Our modern world has brought us many wonderful things that were not imagined by previous generations. Wifi, for example—I love me some of that Wifi. GPS/Google Maps is amazing—remember trying to fold up those impossible paper maps? Perhaps the best of them all are Little Debbie Swiss Rolls. Eat one of those frozen and your eyes will involuntarily roll back into your head. There are things that we used to enjoy, however, that have become elusive. Boyhood is one of those things.
I have a new puppy. Have you ever watched a puppy play? They chew on stuff, they chase things, they chew things, they play tug of war with toys, and, well, you know about the chewing thing. Everything they do, every game they play is preparing them for something they would do in the wild when they grow up. Playing is safe-ish stuff you do in preparation for the real thing down the road. Have you ever watched young boys play? They build stuff, they break stuff, they pretend everything they have is a weapon at all times. They imagine they are doing heroic things, and they love to pretend they are powerful and important. King-important, super-hero-important, change-the-course-of-history-important. All of those things are kind of fun to watch and kind of annoying (think of all that broken stuff)—and really important for their future.
Church can be a tough place for a boy. When I was growing up, we were made to sit a lot, be quiet a lot, and we were trained to be kind. It was sort of the primary goal to “train boys to be quiet and kind.” I have come to the conclusion that we are suffering today because too many Christian men are too quiet and too kind (I know…just let me explain). Families are suffering because Christian men are not bold enough with truth, they are not impatient enough with sin, and they will not take enough risks in winning back ground that has been lost to a culture that is against God.
I would like boys to be encouraged to build stuff—stuff with splinters and greasy dirt. After bath time, parents should read them stories of brave men who have done great things and taken great risks in the past. Watch those movies and read those books so boys will not come to think their power is only for their pleasure. I want to inspire boys to fix the stuff they break (or at least clean it up). I want boys to feel powerful when they play, because there will a time as an adult when they will need to face superior forces and fight anyway. I want these little males to practice saving and rescuing those they are responsible for, because one day they will have a family, and sacrifice will be required—or people will get hurt. I want these short pre-men to pretend they can change the course of history because they will one day be called on to say “no” to sins that perhaps have come down for generations in their family. These husbands and fathers will need to stop it, fix it, or alter course for the benefit of the generations that are yet to come.
It is important for a man to be kind and quiet. I am all for that. I just need more men who can be kind and quiet when it is appropriate and who can also fight and endure like Braveheart when it is time. If a man has never even pretended to battle for the right stuff, he will not have any instinct to fight when a battle comes to him. Virtual battles, like in video games, are not sufficient; there, you can just reset, re-spawn, or start over with no ramifications. That is not real life! Boys should learn that if you build something badly, it falls down. They need to know they will get hurt, and they need to learn from it—no reset, no re-spawn. You get hurt and there is a little scar on your arm to remind you of it for the rest of your life. This is the good stuff. Do not protect your boys from this—send them out into it. Let your boys get in the dirt, play wild, and build stuff out of old tires and pallets. Let them hammer nails and build a ladder into a badly conceived fort. Let them practice to be fighters for God, rescuers for the weak, and protectors for those they love. We need more men like that, and they start out as stinky, knee-scraped little boys who want to do big things one day.
Dave Carl is Pastor of Family and Children’s Ministries at Stonebriar. During the past 12 years, Dave has served on staff at Insight for Living in various capacities. His primary role at IFL was as the creator and creative director of Paws & Tales, a weekly children’s radio program. Through this ministry, Dave shared the love of God with a sense of joy, humor, and humility to children of all ages.