While many books, sermons, and web sites have [correctly] focused on how to be a man*, we should pause to acknowledge that there are men who truly understand their responsibilities, and serve as examples of Christ-like manhood to the rest of us. These include men who have been married to the same woman for 40, 50, or even 60 years – and still treat her with the same courtesy, respect, and value that they did when they were dating. There are also successful businessmen who keep their lives – and often their employees’ lives – in balance, focusing on others before themselves. Many of these men are silent about how they serve others, with a confidence based on doing what they have learned to excel at, and a modesty grown out of maturity. If we look closely, we can find these “real men” in a lot of places – sometimes even at a much younger age than we’d expect.
So, let’s talk today about (and to) those men* who are mature and have invested in their own lives for the benefit of others. (If you feel that you’re not here, yet, that’s ok. This process takes time, no matter how much we may wish to rush it. Instead, use this as an opportunity to think about how you would like to be perceived by others in the future, and use that as a goal.) For those who have learned a thing or two about being a good man, it’s important to keep one’s eyes on the ball (and not to lose ground); but, more importantly, this is also a time to start to invest in other guys, to help them achieve their own transformation into manhood.
If you feel that you have reached manhood (and if you’re too modest to think of yourself that way, ask someone important to you what they see in you – you may be pleasantly surprised), are you willing to pass along to others what you have learned? That might sound lofty, but in practice, it’s not very complicated. It’s mainly a matter of spending time with a guy (or a group of guys), and showing them how to be a man. This doesn’t mean that you have to go hunt elk or wrestle alligators with another guy; it might just mean getting together periodically (with your wife and his, if applicable), and just spending time together (eating is good, but it could be watching a game or training for a race, for instance). You’ll probably teach as much by how you handle yourself and how you treat your wife, compared to how much you actually say. That is, you don’t have to impart lofty words of wisdom – just live out what you’ve learned.
Another opportunity to help might be for you to provide a defining moment for a boy on the cusp of manhood, to provide him a chance to commit to investing in his future, during a memorable experience. Maybe this means taking him on a fishing or hunting trip, to bring home his first meat to the family. Maybe it means giving him an opportunity to build something or complete a project on his own at your house. Some cultures call these “rites of passage”, and they help define adulthood. (I realize that sometimes this brings up images of dancing around a campfire or other weird stuff, so take what fits from this concept, and fit it to your own situation.) Maybe you had an important point in your life when you chose to “grow up”. Share that story with those in your life who need to hear it.
For a Biblical example of a defining moment, consider Jacob’s experience at Bethel, by reading Genesis 28:10-22. Here was a guy, who was still acting immaturely, having just deceived his father and still living under the control of his deceptive mother. He was taking a journey on his own (I suspect), but he made a major life decision after an encounter with God. This wasn’t the path his life was on, before this trip: It was pointed out to me once that the Godly legacy of Abraham started to fade with his son Isaac. We don’t read a lot about Isaac’s faith, but we do see that Abraham’s bad habit of lying to others did get passed along. This faith may have slipped even further away with Abraham’s grandson, Jacob. The men in Jacob’s life seem to have missed the opportunity to effectively pour really important things into him, but God created a defining transition point in Jacob’s journey. After that event, Jacob wasn’t perfect, but he learned to trust God, and could look back on that experience as a significant moment (see Genesis 35).
Look around you – both in your own family (not just your children) and in others – and see if there is someone you could invest in.
If you’re interested in learning more, there are a lot of books on this subject. Don’t be put off by terms like “mentoring” or “equipping”, but look for good, Biblical guides to doing those things. I personally suggest “They Smell Like Sheep”, by Dr. Lynn Anderson, which I was challenged to read by one of our elders recently. Whatever you do, pass the best of what you have learned on to those who need it the most.
For more reading, see also Heroic Words.
A version of this devotion originally appeared at fcccanton.com , as a Study Guide for the February 7, 2016 message, “The Dude’s Guide to Manhood”.
- While this devotion was originally written to accompany a sermon series on manhood, all are welcome to read through it, and determine what may apply to them. In fact, at our church, the women’s mentoring ministry is particularly worthy of recognition.