had on my game face, so you'd go and start sharing with us, and sit down on the bed, and I'd be very impatient, I'd say, "Ben, man, let's do this tomorrow," and so I did that about once or twice, and your mother said, with her great wisdom, said, "Look, Edwin, when they want to talk, we listen". So, after that, Cliff never heard that, maybe Ed never heard that, and you didn't hear that again. I saw she was right. And so many times, we frustrate our kids. When they want to talk, we'd better push everything over to the side and listen, otherwise there's frustration there. Also we can not discipline enough, and we can discipline too much. We can be right as fathers and mothers, and discipline our children, but the tone of voice in which we do it, the manner in which we do it, our approach in which we do it, the timing in which we do it, otherwise we exasperate them, they think we don't care, and young kids interpret love time, Time, it's time we spend with them is the most important thing that we can do. I remember the kid that said to me, when you think of your mother, what do you think of? And you'd say, "Well, I think of a big mouth". I said what would you like to think of. "I'd like to think of a big ear". So, we have to listen, listen, ask little questions, and then we'll have a place in which they will come to us. "Train up a child way they should go when they're old they'll not depart from it". What does that mean? Well, I hope I built the right stuff. No, when they're old they'll come and they'll be a friend, and they will look to you for counsel. Your girls come to you and say, "Dad, what about this"? If you haven't built the right stuff back there, they wouldn't come.
Ben Young: Right, I think that's a great word, too, and I think as parents, as fathers and mothers, patience, patience, patience. Because kids go through stages. And I know a lot of people are worried, well, my son is not excited about church as he used to be, or my daughter's not, and the story's not finished yet. And I know, in my home, because I went through a divorce, so my daughters were living between two parents in their junior and senior high years, I had to be very patient in waiting for them, and being consistent, and being there, and knowing that they're trying to navigate a very difficult situation. And so, I think all parents are trying to help their kids navigate different situations that are stressful, but sometimes we get really impatient. Like, how come they don't get it yet?
Ed Young: And what I did, I tried to put all three of you guys into same mold, and you're totally different. It took me a while to figure that out. I had, you know, Ed first, and then you, then Cliff came on after the fact. You know, Cliff got the benefit or the curse of all of you that went ahead. And I think we did a better job with Cliff that we did with you or with Ed, because we were more mature as parents, we weren't as impatient, we'd been there before, we understood some of the things he was going through. I think we were better parents. I'd love to do it all over again. You know, people say, you know, gosh, I'm so glad. I love the empty nest, don't get me wrong, but I'd love a second shot, because I think I'd be a better father with all three of my sons. So, I wanna impart all that we can, Ben, by our mistakes, what we learned, what we did A+, what we didn't do very well. We need to impart that to this next generation.
Ben Young: Sure, and what would you say are, like, three things that you've seen fathers do in your lifetime and your ministry? Either you've done them or you've watched other fathers who were successful in raising good kids. What are some of those key things, if you can narrow down to three or more?
Ed Young: Well, I remember once very, very clearly, I don't know how old you were, but I'd been somewhere, and I'd come home, and spoken, and probably about a little gift, and I was sittin' as you picked up the paper, and I'd always read you the paper like this, in the chair in the den, and you asked me something, and I commented, and you mentioned this, and I committed, and you came and crashed through that paper. I remember it like yesterday. And you looked at me, he says, you said, "Look at me, Dad, look at me". And I learned a great lesson right then. Look at your children. Get down on the floor with your children. Get on their level, have fun with your kids. That's the first thing we need to impart to our kids when they come into this world. The second thing I would say is to discipline your children, but do it very carefully and very prayerfully. Discipline them appropriate to age. I see a lot of parents of teenagers, oh, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I don't have anything in common with them. Well, it's not too late, but you missed it all back there in not building relationship. You build relationship with time, with interest, with with love, not with gifts. And you build a relationship when they're children, and it comes through naturally, and therefore teenage years, I can truthfully say, Ben, the teenage years with you three guys were terrific years for me. I enjoyed them more in any other years. Watching them grow, and develop, and dating, all the challenges there. It's because I think that your mother and I, we had built a relationship with you, and she helped me interpret you, and I helped her interpret you. You need the male approach and the female approach to understand these kids. So, have fun with him, build a relationship with them, and let them know one thing. Whatever happens, your love does not vary. When you made a mistake, my love was consistent. When you did great, my love was consistent. And that's the way God treats us, thank God. So, that's the three things that popped into my mind when you think about parenting.
