Every boy has a question in his heart: Do I have what it takes to be a man?
Today we’re going to find out where our boys can find the answer to their question.
WELCOME TO EPISODE 20 OF REDEEMING THE CHAOS WITH LAURIE CHRISTINE!
WILD AT HEART
In the last few episodes of Redeeming the Chaos, we were taking a look at the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. We learned that our boys were created to uniquely reflect God’s image in their masculinity. We learned that God created our boys to be wild and dangerous. And we learned that God created our boys with the desire to fight battles and live for adventure. If you haven’t yet listened to those episodes, go back and listen to Episode 18 & Episode 19.
Today, we’re going to wrap up this three-part series on the book Wild at Heart.
AM I A REAL MAN?
We discussed in our last episode that all boys have a question in their hearts that needs to be answered: Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Am I a real man?
Boys go to their father for the answer to that question… “Am I a man, Daddy?”
Often times and for many different reasons, fathers are not equipped or prepared to answer their son’s question. Fathers often communicate to their sons in one way or another that they do NOT have what it takes, that they are weak & worthless.
Eldredge says: “Every boy, in his journey to become a man, takes an arrow in the center of his heart, in the place of his strength. Because the wound is rarely discussed and even more rarely healed, every man carries a wound. And the wound is nearly always given by his father.” (p. 62)
Eldredge says over and over again that masculinity must be bestowed by other men.
“Every man wants to play the hero. Every man needs to know that he is powerful.” (p.12)
“Boys need to know who they are and that they have what it takes.” p.91
Eldredege says it is crucial for the dad to answer this question for his son, or the boy may be tempted to go elsewhere in search of the answer to his question. As boys grow into their teen years, they are more likely to develop unhealthy romantic interests, in their search for identity and the answer to their question. But since masculinity must be bestowed and passed on by other men, our boys will never find the answer they seek from a romantic interest.
WHAT CAN MOMS DO?
So, my question then for us Mommas is this: how can we encourage our husbands and the fathers of our boys to communicate strength and confidence to our sons? How can we encourage our husbands to answer this crucial question for our sons: “Do I have what it takes?”
Our boys need intimacy, closeness, and connection with their dads. Our Boys need their dad to guide them into adventure and to test their strength.
One of the things we can do is to talk with our husband’s about this topic. Encourage your husband to be intentional about spending time with your son…
- Take him out hunting or fishing
- Go on a hike together
- Work on the car together
- Go out for coffee
- Wrestle on the living room floor
- Set up a tent in the back yard and have a campout
- Learning how to run the family business
- Playing sports together
Boys connect best when they are actively doing something. Help your husband think of ways that he can actively connect with your son just by doing something together.
WHAT IF DAD IS NOT AROUND?
I know for some of you listening, perhaps your son’s father is not even involved in your life. It’s possible that you are a single mom or that maybe your husband is not as proactive in raising your children as you would like him to be.
My encouragement for you is this: God isn’t surprised by your situation. God isn’t wringing his hands in frustration. He sees you and he sees your boy. He has equipped you to be the mom of your children and he will not abandon you or your son. Pray that God would bring godly men into your son’s life who can answer his question: Do I have what it takes to be a man?
MOMS: WE NEED TO BE WILLING TO LET GO
As moms, we also have a role in helping our sons become real men.
“There comes a time for the shift when he (the boy) begins to seek out his fathers affection and attention…. This is a very hard time in a mother’s life, when the father replaces her as the center of the boy’s universe. Few mothers do it willingly; very few do it well. Many women ask their sons to fill a void in their soul that their husband has left. But the boy has a question that needs an answer, and he cannot get the answer from his mother. Femininity can never bestow masculinity.” (p. 66)
In order to help our boys become strong, courageous young men, we need to give our boys the space to be dangerous, to be adventurous, and to prove that they have what it takes.
This doesn’t mean our sons don’t need their mothers! Don’t hear me wrong. They absolutely need us. But at some point as they grow to be young men, we need to be willing to release our control in their lives and allow them to enter the world of men.
So, what does this look like? How can we practically prepare our sons to grow into strong, courageous young men who love Jesus? I believe the answer is: BE INTENTIONAL.
