Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Pursuit of God (but Not Family)

One of A. W. Tozer's deficiencies was his neglect of his wife and children.

In Lyle Dorsett's biography of Tozer, as he charts Tozer's life, he returns periodically to this theme of Tozer's family. There was virtually no intimacy between A. W. and his wife Ada, and it wasn't because Ada didn't want there to be. A. W. threw much of his energy into knowing God and the ministry that grew from that. A. W. was content to relate to his wife at the shallowest of levels, and Ada was hurt by that. A. W. was often inconsiderate of his wife's needs, often spurning raises and giving away money while his wife struggled with the little money that was left to keep hearth and home together.

Dorsett doesn't blanch in relating this flaw in Tozer, but at the same time he does offer some balancing perspective, though it does not in anyway excuse Tozer. Tozer's own father showed no affection whatsoever. Tozer spoke warmly of his mother but rarely mentioned his father. And in all fairness, it is believed by all who knew Tozer, including his seven children, that he never intentionally hurt Ada; he was just ignorant of the pain he caused.

Ada for her part was hurt to the core and felt wronged for years. It seems she may have struggled some with bitterness, I'm not sure. But to her credit, only a few knew about the pain she bore because of Tozer's insensitivity, and of those few, most surmised it; they didn't learn it directly from her. She didn't grumble or complain. She kept it to herself. (And she was proud of her husband and his ministry.)

It would be incorrect to say, I think, that the Tozers grew apart; rather, they never grew together.

And with regards to his kids, none of the kids ever remembered their father giving to them affection; none ever remembered any kind of initmacy with their dad, with the possible exception of the youngest and the only girl, Rebecca. To be sure their dad did some things with them. He took them on nature walks and taught them how to shoot, for example, but a great deal was missing.

One of the things that bothered the kids, too, was that he never wanted to visit relatives, his own or Ada's. Such visits were done without him. Further, whenever they asked about his growing up, he was almost as silent as a clam. Fortunately, their mother would tell them.

One of the ironies is that Tozer invested in other people, particularly young men with promise or various men on staff with him, but the investment in his children was virtually nil.

Interestingly, "all seven of Tozer's children became solid Christians and not one of them carried bitterness in their heart toward their father."

A year after Tozer died, Ada married Leonard Odam, and the happiest period of her life (age 65-75) ensued. "I have never been happier in my life. Aiden loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me."


  • I am occasionally anxious about how well I'm doing as a father and husband. Comparing myself to Tozer gives me some encouragement.

  • The most important decision a person has to make is to follow Christ. The fact that all 7 of Tozer's kids followed Jesus is good. It probably happened despite Tozer, but maybe not.

  • A. W.'s relationship with Ada will be/is healed in Paradise/Heaven.

  • If they had been in the same generation, I wonder what Tozer would have thought of James Dobson and Focus on the Family.

  • While his relative neglect of his wife and children seems in my mind a huge flaw, it does not mean that he didn't get anything right. His anointing and his character were profound, and I will still read him with great profit.


Vasile said...

The children will follow Christ when they see that their parents love Him more than anything else.
It's not a coincidence their children follow Christ.

Chua HK said...

I am not quite sure if we should based on the words of a person (his wife Ada in this case) to judge AW Tozer. Sometimes comments may come across as critical of someone but we need to see the context of the whole. The bible said, by their fruits you should know them. The fact that the children all come out solid Christian is a testimony of the things that happened in closed doors. I do not doubt that AW Tozer is a man of God in his own rights!

D. J. Mercado said...

Along the same lines, if the children were in any way resentful of their father (which they would have naturally been if the neglect was severe enough), then they would have also been resentful of his God. Instead, they all grew up devoted to Jesus Christ. That, more than anything or anyone else, tells me what kind of father A.W. Tozer was.

Anonymous said...

No, more than anything or anyone else, it tells me what kind of mother they had. Ada Tozer was the greater influence on the children because she was with them. She trained them. She showed them love and significance in spite of their dad.

Bob Justice said...

I have learned much from Tozer's insights about scripture. I do find him somewhat overly critical of any ministry that doesn't share his passion. I get the feeling that he didn't approve of Billy Graham, even he didn't name him, but I could be wrong. The one thing that overwhelmingly defines Tozer is that he loved God with every fiber in him.

Chris Nelson said...

You cannot be intimate with God and not your wife, scripture is clear about that truth.

Anonymous said...

I always liked Tozer's books, but I was also glad that he wasn't in them too much. He didn't come across as very likable. Him and Lewis were contemporaries. Lewis was less saintly but I would prefer him as a friend over Tozer. I have no idea how God feels about those things.

Caroline Almeida said...

Grace and Peace!

One of the things that raised a flag in my mind is something that I noticed Ada said: "I have never been happier in my life. Aiden loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me."

We see here, a clear sign of bitterness toward God, not toward Tozer. It looks liket she had the need to be the priority of his live. If she had sought first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things would be given to her as well. She would be able to leave a mark and not a stain.

Caroline Almeida said...

Please excuse any typos; sometimes our good intentions are trumped by spell check.😁 said...

We have this treasure in earthen vessels that is may be evident that any power comes from God and not from us. Our earthen vessels are the source of "we all often offend." Given this, we need to use caution in assuming things not directly in evidence. Inferring from Mrs. Tozer's statement about her 2nd husband, that her first husband was "less than" seems a bit uncharitable. Regardless, I find it difficult to disparage the man who wrote, "if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame." When I first read this my heart leapt with joy in my chest. Reading this book preface along with the fast from Isaiah 58 I realize there is hope for us. This is my first post ever on a Christian website. Frank Lamp

Anonymous said...

Somehow, this godly man inspires me in my walk with My Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus told us about the church In Ephesus which had left their first love. He wants to be our first love and our greatest love from what the Bible teaches. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart. It doesn't mean that we cannot love our family, deeply. We all come from different backgrounds, some are blessed with godly parents others not. He seems to have had little affection from his dad. Personally, most of my life I was looking for love, just to be loved for myself. I did not find that kind of love until the age of 36 when I gave my life to Jesus Christ. In all my life, no one has ever loved me more and keeps on loving me for myself, yes, inspite of myself, until my dying breath! That is why I love Jesus Christ with all my heart and all that is within me. I can promise you that you will never find a greater love than Jesus Christ in all this world, the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.