Tomorrow is an important day in our family.
Not because it’s Sunday. Because it holds my eight-year old son Joel’s first rite of passage. If you’ve never done one for your sons, I’ll share what I’m doing here so you can glean from me. I’d also love it if you could leave your own comments and stories so I can glean from you. You can also pick up Robert Lewis’ excellent book, “Raising a Modern Day Knight” (or, if you have a princess in waiting on your hands, try Pam Farell and Doreen Hanna’s book, “Raising a Modern Day Princess” for a girly take on this whole thing. I’m going to focus on boys today cause that’s my reality tomorrow morning.
A rite of passage is an event (or a season completed by an event) that accomplishes several things for a child:
First of all…tomorrow I’m going to take Joel aside man to boy and lay out a definition of manhood. I say “a” definition because I think there are probably many ways to explain it and no one person has the corner on all that. Here’s the definition I’m using: “A real man looks to Christ in everything, lives with courage and honour, loves with passion and devotion, and leaves an eternal legacy.” Tomorrow I’m going to explain, in eight-year old speak, what all that means. As he gets older, I’ll expand that understanding. His vision for manhood has already been taking shape through his interaction with me and the other men in his life, but tomorrow I’m going to put the things he’s noticed into words.
Secondly, I’m going to briefly outline the path to manhood. This is a journey, not a destination. In one sense, I’m a man (I’d better be, I’m now 40)—but in another sense, I’m still becoming one. The same will be true for Joel. If I don’t make that clear, the vision I hand him won’t inspire him—it’ll scare him or worse, discourage him. John Eldredge’s book, “Fathered By God,” is an enlightening read in that regard. I’ve read it twice and still come back to it repeatedly.
Thirdly, I’m not just doing to point to the goal and highlight the path. I’m going to invite Joel into the journey in a formal way, explain that this is where his life is going. One of the ways I’ll do that is by giving him a framed version of the definition of manhood, pictured below. The crest includes icons representing all four tenets (Christ, a covenant ring, a sword, and a tree) as well as scriptures to match. Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll send you a blank copy you can insert your son(s) name(s) into if you’d like. We’ll hang this on the wall in Joel’s room as a reminder of the path he’s on and the goal he’s aspiring to reach.
Fourth, I’m going to affirm the socks off that boy, speaking words of life and faith and praise into his soul. Tonight I’m going to pray about what to say to him, inviting my Father to give me words for my son. Jesus has the words of eternal life, and he loves nothing more than to give us words of life to speak into others.
Fifth, I’m going to remind him that now that he knows the path, his mom and I will be more intentional about guiding him along it. This will come with more clearly defined expectations relating to each of the four tenets.
Sixth, a rite of passage ordinarily involves doing something. It should be a big deal, something out of the ordinary that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. Joel and I are driving out to the mountains to hike up a waterfall, go for lunch at the Grizzly Paw, and cruise the toy shops in Canmore. He’s excited because I’ve explained until now that he’s not old enough to do the hike. Now he’s a big man, and that’s part of my gift to him.
Seventh, you should probably do several rites of passage as your kids grow up. In our home, we’ve done (or will be doing):
1. An intro into manhood (age 8-9).
2. The sex talk (grade 4, when sex ed begins in school). I love this one. Really. Maybe I’ll explain this to you some day. 🙂
3. Adolescence (age 13)
4. Turning 16
5. Turning 18
6. Getting married (at this point, I’m going to buy my boys a sword like the one I have, which they drool over in awe). But don’t tell them. I want it to be a surprise…
That’s it for now… pray for me and Joel, please.
Tomorrow is a big day, after all.