Several years ago, I lived in an apartment complex next door to one of my very good friends, who also happens to be one of the smartest humans I’ve ever known. He was brilliant at biology and theology. He loved his wife and kids very well. But man, did he have a stupid dog.
I don’t know, maybe the dog was a genius, but bored out of his doggy mind. Either way, he was very hyper, high strung, and annoying. In case it’s still foggy, let me clarify: I did not like my friends dog.
One day, my friend was taking his annoying dog out to do his doggy business as I was pulling up to the apartment. My friend and his wife were also babysitting a younger boy that day, the child of a couple who was going through a really rough patch. You see, the boy had a really big, strong dad who could break people with his bare hands, but he couldn’t yet figure out the whole husband and dad bit. He was lost. Which meant the boy was lost.
Lost boys do bad things. When men don’t know their roles, they crumble emotionally and bring physical chaos and destruction all around them. You can see it in our inner cities. You can see it in our schools.
And I was watching it in the yard with this little boy and annoying dog. Mr. Spazzo-dog was wanting to do his doggy business, but Little Lost Boy kept agitating him, riling him up. The dog was going to have a breakdown.
And then my super smart friend paused our conversation, casually turned around and then put a firm hand on Little Lost Boy’s shoulder. He looked him in the eye and said “Your a man. That means that God made you strong to take care of others. And right now you’re using your strength to hurt my dog. That’s not what God made you to do.”
And in that moment, I had a moment of clarity. My friend had summed up volumes of child psychology while his dog pooped. It was the most simplistic, brilliant definition of manhood I’ve ever heard. So when my wife became pregnant with our little man-child, we began to pray it over his life. And before he and his little brother were old enough to listen, we began repeating God’s purpose for their life:
“Your a man. That means that God made you strong to take care of others.”
It affirms so much. You ARE a man (I’m not raising boys, I’m raising men). God made you. God made you with a purpose. God made you strong. God made your strength for a purpose.
One of my favorite things to overhear is my youngest son correcting his older brother “Hey, you’re not using your strength to take care of me”. He’s got it!
As they get older, we will expand it to Robert Lewis‘ excellent definition of what a REAL man does:
- Rejects Passivity
- Expects God’s Greater Reward
- Accepts Responsibility
- Leads Courageously
But even then, their child-friendly definition will hold fast. And it’s not just my boys that need to hear this. My girls are in a world surrounded by phony men. They need a standard to evaluate which ones are worth their time and attention, and which ones should be avoided. Does he love God? Does he use his strength for others, or does he use it for his own gain? So simple, so effective.
So thank you Mr. Smartypants neighbor and Mr. Annoying Dog. Thank you Little Lost Boy, I’ve lost touch with you but I pray you’ve found our way.
Teach your sons and daughters God’s vision for manhood. Affirm it in them. Model it in your own life. Expect it of them. And pray it into them!