Initiating Sons Into Manhood
[This article originally appeared on Focus On the Family as part 2 of the Rites of Passage for Your Son series]
Years ago I began meeting with two good friends, Bill Wellons and Bill Parkinson, to research, discuss and plan how to raise our sons into manhood. Then Ann Parkinson asked me a question I couldn't answer. She said: "Robert, how does a young man know when he has become a man?" As the mother of three teenage boys, Ann wanted to know.
The more I thought about the question, the more I realized Bill, Bill and I needed to do something to initiate our sons into manhood. Something tangible. Something memorable. With seven sons between us, we wanted to create something that would empower our boys. So the three concerned fathers got together and took tentative steps toward designing manhood ceremonies.
[I find it very interesting that he began to ask these questions in a community of men. This truth can not be over estimated. I do not believe that you can successfully raise boys to be men without a band of brothers to come along side you and love, fight, and support you as you do! For me, my brother and I began to ask these same questions several years ago. Asking the "WHY" before the "what" proved to take us on a journey of discovery of how God was “Fathering” me in Christ and was preparing my brother and I to lead and raise our four boys very differently from our own experience. - Pastor James]
At our first meeting, someone mentioned the idea of creating a family crest. Bill Parkinson then independently researched the subject of heraldry and brought back some examples.3 (A book that helped us in creating our crest is The Oxford Guide to Heraldry, by Thomas Woodcock and John Martin Robinson (New York: Oxford, 1988). It is available in most public libraries. A Complete Guide to Heraldry by Arthur Charles Fox-Davies (New York: Gramercy, 1978) is also useful. Both books detail hundreds of examples of ancient crests, explaining symbolism and history.) Using these as a guide, we fashioned a crest that reflected our values. Then we took our idea to Nancy Carter, a graphic artist employed by our church. Nancy played with the concept and the colors and developed the finished product. We then had three copies matted and framed and placed in prominent locations in our homes.
[I love this concept! Doing things like this provides several benefits.
- It provides a visual reminder of spiritual truths. Throughout the Old Testament the children of Israel doing this very thing to act as reminders of the grace of God, the purposes of God, and their commitment to Him.
- It acts a rally point for the mission of your family. I often talk to my children about “what Hintons do” and “how Hintons act” ect. Things like this push me to play offense, be intentional, and to reject passivity, to accept responsibility and to lead courageously in my home.
- It give our sons a “nobility of purpose”, a reason for them to do hard things! Becoming a man today is incredibility difficult. Having a reminder like these help my boys push forward when everything in them wants to be like other boys… to be “normal”. To bear His cross to win a crown. Our kids will tell you that “normal stinks”. In order for them to not be “normal” we can not act like every other family that just expects their boys to figure it out on their own, as they go…
- Pastor James]
Our crest is in the common form of a shield. The Greek words across the top say "Fight the good fight," an allusion to Paul's admonition in 2 Timothy 4:7. The helmet symbolizes the fight of faith. The Greek phrase at the bottom of the crest means, "One Lord, one faith, one hope."
Three major sections make up the crest. The section on the left — with the sword in the shape of a cross — represents the "conventional" manhood that must be surrendered to Jesus Christ. The section on the right with the crown and wreath symbolizes authentic manhood. (The crown with three jewels stands for the three imperatives of real manhood: rejecting passivity, accepting responsibility, leading courageously; the wreath below stands for the promise of greater reward, God's reward.) The three swords in the middle represent not only our three families, but the ongoing masculine truths each dad offers a son to fight with for an honorable life.
Key Passages in a Boy's Life
We now had a major symbol, but we still lacked a process. As our discussions continued, the three of us identified some key passages in a boy's journey to manhood. With our own experiences as a plumbline, we settled upon these four:
- Puberty — that great transition at the start of adolescence when a boy's body wreaks havoc with his mind.
- High school graduation — when, for the first time, a young man experiences unbridled freedom.
- College graduation — when a man must face the world and begin to provide for himself. (If your son chooses not to attend college, identify a similar milestone: completion of a vocational training program; beginning of a career-oriented job; conclusion of a military assignment.)
- Marriage — when a man assumes responsibility for a wife and the leadership of a family.
We then decide to craft ceremonies to commemorate these passages and to empower each of our sons with a vision for the next stage. The next articles will go into more details about each ceremony.
[The point of these articles is not for you to copy everything that is presented (though that would not be a bad thing) but for you to think what would have the most impact on your boys… In this case doing something poorly is better than doing nothing at all. This month we had the opportunity to have our first “Induction into Manhood” for my son Caleb after his 13 year old birthday. I had no idea how much it was going to impact him. Even weeks after the ceremony he is still talking about it!
- Pastor James]