Author Dennis Mansfield was a leader in the evangelical public policy and pro-family movement for almost two decades working in association with Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. He was also an early leader in the Promise Keepers Movement and a candidate for US Congress in 2000. This book is his family’s story about his oldest and most beloved son’s descent into drug use that eventually took the young man’s life at age 27.
Mansfield is candid, transparent and humble as he describes his life as a young Christian, husband, and then father. Together with his wife Susan, they determined by God’s grace to parent their three children in the ways taught in the Bible. However, their oldest son, Nate, rebelled against them and the principles they held dear. Throughout this tender book detailing one of the most difficult challenges any family can face, that of losing a child, Mansfield describes the various parenting strategies he and Susan espoused and why they didn’t work.
"BEAUTIFUL NATE is more than a memoir of one family’s loss. It is a roadmap of sorts to help guide other families through the parenting journey, using faith in Christ as their cornerstone."
In three parts, the text is subdivided so that readers can traverse along with Mansfield’s life and family as they grew and matured along the way. In the first section, he writes about building the perfect family and how he and Susan adopted first the child-centered parenting style. Believing that they were doing everything in their power to protect and provide the best family life possible for their children, Mansfield cites the numerous flaws to this type of parenting. He then discusses how they changed to the much more biblically-based healthy intentional parenting, but fear of what others thought of them at times caused them to retreat into fear-based parenting. From every angle, Mansfield dissects and discusses how earnest moms and dads can be committed parents but still fall short of the mark when learning how to best rear their kids…and how disastrous the results can be in the process.
In part two, Mansfield reveals the years when Nate was most deeply involved in drugs and the extreme crisis his family endured during these seasons. He shares the pain they went through while Nate disappeared for periods of time, was jailed numerous times, and the conversations and letters they shared from afar. In the final portion of the book, Mansfield reflects upon life after his son’s death. Included here are notes from Nate’s final pastor, his fiancée, obituary, eulogy, and finally the epilogue.
Not one to retreat from the truth that in some ways they discovered they could have parented Nate better (as all parents come to realize), Mansfield shares his heart openly and offers readers the truth about what they did right and what they did wrong. BEAUTIFUL NATE is more than a memoir of one family’s loss. It is a roadmap of sorts to help guide other families through the parenting journey, using faith in Christ as their cornerstone. It is also a book of hope amidst heartbreaking pain and loss that points to the promise of everlasting life where loved ones who embrace Christ eventually will be reunited.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on April 12, 2013