I grew up with a sister.
No stinky little brother with whom I had to share a room or bathroom. No teenage boy humor to endure. No father-son rough-housing interactions to experience how boys “grow into men.” Yet from early on, my husband has said he doesn’t want to raise a boy, but a man. I’ve had some catching up to do.
Over the years I’ve thought about, written about, and encouraged the characteristics I admire in a man: Strong, Protector, Provider, Faithful, and a Family man. Yet as we are navigating high school years and looking at the societal landscape, there are fewer and fewer of these men around as aspirational role models. There are fewer rites of passage for boys to be welcomed into the fold of manhood, and seemingly, there are fewer and fewer grandfathers and dads involved in the coming of age of their boys.
Maybe you have noticed this too – fewer boys participating in Cub and Boy Scouts, let alone staying the course to earn their Eagle Scout rank. Fewer boys enter the branches of the military. Even the simple activities of fishing, hunting, building a fire (indoors or out), grilling or camping together have disappeared from most father-son interactions.
So, when a recent conversation arose, I knew we were at a fork in the road. I desperately wanted to direct our son to current society’s less trodden path, yet the path of character that had blessed his grandfathers and great-grandfathers prior. Our conversation was unmemorable, yet typical, with “it’s what everyone does” statements. As my frustration grew, I blurted out “I don’t want you to be ‘that’s what guys do,’ I want you to be exceptional!”
And with that outburst, I knew where I needed to go. In the past, as God has wrestled with me over situations regarding our son, multiple times He has led me to Luke 2:52:
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
You probably have stopped and thought about Jesus living on earth, but have you ever thought how it was for Jesus growing up? As a boy in the village of Nazareth, He likely attended the synagogue school, learned a trade, experienced gawky stages and growing pains. All the while, He prayed to His heavenly Father and developed relationships with those around Him. While living amongst us, we have records that He empathized with our troubles. He learned obedience in His suffering (Hebrews 5:8), yet during his earthly life, Jesus never sinned. Never even sinned in His thoughts (Hebrews 4:15). Amazing!
Over the past couple of years, God has led me to Luke 2:52 on a few occasions. In 2021 it appeared to me six times in three weeks. I journaled each, as each additional time seemed momentous in its reveal – from sharing with my running buddy, Tara, what I learned in my parenting group, to two high school coaches talking about how their focus will be about growing athletes physically and spiritually, to reading a devotional on it, to Priscilla Shirer preaching on it, a fellow Good Word blog referencing it, to the final affirmation by Preacher Thelma who proclaimed “This is God convicting what He has established for your son!”
I have since made a photo prompt of it for me to pray as we make decisions about our son. For example, we simply ask will this activity, friend group, or decision build our young man in the ways of God mentally, physically, spiritually, and/or relationally?
From this approach, here are a few attributes God has pointed out as ways in boys, not His men:
- The inability to stand tall, be confident, look me in the eyes, and say hello to me. These areas show a lack of physical stature and relationship, as well as confidence in themselves.
- As to the current trend of teens wearing hoodies up and earbuds in, we’ve encouraged our son to engage and be present with the people around him.
- Using popularity to cancel others – Satan loves to play in this arena using pride, ego, and jealousy to name a few. Not Jesus. He used His relationship capital to encourage others, He loved on them versus cutting them down. He sought out and befriended those society deemed ‘outcasts.’
It’s not easy to go against the grain in society. Not at my age, let alone for teenagers, who just want to fit in. Some days they truly do want to hide. Yet, in a time where sports have become culture’s church and social media “influencers” have become its leaders, we need to question and prompt our kids and their actions to be counter-cultural more and more. We need to help them seek time with their Heavenly Father and nearby men of faith.
Over the years, I have gotten glimpses of our son becoming a man. Last January, he and I were on a mother-son ski trip out west. On the last run of the day, I decided to show off on a steep, slick area of the mountain. As I picked up speed, I knew I was being foolish, but wham! Too late. I fell and twisted my knee. After gathering the yard-sale of my skis and poles, checking that I could ski down, (albeit slowly due to the shooting pain in my knee), I offered my son and friend to go ahead, get two more runs in, and meet me at the Roundhouse. With a firm shake of his head and a determined voice “Mom, I’m not going to leave you.” I was now blinking away a different type of tears.
In a time when teens don’t want to hug their moms, they need hugs the most. So as awkward as it is, keep hugging them. Keep encouraging these manly attributes. And yes, I also look for these traits in the boys my daughter brings home. What a pity it would be for her to marry a boy instead of a man.
On this Christmas week, as you sing about Jesus in the manger, remember that before that baby grew into the Man who walked on water, cast out demons, multiplied bread and fish more than once, delivered one of the most memorable passages of scripture of the Sermon on the Mount… He was a teenager. He had stinky feet, unkempt hair, and strange friends, and He followed His Heavenly role model perfectly. Let’s help direct the boys in our households and our circles to seek relationships with God and faith-filled role models. Let’s look for glimpses and reinforce those actions to help boys become faithful Men.
Lord, thank You for being the ultimate authority of Protection, Security, and Love. And for giving us an earthly example of how You desire children to mature and become more like You. Please continue to nudge me where I am accepting the norm, the societal definitions instead of Yours. I desire exceptional, as You created mankind to be. Amen.