We have ceremonies for weddings, funerals, graduations and birthdays. But what about ceremonies for manhood? How does your boy know when he has officially become a man?
Last week on Redeeming the Chaos, we talked about the 3 building blocks of manhood, as discussed in Robert Lewis’ book, Raising a Modern Day Knight. If you missed it, go back and listen to Episode 30. Today we’re going to continue our discussion and look at biblical manhood and the importance of manhood ceremonies in our boys’ lives.
BIBLICAL MANHOOD VS CONVENTIONAL MANHOOD
Conventional manhood is not incorrect, it is simply incomplete. It rarely satisfies.
According to Lewis, Conventional Manhood:
- Equates manhood with position – there’s an emphasis on what he does, not who he is.
- Value must be earned; credibility comes by winning
- Success is always the goal, even at the expense of relationships
- The reward of success is power, respect and attention from peers and coworkers
- Conventional manhood claims that success comes from personal wealth and influence
Again, this view of manhood is not necessarily incorrect, but it is incomplete. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing a profitable career or success in life. The problem comes when our boys thing that this is ALL there is to life. There is something missing from the conventional view of manhood, and that “something” is a transcendent cause.
I want more than anything for my boys to realize that true satisfaction and joy in life will not come from pursuing wealth or power or entertainment or pleasure, but can only be found by pursuing life in Jesus Christ.
Psalm 107:9 For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MANHOOD CEREMONIES IN A BOY’S LIFE
We’ve discussed the 3 building blocks of authentic manhood: A vision for manhood, a code of conduct and a transcendent cause.
Now let’s talk about the importance of ceremonies in our sons’ lives.
Our western culture has done a terrible job of establishing ceremonies and rites of passage, and initiation into manhood. We discussed the topic of ceremonies and initiation on several previous episodes of Redeeming the Chaos.
In Episodes 18-20 I reviewed John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart and I talked about the importance of ceremonies in our boys’ lives. Also in Episode 24 I interviewed Kathleen Henderson and we discussed what it looks like to teach our boys to be “real men” and the importance of celebrating milestones.
You can listen to each of these episodes here:
Episode 18 – Why Are My Boys So Wild?
Episode 19 – Battles and Bombs and Booby Traps, Oh my!
Episode 20 – How Boys Become Men
Episode 24 – What is a Real Man?
As believers and as parents, I think we can do better than our culture. Ceremonies and initiation rites help to provide stepping stones for our sons to move from childhood into adulthood. They provide our boys with points of reference to be able to look back on and say, yes, that’s the day I became a man.
“Manhood ceremonies tell a son, “I notice you! You are important to me! You are important to the kingdom of God! You have an important masculine destiny to fulfill.” (p.125 Raising a Modern Day Knight).
Lewis suggests several aspects of a memorable ceremony:
- Memorable ceremonies are costly
- You must invest time, thought, planning, effort and money
- Memorability grows in proportion to cost
- Memorable ceremonies ascribe value
- The ceremony should declare the high value of the individual
- The ceremony tells our boys “You are important! This moment is important.”
- Memorable ceremonies employ symbols
- Just like a wedding or graduation would have a ring or diploma, a manhood ceremony should have some sort of symbol to mark the occasion.
- Think of something that would be meaningful to your son – maybe a ring or a bible or a plaque or a pocket knife or a BB gun. Be creative!
- Memorable ceremonies empower a life with vision
- Ceremonies mark a transition from one season to another.
WHEN SHOULD MANHOOD CEREMONIES TAKE PLACE?
It’s up to you and your family to decide when you will hold your ceremonies. Lewis suggests holding the first ceremony when your son hits puberty (around the age of 12 or 13). Then another at high school graduation, college graduation and marriage.
I’ve heard of other families who begin manhood ceremonies and rites of passage even earlier. In our family, we’ve decided to begin when our boys are even younger. Because… why not? Who doesn’t love a celebration? Some of the ceremonies when our kids are younger take place with mom, but as they get older it’s really important for Dad to take the lead in the manhood ceremonies.
Our oldest son is 11, so we haven’t yet established what each ceremony will look like as he gets older. But we have marked out the milestones we want to celebrate.