Ben Young: Let's talk about... because we're meeting here and talking in a gymnasium for a reason. Tell, 'cause I've been asked, this is kind of selfish, I'm gonna be selfish here for a second. But I know a lot of people have this question. I've been asked this question a million times, literally, and that is what was it like growing up in a preacher's home, or growing up in our home. I've been asked that question, I can't tell you, so I'm going to be selfish and I'm gonna ask you to describe how you remember what our home was like growing up. 'Cause I think people have a lot of misconceptions.
Ed Young: People said when all of you were kids, well, it's a preacher's kid, you know, they're gonna... that made me upset more than any other thing. I said, look, in our home, we are seeking to build a Christian home, independent of the church, the deacons, what everybody thinks. I didn't let that enter into my thinking or your mother's thinking. We just wanted to have a Christian home, period. We didn't let people put us in a box. You never heard me say, well, you can't do that because you're a preacher kid, or you... no, that's not how we built things in. That's so important in the clergy, understanding of this. I told the church before I came here, really, when I was talking to the pulpit committee a hundred years ago, I said let me tell you something. I said, if my boys happen to have a basketball game, say 11 o'clock Sunday morning, I'm going to be that game. I'm going to miss church that Sunday. They looked at me, I didn't mean that literally, because I don't think it would ever happen, but I was telling them my highest priority was my wife and my guys, period. It's above anything else you got here right in this itinerary. And I think any parent needs to say they're the highest priority. Your mate first, then your kids. Mate, kids, you keep that right, you're going to have a home that's fun, a home that's full of love.
Ben Young: Right, and I think, too, what I tell folks when I get asked that question, and a lot of times it's people who are working in the church who will ask what was it like to grow up in our home? And I would say that you and mom did not shove the Bible down our throats. You weren't like, hey, you better be sure you're praying every day. You better read your Bible every day. The only non-negotiable is that we're church people, not because we were PKs, preacher's kids, but we went to church. But you guys didn't, you know, shove religion down our throats or brainwash us as some people would want to use that term. And I think I remember you saying that one of your goals growing up is that our house would be fun, you know, which leads us to the court. And talk to us about basketball and why that's been such a big part of our story growing up.
Ed Young: Well, you know, I was a frustrated basketball player. I played in high school, I was average, I guess would be the best word. I got better as I grew older, and when I was in seminary, I was probably capable of playing maybe small college basketball, but I was a slow mature. And in a lot of ways, I said to people if I'd been taller, faster, could handle the ball better, shoot better, jump higher, I'd been a good player. I made it up on hustle, Ben, but it was sort of a part that we did early on with Ed. He played with a basketball on the floor, and you did the same thing. And Ed passed it onto you, you passed it on the Cliff. So, that was sort of our game, and we went out and we played in the backyard. We played each other, I played one-on-one with all you guys, and it just evolved into that. We'd watch it on television, my goodness, you know basketball way, way back in the day. And so, it was sort of my getting where did I get that? From my dad, my dad, believe it or not, from Cragford, Alabama. When he finished high school, he got offered to play basketball at Auburn.
Ben Young: I did not know that. I didn't know that.
Ed Young: Yeah, he didn't do it, he had to go, he went to work, but so it was sort of built in. My dad loved basketball. See, he built a backboard for me, and built a homemade rim that was smaller than the regular rim, so, you know that was sorta, it's one of those things a family passes on. You were a part of that, a victim of that. Dad, talk to us about how the times have changed and how parenting today, for both of us really, this new generation of fathers, it's new for them. What's different about raising kids today than it was when you were raising us, or even when I was raising my kids?
Ed Young: Well, I look at the grandkids, and I see the difference in, primarily, this is the difference. Because kids today, this is the posture that you see, and they live by this, they communicate by this, they study by this. This becomes the center of their life. Somewhere we've got to take this and put it to one side if we're going to really get through to our kids or to anybody. And it's gravitated off to mothers and dads, and that's the way it goes. This is a real problem in our society. It's an asset, it's a wonderful gift that we have, but it can totally saturate personality, particularly kids. They've been brought up with this, and it's a deadly thing to be brought up with.
