Does the journey from boyhoood to manhood need to be recognized? Or will it just happen? Do we, as fathers, brothers, mentors, and sons ourselves, need to usher boys into the life of a man?
That’s the question that Raising a Modern Day Knight seeks to answer, both in concept and in deed. I’m almost done with the book, actually, but the chapter I read this morning titled “Commemorating a Transcendent Cause” really connected with me. The previous several chapters had outlined several ideas for ceremoneously bringing young men into the world of men. The point wasn’t that you have to grab them on their 18th birthday or their college graduation – the point was, they need to be grabbed. Whether it’s a lonely walk through the woods that is interupted by significant men in the boy’s life, or a steak dinner with a father and his comrades sharing their own journeys, boys need to be welcomed into this world. It will not happen accidently. It will not happen on it’s own, unless you really, really, really want to count fraternities, gangs, and the local saloon gang as your initiators.
This chapter I read today went back to the model of Jesus, and how He, the very Son of God, had a need to be initiated. It says:
The physical and emotional characteristics of human flesh were present in Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us that Jesus possessed a body (John 2:21). For this reason, He got hungry (Matthew 4:2) and thirsty (John 19:28) and grew weary (John 4:6). Jesus wept at the sadness of others (John 11:35) and prayed with loud crying (Hebrews 5:7). He was tempted as we are tempted, but without sin (Hebrews 2:18)
Jesus the man was needy. If this statement disturbs you, then you have overlooked Christ’s humanity. As a man, Jesus needed to be affirmed and encouraged. Seen in this light, the Father’s word [at his baptism] became profoundly significant. … As with every man, His Father’s opinion mattered. Greatly. At one of the most critical moments in his life, Jesus needed to hear a word of affirmation from His Father, a hearty word of praise that would buttress His confidence and bolster his courage.
Why do I see this [again, his baptism] as the preeminence event in Jesus’ life? Because at His baptistm, the two most important elements in a son’s life – the embrace of a transcendent cause and a father’s affirmation – came together in one unforgettable, breathtaking moment.
At His baptism, Jesus Christ embraced his mission and then heard His Father say, “I’m proud of you, My Son!” The transcendent cause was blessed, affirmed, and “spiked” by the Father’s vocal affirmation. If He held any doubts about His course in life, they were vangquished in that one instance. Every temptation He would encounter and all the hardships HE would endure were immediatly put into perspective. He embraced His mission, and He was affirmed by His Father, investing the moment with reverential awe.
The author concludes this with how it applies to our own lives with our sons:
I believe that one of the finest moments in any son’s life is when he embrases his transcendent cause and then hears his father say, “I’m proud of you, my son!… I’m pleased with the course you’ve chosen in life!… You’ve chosen well!” What can be better than this?”
He goes on to talk about the great opportunity a father has to bless his son’s life by participating in his baptism. It doesn’t mean you have to dunk him or have a speach prepared… but wouldn’t a public participation like that mean something beyond just sitting in the front row or manning the video recorder?
As I look back on my own life, I see all sorts of men who have brought me to be who I am today. Both for the qualities of my Father in Heaven than I have embraced, and for what I am still lacking, struggling with, or completely unaware of. When I first began to really walk this path about 3 years ago, I felt so lonely in it. My dad had recently broken ties and left. My life was full of casual friends that knew nothing about me. I was still in a relatively new marriage relationship with all sorts of baggage on both sides, much of it completely undealt with on my side, for sure. I realized I needed healing. I realized I needed to be restored, to be affirmed, but none of these people in my life could give it to me! I sought it from them, I tried to barter it and buy it from them, but they couldn’t give it to me.
It was then that I had my eyes opened to the fact that the same Father that gave Jesus the affirmation He needed was the same one that could ultimately give it to me. I remember the day I pulled the 1″ wide electrical cable from 3 feet below the ground through a 3 inch pipe 6 feed above the ground in the rain and mud, how I did it, and then sat down in the mud, hearing those words… “We did it,” from my True Father. I remember the day I finished building the stalls in the new barn, again, seemingly alone, but truly closer to my Father than I had ever been. I remember His words, His pats on the back, and even now, the way those moments hold weight in my life as anchors that I can look back on and remember… It’s true.
I now see that I have a wife I am free to love, not obligated out of duty or because that’s the only way I can get love back. I have brothers who I can share anything with, not to simply “be accountable to,” but because they want to be part of my life, and want me to be part of theirs. They are comrades, brothers in arms, fighting this fight of holiness and being Kingdom Outposts alongside me. I have fathers, uncles, sisters, mothers, and even sons and daughters whose ties go far beyond blood. Well. I guess I can’t say that… they go far beyond “Cromer blood.”
My son seems a long way off from his “journey to manhood.” But even now, as he seeks to help me spread mulch, I can see the hurt in his eyes when I tell him to “stop doing that” or “you’re doing it the wrong way!” He wants my affirmation already. He wants to know that I want him there. I see the same thing in some of the kids and youth I have opportunity to pour any part of my life into… they want to know that they’re worth my time. And is that really all that much to ask? To give time? To make some ceremony? To tell them, “you have what it takes,” and “you’re worth fighting for?”