Eldredge says that “The fathers role is to arrange for passage into manhood, invite the boy into them, keep his eye out for the moment the question arises and then speak into and his son’s heart. Yes, you have what it takes.” (p71).
Our western Christian culture has lost the tradition of rites of passage into adulthood. Many cultures and religions around the world have a special ceremony or initiation that tells the boy: You are now a man.
I think we need to be intentional and have a plan in place to teach our kids what it looks like to be a real man and to have their questions answered for them.
Eldredge says that boys are desperate for initiation… “A man needs to know his name. He needs to know he’s got what it takes… “That deep heart knowledge comes only through a process of initiation. You have to know where you’ve come from; you have to have faced a series of trials that test you; you have to have taken a journey; and you have to have faced your enemy.” p.101
This may sound very philosophical… but I think for our boys it should be quite literal – a literal series of trials that test them, a literal journal, a literal enemy.
THE PROCESS OF INITIATION
My husband and I have been brainstorming about what it might look like to initiate our boys into manhood. I don’t know what it will look like yet but I am envisioning some sort of wilderness camping trip with their dad for a weekend.
I want to help my husband come up with tests of strength: Physical strength, mental strength and spiritual strength. I think there should be several levels of initiation…. Once when the boy turns 13… And again when he graduates from high school. (But I also think there should be some smaller milestones along the way, even before he turns 13).
Maybe the first event could be a local overnight camping trip where the mental task is that our son has to help plan the trip and figure out what they need and how they are going to survive in the wild. Where will they sleep? What supplies will they need? How will they cook their food? Etc.
I don’t know if you all are familiar with Bear Grylls – but my boys just love him. He’s the famous British adventurer who stars in several TV shows including Man vs Wild and You vs Wild. We have several of his survival guides (Amazon affiliate link) and I’ve never seen my 8 year old read through a book so quickly. The book teaches them skills like building a shelter in the woods, how to build a campfire, how to survive a snowstorm, etc. There’s just something about “surviving in the wilderness” that excites the hearts of men and boys.
In addition to the mental challenge of planning and preparing for the trip, there will also be a physically challenging component that involves doing something dangerous like white water rafting or rock climbing.
And there will also be a spiritual challenge, like memorizing a portion of scripture or reading a book of the Bible together on the trip.
I think it’s important for my husband to communicate with our sons – You are now a man. You have what it takes. You have proven your strength.
I’d love to have some sort of certificate or trophy or medal once they’ve completed the initiation, as a reminder that they are now a man and they will now have more responsibilities and higher expectations.
NO PARENT IS PERFECT
Now, this all seems kindof ideal in many ways. And I know many of you are wondering if this kind of initiation process is actually possible in your family. I know some of you are worried that it may be too late for your boys. You’re feeling like your situation is hopeless.
Take heart, momma. We serve a gracious God who knows we are flawed and that we can’t parent perfectly.
Eldredge says that: “Even if your father did his job, he can only take you part way. There comes a time when you have to leave all that is familiar and go on into the unknown with God.” (p106)
ONLY GOD CAN ANSWER THE QUESTION
So, the reality is, when it all comes down to it, GOD is truly the only one who can answer the question in our boy’s hearts. Only GOD can truly affirm their masculinity and tell them they are strong and they have what it takes to be a man.
This is encouraging to me because it takes the pressure off us as parents. Even though we have a responsibility to help our boys grow into young men, they will still have an empty space in their hearts and lives that can only be filled by God. Even if their fathers are involved and intentional and wonderful, they are still flawed and sinful. No one is perfect, and no one can be a perfect parent. The best thing we can do for our boys is to lead them to Christ so that he can answer their question and fulfill the deepest desires of their hearts.
- “Healing never happens outside of intimacy with Christ. The healing of our wound flows out of our Union with him.” p.130
- “Abiding in the love of God is our only hope, the only true home for our hearts. ” p. 133
- “This deep intimate union with Jesus and with his Father is the source of all our healing and all our strength.” p. 133
INDEPENDENCE DOES NOT EQUAL STRENGTH
So many men equate “strength” with “independence.” The feel that if they “need” anything or anyone outside of themselves, that they are weak. But this is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible is clear that we can do nothing without God. Even Jesus lived his life in total dependence and submission to God the Father – setting an example for us to follow.
