This is the third installment of our series of posts on raising boys to be men. JoAnn is a mother of six, three boys and three girls.
If I forget to thaw the chicken, we aren't having chicken tonight. That's the way it goes. That's life. We'll get home, lament the frozen bird, and order Papa John's. It won't be good for our arteries or our pocketbooks, but it will be something. We will fill ourselves with something.
If I don't look ahead and plan our family's summer vacation, one of two things will happen. The first is that we won't go on vacation at all. The second is that I'll scurry around like a crazy woman days before we want to get away and find that hotel prices are through the roof, no one in my family has a bathing suit that fits, and the kennels are all booked up, so what are we going to do about the dogs? By the time we get in the car, I'll be a frazzled mess.
If in August I don't think about the skills I need my students to have in May, I won't prepare them well for their next academic year. There will be holes in their learning. I won't find out till it’s too late that I forgot to teach the semicolon or the adverb or the compound sentence. I won't have done my job.
Planning is a good thing. Planning helps us thrive.
Perhaps the greatest need we have as a society right now is for boys to become men, and that requires planning--intentional, strategic, and consistent planning. Boys don't just magically become real men. Do boys grow up? They grow older, yes. Do boys mature? Some do. But true wisdom, humility, leadership, gentlemanliness, courage, graciousness, faithfulness . . . these things must be taught and honed.
If my husband and I don't teach our son to converse respectfully, he won't become a man who knows how to listen to others and respond in a loving manner. If we don't teach our son to do hard things and develop grit, he may decide college isn’t worth the hassle. What if, later on, he quits his job when the boss says something unfavorable? If we constantly save our son from pain and hardship now, how will he stick it out when the rent is due, when the car doesn't start, when he has to put in overtime, when his wife is angry, or when his baby is teething and crying all night? If we allow our son to walk off the field today because he says football is "too hard," will he one day decide that being a husband is too hard? That being a father is too hard? Will he be a real man, or will he walk away from the promises he made and the responsibilities he has?
If we want our son to be a man, we have to plan now, and that requires asking the hard questions ahead of time. What do we want our son to look like when he's walking across the stage at graduation? What kind of man do we want to send out in the world? How should he carry himself? How should he dress? How should he speak? Will he have a good work ethic? What kinds of things should he read so as to become wise? How should he spend his free time? Will he have a delightful sense of humor, or will he laugh at things that break our hearts?
Let’s be greedy for our boys, but in all the right ways. Let’s desire more for them. Let’s press them to pursue knowledge and wisdom; to consider the value but also the temptations of money; to view honorable work as God-given and good; to care for others well and protect them, especially women and children; to find their recreation in healthy, fulfilling activities; to seek the Lord with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strengths.
You know what my husband and I want? We want people to be happy when our son shows up. We want him to be so focused on his Heavenly Father, so enthralled with the love of God that his life overflows with love for others.
Yes, that’s our end game. We don’t want our son to be concerned with himself; we want him to set his eyes on the Lord and love his neighbor as himself. Isn’t self-sacrifice better than self-centeredness? Isn’t self-sacrifice a lovely marker of manhood?
So we must ask ourselves, are we pointing our sons -- in an intentional, strategic, consistent way-- to the fact that they need the Living God? Are we going against culture and wanting more? Or do we mostly tell our boys they’re awesome, that they’re number one, and what do those teachers really know anyway?
You see, our sons will fill themselves with something. Culture is ready and willing to “fill” them. If we parents aren’t intentional in pointing our sons to true manhood and thwarting the cultural perceptions of manhood, our sons will suffer, and in their immaturity, they will perpetuate suffering. When our sons are feeling the pinch, when times get tough, don’t we want them prepared to do the right thing, to seek the Lord and be men?
If I forget to thaw the chicken, we aren't having chicken tonight.
Friends, if we aren’t purposeful in teaching our sons, we aren't getting men out of it.