Boys to Men
Byron Howell 3/7/01
The teenage years can be a time of turmoil for kids – and for their parents! Young people want more freedom and independence, but parents are concerned about giving it to them before they are ready for it. As the father of three boys, I think a lot about my responsibility for their future and, as Christians, my sons want to become godly men. I think we have the same goal in mind – "boys to men." (At this writing, I am pleased to report that one has made the journey, and the other two are well on their way.)
I feel a little better about the tension between teenagers and their parents when I realize that it is a normal part of growing up. The strong desire for boys to become more independent and self supporting means there is hope that someday they will actually be on their own and paying for their own food! In turbulent times they need a steady parental guide more than a parental "buddy." During their teen years it is like they are water skiing behind your boat. The waves churning under their skis make for an exciting ride but they count on you as the parent to maintain a steady course with the boat. It is their reference point. They may be weaving back and forth and bouncing around, but your children want you to keep a steady hand on the wheel!
Becoming a godly man is no accident. Rather than stumbling into adulthood, I wanted my boys to have some guidelines to manhood that they could keep in mind during the teen years. After some research, reading, and prayerful thought, we settled on the following, memorable guideposts that cover most elements of godly manhood: A real man lives responsibly, leads courageously, and loves unselfishly.
Living responsibly requires that a man accept responsibility for his actions. He knows he is accountable for his deeds and he behaves with that in mind. He takes action when action is demanded, not sitting back passively and neglecting to serve. He takes ownership of his obligations. Jesus had a mission and He lived up to His responsibility.
Leading courageously means stepping up and leading your family, your peers, and your fellow Christians as the need arises. It involves taking a Joshua-like stand to lead your family in the service of the Lord regardless of what others may choose to do. It brings to mind the boldness of the great Bible heroes who refused to let fear cripple them, but instead stepped up boldly to do God’s will, leading armies, families, and Christians to do great things. Jesus was the perfect example of courageous leadership.
Loving unselfishly is the last leg of this triangle of manhood strength. It keeps the other two manly characteristics from becoming overbearing. Without it, the one living responsibly can appear arrogant or at least unapproachable. Also, the courageous leader can trample all over others if he is not careful. Unselfish love puts a golden restraint on those attributes, prompting the man to be sympathetic, kind, and patient. It keeps pride at bay. Jesus demonstrated unselfish love for us when He humbled Himself and went to the cross on our behalf. We want our boys to be inspired by His unselfish love.
One night I sneaked into their bathrooms and posted a little note near the corner of their mirrors. It said, "Real men live responsibly, lead courageously, and love unselfishly." I wondered if they would notice the note. They did. (I guess they are more alert when they wake up than I realized!) I am hoping in the mornings when they are getting ready for the day, that they will be reminded about what is required to get ready for manhood. With these goals in mind, I think they will be just fine. "Boys to men" is not just a singing group; it is essential family planning!