"How beautiful maleness is, if it finds it's right expression."
-D.H Lawrence, from Sea and Sardinia (1921)
Maleness is beautiful.
It may be a little awkward to say, but isn't maleness beautiful? There are no arguments about whether femininity is. Or diversity. Or tolerance. But who is arguing that authentic masculinity is? Nobody. And it is killing our sons.
Would it help a boy become a better man if he believed he was being invited to become something strong and beautiful? Without question, yes. To put it plainly, if our sons are not given a clear vision of what God created them to become our culture will sink into the abyss while they keep playing Xbox. Unlike girls who appear to have an easier time with the transition into mature adulthood, boys resist and will be happy to remain dependent, self-centered consumers as long as this pattern is acceptable. If manhood, rightly expressed, doesn't twinkle when set next to boyhood, why get off the couch? That's why cultures around the globe have had the wisdom to require boys go through initiations and rites of passage. They were responding to the need to set before each boy an invitation into something better.
What is the opposite of manhood?
Is it womanhood or childhood?
God tells us to put childish ways behind us. Every son is meant to learn first from his father how to do this, then through a larger, trusted community of men who repeatedly offer invitations to participate. But how would you describe the essence of a true man? While words can be helpful, authentic masculinity is something far more powerfully conveyed through experience than study. When it wears it's truest face manhood carries a weightiness wherever it goes. It has a profoundly felt presence that is either glorious and inviting or threatening, depending on your relationship with true goodness. It's in part why Jesus attracted so much attention. To put it simply, he was so impeccably masculine people didn't know what to do with him, whether to kill him or die for him. The same conundrum exists today. Authentic manhood, because it is so purely rooted in Jesus, is either deeply offensive or attractive. It should therefore be no surprise when a culture goes to war against it.
True manhood sightings are rare today. So we must treat the opportunity to see it in action a bit like driving through a desert within 100 miles of the Grand Canyon: if you're that close, you ought to stop and inspect it. So when a friend described the true story behind the recently released WWII movie DUNKIRK (PG-13) I felt the Spirit prompt me to take my son Baer to see it.
I hadn't read a movie review. I have never taken Baer to see a war movie. I knew there would be death and men in peril. But I knew men would rise and it would be glorious.
Whether he knows it or not, my son desperately needs me to carry him to the dangerous rim of manhood and point it out as nothing less than majestic. He is 14 and needs a clear vision of what manhood looks like if he is ever to want it. I can hear our wise Father instructing us through Solomon "Be a man. Show your sons what a true man is and what I created them to be, or they will create their own version of manhood and burn the culture down to feel powerful." (Prov 29:18).
Watch this trailer for Dunkirk and you will feel the tension that can only be resolved by the arrival of authentic manhood.
Some Manly Conversation
The movie was intense. While it left out the usual blood and charred flesh now common in war movies, it effectively invited me and my son to feel the peril of war and the need for heroism. In the absence of naval ships, common fishermen and leisure boaters repeatedly crossed the 45 mile channel under fire from German U-Boats and fighter planes to help rescue over 330,00 hopeless troops. If not for beautiful manhood, rightly expressed, the British army would have been decimated and the great world war would have been lost. In God's larger story the triumph of good over evil always requires that manhood, rightly expressed, shows up at the right moment to take the day.
"I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war." (Revelation 19:11)
My son left sober having seen manhood in action. And all this was simply preparation for the conversation on the ride home. I asked him simply,
"How many examples of true manhood did you see in that story?"
This led to a great conversation. Man by man we remembered the fear and unique situation each man had to surmount to make such a divine rescue possible.
I keep my eyes open for true manhood sightings and so does my son. I have also colluded with Heather, my wife, to point out the beauty of maleness rightly expressed whenever God blesses us with a rare sighting.
"The things a man has to have are hope and confidence in himself against all odds, and sometimes he needs somebody, his pal or his mother or his wife or God, to give him that confidence. He's got to have some inner standards worth fighting for or there won't be anything to bring him in to conflict. And he must be ready to choose death before dishonor without making too much song and dance about it. That's all there is to it."
-Clark Gable, quoted in The Honeycomb by Adela Rogers St. Johns (1969)
Questions and Prayer
1. Do your children know what a real man is? Looks like? Does?
2. How are you modeling manhood? Have they recently seen you exhibit courage, love, selflessness, loyalty, personal responsibility, resiliency, industry, creativity, God-reliance, and integrity? Exercise these manly muscles and let them see you do it.
3. Do you need Father God to initiate and equip you into a truer, stronger version of manhood? It's yours. You only need to ask Him and trust Him to do it, but ask Him with the faith and perseverance of a son. (Phil 4:6) Then watch Him come through. There is nothing he loves more or is better at. He is a really good Father.
Show up here. Though we are hemmed in on all sides, we are not without hope. Even when it's the entire culture against you and me, I know we win. You are the author of manhood, the Creator of our souls and our deliverer from bondage. Would you come and straighten out the bent places where manhood has come to be misshapen in our hearts and minds? Would you open my eyes (and the eyes of my son) to see manhood in it's purest and most glorious form? I am asking you to initiate me and my son. Would you father us into deeper and more authentic manhood? Create divine appointments with Jesus in your Word and with men of flesh and blood here and now. We grant you permission to remove the duct tape and every other impermanent adhesive we've used to try and keep it all together. And then fix us. Heal us. Strengthen us. Prepare us for the day that you've appointed when the sons of God will be revealed.
We trust and believe in you. Amen.