Ben Young: Yeah, it's a double-edged sword, technology is. I mean, you can look back at the automobile. That was a game-changer, in our society, much like the cellphone. It gave the kids and young people mobility, and then eventually that's why we don't have communities today, because you can live anywhere you want, primarily because of the automobile. And with that, you can go around the world.
Ed Young: It's worse, I think we need to put these things aside for days at a time, or even weeks at a time. I heard today a wonderful thing. They said in light of all of our problems we have today in our broken America, what do we do about it? How do we get sanity back? And the suggestion was made, cut off your TV and all your communication for a week. Just cut it off. Just back away from it. And after about a week, it will cleanse your heart and spirit, and all the heavy things that come on us from the virus, from the riots in the street we'll begin to be able to put things in perspective, and once again, be able to see, maybe the view that God would give us in that book. I think that's good counsel.
Ben Young: I think that's great. I think one thing that we can do that's simple is when you're having a meal with your family, have a shoe box, and everybody puts their cell phones, at least for a meal, everybody puts the cell phone in the shoe box, and then after the meal is over, you can get your, or just have a room, you know. We just don't do that. And I think this is a game-changer in the 21st century. And I think we have to deal with it radically. I don't think we just taper off, we've got to have things, like you said, this is when we cut it off. And there are times in which you are unavailable. I talked to Elton Trueblood personally when I was a youngster at Wake Forest.
Ben Young: Yeah, tell them have Elton Trueblood is.
Ed Young: Elton Trueblood was a Puritan. He was a wonderful author for many years. He wrote one or two books a year, a real scholar, a real visionary, a godly man. And I asked him, I said, Dr. Trueblood, give me some advice about the ministry. He said if you're available all the time, you're not available any of the time. There's gotta be times you shut down your life. And I've practiced that through the years. I listened to that. And you know, Ben, I have days I'm unavailable, because I'm alone. I'm tryin' to get ready. I'm preparing my heart and my life for things. And see, somebody already is tryin' to get me. They're already after me. So, I think we have to do that. We have to realize we can't be available all the time, but we really have to have those times away from all the media, where God can do something in our life.
Ben Young: And I think that really when you look, I call them the fly-over verses in the gospel, there are those verses where it says, you know, Jesus was ministering to thousands of people, and it said he broke away from them and he went away to a lonely place to pray. Or they were looking for Christ, and he was up in the mountains praying alone. So, if Jesus Christ who is God in the flesh needed those times to reconnect with his Father, how much more do we need.
Ed Young: Being available all the time, you're not available any of the time. Your all the time means nothing unless you have this vertical time. The horizontal time, boy, we love that, the vertical time, we have to learn also to love that. And through the years, I'll have to tell you, without being super pious, I love this more and more.
Ben Young: Dad, if you could speak to those that are watching and give them a challenge, or a word of blessing, what would you say to them?
Ed Young: You know, the Bible says that fathers are to be lovers and leaders in the home. That's our verse there, that we started with, Ben. Right, and if fathers become lovers and leaders in the home, hey, look out, there's a real home there. Something will happen that you've never seen before. Recently, I led a father to Christ. He's older man, had older children, and he went back, and for the first time, it's been about eight months ago, he said, you know what I did? I prayed with my family. He said we all wept. He was a father who was a quasi-Christian, now experienced a relationship with Jesus Christ. And when he prayed for his family for the first time, it was revolutionary. And he said, you know, I wish somebody told me how to walk with Christ many, many years ago. Dads, the biggest problem in America and the world today are homes without fathers, even if they're present, they're not fulfilling the Biblical role of being a leader. You know what that means? And being a lover. Fathers, dads, begin to lead in love, look out. America will be radically changed. Let me right now pray a prayer, if I could, Ben, upon parents.
Father, I do lift up my hands. I'd love to put my hand on the head of every father here, especially, and every mother here, that they truly may walk with you. They will always keep the love light burning within their relationship with one another. And let them, Father, look at their kids and ask you, O Lord, how they should superintend their life, how they can best love them, guide them, train them, build in those things that will last forever. Lord, bless the dads, especially. We know they're to be the spiritual leader and lover in the home. Teach some of these dads right now how to live that out, in Jesus's name, amen.