Our ceremonies include:
- Going into 1st grade – date with mom – first Bible
- Every year – back to school dates with mom
- After 4th grade – leaving elementary school – ropes course with Dad
- 13 years old – more official manhood ceremony
- 16th birthday
- High school graduation – special trip with Dad
- College graduation or 1st career job
Lewis also mentions the importance of baptism in your son’s life. When a young man chooses to be baptized, make a big deal about it! Have a party! Dad should be personally involved and if possible participate in the baptism itself. Don’t just be a casual observer.
I know at my church, there is a series of lessons that parents need to go through with their kids before they are baptized. And dad’s have the option of actually getting in the water and baptizing their own son. I think this is a great way for dad’s to affirm their sons in this very important step in their relationship with Jesus.
WHAT DOES A MANHOOD CEREMONY LOOK LIKE?
At the ceremony, you should:
- Discuss new roles, new independence, new privileges and responsibilities. (“Now that you’re 13 we expect you to…”)
- Review your family’s definition of manhood and code of conduct
- Include a special gift
- Not every ceremony has to have a gift, but maybe choose 1 or 2 that you would like to include a symbol of some sort (we’ll probably do 13 and high school graduation).
Lewis says, “The important thing is that you do something creative and memorable to initiate your son into manhood.” (p.124, Raising a Modern Day Knight).
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN CEREMONY
Here are some suggestions from Lewis on how to create your own ceremony for your son:
- Employ the element of surprise
- Make the ceremony intensely spiritual / biblical
- Incorporate symbols to mark the moment
- Include a blessing from Dad
- Involve other men
IMPORTANCE OF DAD IN A BOY’S LIFE
Lewis says that it is vitally important that Dad be personally involved in his son’s journey to manhood.
- Fathers must be diligent in setting an example in character and spiritual leadership.
- Fathers must instruct their sons and pass on to them the vision for manhood, the code of conduct and the transcendent cause of manhood (a relationship with Jesus).
- There is no substitute for Dad’s personal character and integrity.
“A son absorbs his father’s values by witnessing actions, behaviors and attitudes. The real legacy we leave in our sons’ lives is what we have lived out before them.” (p. 163, Raising a Modern Day Knight).
BUT WHAT IF DAD HAS FAILED?
I know many of you listening are wondering – but what if Dad has failed in this area? What if Dad is not involved? What if Dad doesn’t want to step into leadership in my son’s life?
Dads, if you feel like you’ve messed up, Lewis has some encouragement for you:
- It is never too late for you! It’s never too late to close the gap and build a relationship with your son!
- Sons have a primal, innate desire to connect with their dads and hear the words, “I love you.”
- You can’t go back, but you can go forward.
Here are some practical steps to help you re-unite with your son:
- Interview him
- Ask him how you can be a better dad
- Listen to what he tells you
- Ask him: What do you need most from me as a dad?
- Ask him: What should I stop doing?
- Ask him: What is missing in our relationship?
- Confess to him
- Confess your shortcomings as a dad
- Ask forgiveness
- Humility is key!
- Bless him
- Affirm him
- Tell him you love him
- Tell him how proud you are of him
- Tell him you’re thankful to be his dad
WHAT IF DAD’S NOT AROUND?
I know for some of you, 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 impact him and model for him what it looks like to be a real man.
As far as spiritual leadership and biblical instruction, we as moms can have a huge impact on our son’s relationship with God. I can think of many instances in the Bible where it was the faith and actions of a mother that greatly influenced her son’s life.
For instance – Moses and his mother Jochabed, Samuel and his mother Hannah, and Timothy and his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois.
2 Timothy 1:5 “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”
And just a reminder, if you’re looking for a resource to give you some fresh inspiration for family Bible times, check out my free ebook, “How to Engage Your Kids in Family Devotions.”
I would encourage both moms and dads to check out the book, “Raising a Modern Day Knight” by Robert Lewis. (affiliate link)
Thank you so much for joining me today for Episode 30 of Redeeming the Chaos. You can listen to a podcast version of this blog post here: