A BOY’S IDENTITY
One of the most pertinent societal problems today is the relationship between fathers and sons. The conundrum is that most sons don’t have a healthy relationship with their biological fathers, if they have one at all. Many boys learn from their fathers the empty value of absent-ness, showing up physically but not emotionally—and as a result, they hand passivity to their sons who carry it into society, who witness the symptoms of a boy without an identity: unsure of himself, afraid of not being realized, and following anyone who can help steer him in the direction of acceptance.
CRADLING THE SPIRIT OF FEAR
For the boy whose father hasn’t established what it means to be emboldened by Christ, he is less likely to clearly distinguish between the confidence and arrogance of masculinity. Arrogance is not boldness; boldness is confidence. Christian fathers are meant to lead their families towards Jesus, but, how can they if they aren’t sure in their faith? Boldness of faith looks like a man who recognizes his own flaws, humbly surrenders them to Christ, and boldly steps into the acceptance of God through the love of Jesus. When a boy doesn’t experience this transference of bold faith, not only might He not witness a man’s confidence, he may mistakingly learn that he is not worthy of Christ, despite humbling himself to receive grace. The boy then cradles fear in the absence of boldness instilled by faith.
For the boy who experiences the arrogant, prideful father, he may learn fear of manhood, of authority—and may equate the fear of his earthly father to his Heavenly Father, believing God is just as arrogant and hard-headed, rather than grace-filled, loving, and accepting of a humble heart.
WILD AT HEART, AND FINDING JESUS INDEPENDENTLY
One of my favorite books which speaks directly into this subject is John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart. John writes profoundly about the process in which a father initiates his son into manhood by leading him to understand the way manhood is a truth instilled into the boy’s soul by Christ, not by himself. For the boy who misses out on this initiation, he is left to independently discover initiation from another father-figure source, or from God Himself. This is where it gets complicated for the boy who has either never been introduced to Christ, or, was introduced by a prideful father who made Christianity look like a religious caricature of how relationship with Jesus is meant to be.
For the boy who doesn’t experience Jesus at home, he is left to discover Him in the “real world,” where evangelism is displayed in various forms—some more forceful, and others more inviting and loving.
For the sensitive heart of a boy, who never knew Jesus, being brought into Christianity for the first time at a later age may make understanding the purpose of faith more difficult, hindering the boy’s ability to grasp his need for such a relationship. The boy may have already determined he is able to do life on his own, and doesn’t need a “Savior” to help steer the way to a different path. Oppositely, the boy may be so afraid after experiencing the trauma of an emotionally abusive father, that he may fear the same type of abuse from his Heavenly Father—shunning faith as if running from gunfire. For these boys, a more loving approach may be more conducive to helping him understand Jesus as bold and humble; confident and graceful; authoritative and loving. It is from Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that we are able to ascertain He is for us, and that is where we are to draw our core boldness of faith from.
BOLDNESS AND BOUNDARIES
Many of the boys who experienced emotional abuse from either parent tend to turn towards the caretaker role in society, bending over backwards to help others because they believe it is their duty to do so. However, a man is not to give from himself out of obligation, but as an extension of love. If a man has given generously to his own capacity, and is asked for more, the Bible makes clear the importance of boundaries and self-control:
2 Timothy 1:7 “For the spirit of God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.”
Proverbs 25:28 “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”
Titus 2: 6-8 “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”
Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
We are not to be the caretaker to the codependent. Instead, we are to extend an authentic, Christ-like love to others, displaying in action the grace and forgiveness Jesus extends to us. This means we are not doormats, but stewards of faith, and that is permission to set boundaries with people behaving as codependents, living as though they are unable to handle any aspect of life without help. Christ-like boldness instills in a man the fearlessness and liberation of knowing he can help others by loving them in the faith that Jesus will meet their needs accordingly.
MASCULINITY AND PURPOSE
Growing up, I was drawn to the masculinity of Superman. I didn’t find many real life role models to draw the image of masculinity from. Sometimes, men even seemed daunting, which made the notion of masculinity appear more intimidating rather than a delineation of safety, provision, and leadership. To me, Superman was most masculine of all, combining compassion and strength, confidence and humility, and a sense of identity balanced with fitting into a fallen, foreign world.
Within masculinity comes the man’s journey of finding his purpose. When a boy is drawn to a superhero, he is relating to the hero in himself he desperately wants to bring out and become. Men are created with the desire to protect and provide for their loved ones. When a boy sees a man acting from these motivations, he relates on an intrinsic level. God created this part of us that desires to protect, lead, and to love. He designed us to want to serve our families with boldness, self-control, and love (wholeheartedness). When we learn from men who distort masculinity into the equivalent of an arm wrestling match, we end up comparing masculinity as a pendulum of weakness versus strength, rather than our identity in Christ over our identity in this world. To root our identity in Christ is to gain our purpose through Him, recognizing the vocation He has set aside uniquely for us, and passionately stepping into that calling. Otherwise, masculinity appears as the mirage of characteristics too out-of-this-world and idealistic to be inspirational or emulative.
IMPORTANCE OF MASCULINITY IN OUR WORLD
At some point, we all ask why masculinity is so important in our world, and question the role it plays in society. What makes masculinity so important is that God made men and women in His image, and for a man to embrace his masculinity is to be imbued with all the qualities the Holy Spirit has bestowed on the male design. In other words, for a male to be fully self-realized, he embraces his masculinity, bringing him closer to God, and more in tune with himself as a man.
When any person embraces the very nature of their creation, they become more in alignment with their position of purpose in all of existence. To know where we stand because of God, is to know we were created by God for a unique reason, and that should inspire us all to strive to understand God more personally, to pursue relationship with His Son, and to embrace who we are called in Him to be in order to implement the vocation we were created for. Masculinity isn’t all about the power, strength, or virility of man, it’s about the veracity of the connection a man has with his soul purpose to surrender to God, and to lead others to faith in Christ.
EMBRACING OUR VOCATION IN CHRIST
When the male population recognizes the importance of this process and steps into the role we were created for, we will realize the significance relationship with Jesus has on our understanding of purpose. Furthermore, by stepping into the role we were created to fulfill, we will achieve an experience of life beyond that which the world calls us into—living within the very culmination of our earthly existence; a purposeful moment-to-moment splendor of receiving Jesus in our every breath, interaction, struggle, and victory. To live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).
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