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Posts Tagged ‘raising boys by design’

jacob wrestles angel of the LordOften, after leading a Titus 2 Retreat, I am asked if I will say a few encouraging words to the husbands and male members of the sponsoring congregation or group.  This is important to me.  As an ezer, a helper by creation and nature, it is natural for me to want to help and encourage the very men who are so different from me.  It has been said that male and female are the two eyes of the universe.  I believe both are needed for a proper perspective.

Before I encourage the men to be the good stewards and defenders of life that God calls them to be, I apologize to them for the folly of women.  The feminist movement baptizes in the name of humanistic narcissism.  It pits women against men and places children in harm’s way.  But Christianity baptizes in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It clothes even an infant girl in the righteous robe of Christ, washes away sin, begins to work a good conscience, and makes her an heir of The Promise.  Daughters of God in Christ do not have to demean or compete with men in order to be persons of influence.

Radical feminism has done great harm, in particular, to boys.  Insisting that “equal means being the same” has left girls more vulnerable and boys deprived of godly manhood.  To deny that boys learn, process and respond differently than girls weakens society and hurts us all.  It shows in the modern classroom.  Almost twice as many boys as girls struggle with completing regular schoolwork and behaving in the way school systems want them to behave.  Boys are almost twice as likely to repeat kindergarten as girls and more than twice as likely to be suspended.  The majority of school dropouts are boys. (1) In my lifetime, I have witnessed powerful advocacy for girls but little desire to understand or respect what boys need to thrive.

Most disappointing to me is the Christian community.  Barna surveys found that a higher proportion of adolescent boys and men are leaving or not participating in church life compared to girls and women.  Sunday school, day school and catechism classes seem to have forgotten (or dismissed) that boys and girls learn and grow differently.  In his book Why Men Hate Going to Church, David Murrow documents that boys and men don’t really think the church has anything to offer them.  I have observed that the more contemporary worship services have become, the more men seem to drift away.  Why?  If God’s divine service to us is diminished by attention to our praise of Him, time in God’s House may become insignificant by men who are wired very differently from women.  Women may be “moved” by praise songs and emotional presentations, but are men?

Not long ago, following Vacation Bible School, I overheard one of the teachers say that the boys came to life when singing “Onward Christian Soldiers”.  Their lips moved during the rhyming and repetitive praise songs, but their voices raised and their feet marched when singing about spiritual warfare, gallantry and defense of all things noble and good.

In Raising Boys By Design, authors Gregory L. Jantz, PhD and Michael Gurian write,

For faith to be relevant, boys and men need to see it as a part of their action-oriented heroic quest — a wholehearted, sold-out-to-Jesus continual submission of the will to one greater than self.  Boys seek a valiant spiritual quest, fraught with challenge and filled with purpose, sacrifice, achievement, and honor.  Males want to connect with a God who is experiential, to have a personal encounter with Jesus that is so compelling they will grab hold of faith and hang on tight as their lives go forward.  Through such faith they will find their true identity, not just as a man but as a Christian man. (2)

Jantz and Gurian speak about a faith that must be muscular.  As the mother of sons, this resonates with me.  I wanted my sons to respect and defend women, but not become one of us.  Just as I am uplifted by the support and wisdom of other women, so men are strengthened by their healthy band of brothers in work, study, play or service.  From boyhood, men need to engage in problem solving, decision-making and wrestling with the tough issues of life on behalf of the women and children they are called by God to defend.  If you remember, Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord (Genesis 32).  Jacob’s hip was put out of joint during the encounter.  Martin Luther said that through faith, in the struggle of the cross, one learns to recognize and experience God rightly.  A man learns, through times of difficulty as well as times of blessings, that God’s Word is living and active; it can be trusted in all circumstances.

God calls boys to guard the purity of girls.  He calls men to defend the lives of women and children.  It is likely, in this sinful world, that boys and men will be bruised when they do battle for the lives of others and to the glory of God.  It is for this reason, I believe, that men (like women) need the Divine Service.  The literal catechesis in the Divine Service, week after week, prepares a young man not to be passive, but to be engaged in the real world.  It allows him to confess his sins, receive absolution and remember the cleansing work of his baptism.  It speaks the timeless Word of God in Christ.  It renews him with the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

The Divine Service is not the boy or man doing something for God, but God doing something for boy and man so that they, in turn, may do something good for girls and women.

As for me, I will continue to resist the foolishness of some women.  I have no reason to desire the place of a man or covet the responsibilities he has been given.  I do, however, have my own role to play.  It is my belief that I can best help men defend the sanctity of life, protect women and children and, ultimately serve God by loving their neighbor as themselves when I encourage my husband, sons, grandsons and brothers to put on their armor.  To grip the Sword of the Spirit.  To stay alert.  To gather with all the saints and persevere.

War rages.  It is not against flesh and blood but powers and principalities.  It is a spiritual war for our very souls.  I, for one, need the courage and commitment of men who are prepared for such battle.  Men who do more than praise God, but receive from Him training in righteousness… zeal for good works… and the power of self-control.  Divinely served by a mighty God and with marching orders in hand, a man is equipped to bring order out of the chaos of sin.

(1) Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, and Michael Gurian, Raising Boys By Design (Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Press, 2013), 12-13.
(2) Jantz and Gurian, Raising Boys By Design, 195.

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