For whatever reason, I’m finding myself in a season of having to take a look at the whole “What makes a man?” question.
Honestly, it isn’t one that I get all the fired up about. I think Donald Miller in his book, To Own a Dragon, captures my attitude about the entire “making a man” genre of books, conferences, studies, etc. In summary, he’s pretty skeptical. All the macho, hunting, muscle car/truck, crude innuendo, and bravado that tend to permeate most “Christian” man-stuff leaves one sort of wanting. I don’t really enjoy man-chants. I don’t think a man necessarily figures out how to become a man sitting in a church classroom filling in blanks in a workbook.
And yet, the question is a crucial one. One could even say that my life is consumed with it. I have three young Chino boys in my own home that I have a highly vested interest in seeing become not just men, but men of worth. And that desire is a large part of what I do with students. At least half of the students in my charge are of the male variety. Many of them I care about very deeply, and I long to be a part of the process in which they are ushered into manhood.
So the question still hangs out there. How is it that a boy move from adolescence into manhood? It is easy to identify the things that don’t factor much into that process. Being good at sports doesn’t do it. Being good with girls doesn’t either. Nor does graduating from high school or college necessarily mean one is a man. I’m not even sure getting married or having children necessarily makes a man. We all know “men” who have excelled at or done all those things, and yet for all practical purposes they are boys. Boys that look like men, but boys nonetheless.
Currently, I’m doing two different studies related to manhood (I thought I just said that men aren’t made through reading books about being men!). One is with with a group of high school students that I meet with on a fairly consistent basis. By their own suggestion, we are reading and discussing John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Strangely enough, I’ve never read it. I realize that every other male in Christendom (and most females) have. I haven’t. I haven’t seen Titanic either. Sometimes, the hype-fest passes me by and I simply miss out.
Anyway, I’m reading it now. I’m also doing a study with some men at church called Raising a Modern Day Knight. My involvement in this latter study has largely been driven my already mentioned desire to provide what my sons need to keep moving down the road to manhood. Between the two studies, lots of ideas on man-ness are floating around out there.
This post is already longer than I hoped it would be, so I’ll adopt the strategy from the wildly popular “gear essentials” series, and stretch this discussion out over a few days. But I want to end on this last thought. Regardless of the differences of content and approach that the two studies have, at least a one thing they agree on.
“Manhood” doesn’t just happen.