Eldredge says, “We are made to depend on God; we are made for union with him and nothing about us works right without it.” p.123
“The true essence of strength is passed to us from God through our union with him.” p. 124
“The true man is unashamed to admit his desperate dependence on God.” p.125
“You must ask God what he thinks of you, and you must stay with a question until you have an answer. The battle will get fierce here. This is the last thing the evil one wants you to know.” p.136
KNOW WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST
As I’ve mentioned before, the best thing we can do for our boys to help them grow into strong, courageous young men, is to point them to Jesus. The enemy will try to attack their identity in Christ and convince them that they are weak and worthless and evil to the core.
But that’s not how God sees them. If our boys have invited Jesus to be their savior and accepted his gift of salvation, then they have a new heart that is good!
Romans 8:1 says “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)
Jeremiah 31:33-34 says “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people… “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” (NLT)
Ezekiel 36:26 says “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.” (NLT)
CHALLENGE FOR MOMMAS
So here are my thought challenges for you today, momma:
- Does your son have godly, male influences in his life that can help to teach him what it looks like to be a real man? If not, start praying today that God would bring some of these men into your son’s life.
- How can you and your husband be intentional about initiating your son into manhood? What does that look like in your family?
- How are you being intentional about affirming your son’s identity in Christ? How can you guide your son to know Jesus and take his question to Him?
God, sometimes the task of raising godly, courageous young men feels daunting and overwhelming. I know that my boys need you desperately and so do I. Thank you for loving my boys even more than I do. Please give me wisdom and grace as I guide their hearts towards you. Soften their hearts to understand their need for you. I know that you are the only one who can truly tell them who they are. You are the only one who can truly fill the emptiness in their lives. I trust that you will finish the work that you have begun in their hearts.
A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
Easter is right around the corner! Well, actually it’s April 4th. Which kinda seems like a long way away. But have you ever thought about the fact that we spend so much time preparing our hearts and our homes for Christmas, but we often forget about Easter until the week before?
I have written a 30 day family devotional to help you and your kids prepare their hearts for the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection. The book is called Come and See!
Come and See! 30 Family Bible Stories for Easter invites families of elementary-aged children to experience firsthand the anticipation, the sorrow, the tragedy, the fear, and the ultimate triumph of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Through the eyes of six eye witnesses, you will be led on a journey through the busyness of the streets of Jerusalem, to the despair of Golgotha, and finally to the celebration of the empty grave.
Come and see Mary’s love poured out when she anoints Jesus in Bethany.
Come and see Judas’ cunning plan to betray Jesus.
Come and see Peter’s confused reaction when Jesus washes the disciples’ feet.
Come and see Nicodemus’ confliction when Jesus is sentenced to death.
Come and see John’s agony as he watches his best friend Friend suffer and die.
Come and see Mary Magdalene’s jubilation when Jesus appears, alive once again!
This book includes 30 short devotional stories, each with accompanying Scripture references and questions for discussion and imagination. Use this resource to create deeper connections with your kids this Easter as you read and discuss what it would have been like to experience firsthand the events of the Holy Week. May you gain a deeper understanding of the love and life our Lord offers as you and your family prepare your hearts for the celebration of our Risen Savior!
I will be reading each of the 30 short stories throughout the weeks leading up to Easter, beginning on Friday, March 5th. You’re welcome to grab the kids and listen along on the podcast as I read the story aloud.
Real quick, before you go… Do you know any other moms who are feeling overwhelmed by the daunting task of raising courageous boys? Would you share a link to this podcast episode with them?
Also, I would love to invite you to join me in our new Facebook group. It’s called “Raising Courageous Boys,” and it’s a place for Christian boy moms to connect and encourage each other on this wild, wonderful, chaotic adventure of raising boys.
Thank you so much for joining me for Episode 20 of Redeeming the Chaos with Laurie Christine.
If you are interested in more FREE RESOURCES to help you raise your courageous boys, CLICK HERE.
You can listen to a podcast version of this blogpost below: