Do something. Build something. Improve something. This bundle of impulses lies at the heart of manhood. And if you don’t understand that, you don’t yet understand manhood.
And our culture doesn’t understand manhood.
It doesn’t understand why it exists, what is good about it, or who possesses it. I read an article today about the very young son of an influential businessman here in my city. The entrepreneur and his wife have begun to encourage their son to wear dresses and live as though he were a young girl. They are also starting a foundation to “help” parents who are in similar situations, a foundation that will apparently work in our public school district. This sort of thing is welcomed by our culture because it is ignorant on the nature of manhood, the why and the what and the who. Our men don’t know why they are men (no one has told them), and because they don’t know why they are men they don’t have anything but a superficial understanding of what a man is or who a man is.
And yet, because you can’t change reality (even by refusing to teach it), they have these impulses. These longings hum away in their chests, unabated by a culture willfully blind about what manhood is. There is a thirst in most men’s souls to do and to build and to protect. Put another way, most men have an unspoken hope to bear something with whatever manly strength they’ve been given. And there is a desire to bear a burden (the what) and an ability to bear a burden (the who) because they were made to bear a burden (the why).
It isn’t the thirst itself to build or to protect that make on a man. A man is someone who is born a biological male. But these are healthy characteristics of normal manhood. A tree is a tree regardless of whether it currently has branches, but having branches is a healthy characteristic of being a normal tree.
Men have been given strength in order to physically and spiritually bear burdens. But make no mistake, if we don’t teach them that, they will use their strength for something. Those thicker bones and deeper muscles and mechanical minds were designed to build for others, but they will build for self given the chance. Sin can’t change the what or the why or the who of manhood (or womanhood), but it has radically twisted the how. Unredeemed men will often use their strength to abuse rather than protect, to wreck rather than construct. They will fight for self instead of others, and act as a battering ram when they should be a shield. A boy might grow to violate and damage women, to use them the way a thief uses money he boosted from a cash register. Or he might grow to be faithful to one woman, to spend himself bringing out of her all the goodness and loveliness that God has planted in her soul like an early spring seed. A young man might tick away his hours playing fantasy battles on a screen. Or he might aim to fight for his wife, his children, or his neighbors. All men have not been give the same manly strength, but all men spend what they have been given on something.
Our sons were built to build. But they will not learn this from our culture. They’re not going to be taught about the true nature of manhood, of themselves, from television or social media. It’s our calling to tell them who they are, what it means, and why. That is our burden to bear.
And it’s a high calling. The world needs good men. My goodness, can there be anything more obvious right now? Is there anything more plain than that the world needs more self-restrained, constructive, fatherly, loving, sacrificial men? There is so much damage out there, and one of God’s favorite instruments to repair it is the good man, stumbling and imperfect as he is. From Noah to Moses to David to Peter to Paul, God has used faithful men to build good things and fix broken ones. He has given them a uniquely manly strength to do just that. God made the first man to reflect Him by cultivating His garden, and even after sin scarred all things God still gave to that man the task of cultivation (Genesis 2:15-17, Genesis 3:17-19). Our sons have a great endeavor before them. We are cultivators, restorers in a wild world with much to be cultivated and in need of restoration. There is nothing new under the sun, but there are many old things that must be set right. Let us raise men who will be up to the task.
If you are like me, a dad of boys who loves Jesus, be encouraged. We are a part of a great story, here. The world was once saved by a Father and a Son, and they made us to image something about them. Be strong. Act like men. This great reclamation project includes ourselves and our boys.
Our sons will be men. That die has been cast.
What is left for us is to raise them to be good ones.