Judges 2:10
When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.

Psalm 78:2-4
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter [a]dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.

For centuries, men spoke of death as being “gathered to their fathers.” This created a sense of accountability to those who had come before them. Sons would think of themselves as carrying on the purposes of their fathers while also believing they would answer to their fathers at death. They didn’t take this as bondage or an oppressive set of demands from the dead. Instead, they lived more gallant and useful lives inspired by the hopes that rested upon them.

For most men today, there is sadness in knowing this. I’ve felt it many times. Our broken families, generation gaps, and absentee or unengaged fathers leave men longing for blessing and connection to the past but seldom knowing where to find it. We feel like generational orphans, like men without the fathers who might have laid one hand on us and another upon the past. We hunger for affirmation, impartation, and purpose. We want the blessing.

We should not despair. There is a God, and he can be a father to the fatherless. He can lead us into fields of honor while assuring the preparation, blessing, and ennobling purpose that others have had. The price may be, though—as with so much else that men of our generation lack—that God may meet us only after we have gone in pursuit.

We should not hesitate to go after this connection to heritage and find it where we can. I have friends who never knew their fathers yet who knelt before elderly veterans to ask their blessing. My friends later said they simply wanted someone who had lived a noble life to ask that God’s grace might be upon them. I know other men who studied their family and ethnic history and crafted their own liturgies in which they asked God together to grant them the spirit of their righteous ancestors. I have one friend who searched for years to find even a distant male relative who might bless him and stand with him in asking God to restore their lost family purpose. All these men were dramatically changed once they stopped lamenting what they did not have and went in pursuit of the best they could have.

We should not think of ourselves as men without heritage or belonging. We have fathers—of faith, of our national life, in our ethnic heritage, and even among extended family. We should work to restore the links to an elevating past wherever we can find them.

Challenge: Who is in a position to bless you? Your father, your tribal leader, the older males in your family, your spiritual mentors, or perhaps other relatives—all are possibilities. Keep in mind that mothers and other women in your life are candidates as well.