Monday, July 23, 2012

A Special Birthday and Its Special Ceremony

It is my fervent hope and prayer that my sons grow to be godly men, husbands and fathers. I have prayed for this nearly every day of their lives.  I believe that it is our responsibility, as parents, to intentionally train our sons up in a way that helps them understand the responsibilities and rewards of biblical manhood.  We want to encourage and support them on this journey.  We consider a boy's 13th birthday to be a special milestone on this journey so we wanted Maceo to enjoy the rewards of a more extensive birthday party.  We also wanted to give him a road map, so to speak, of the journey ahead of him.  I delivered a speech at the beginning of the party and I intend on sharing most of it with you.  I will warn you that in the form of a post it will be rather lengthy but I want it recorded for posterity and some may find it interesting or useful.

"We believe that this should be one of those extra special birthdays because we believe that this is an important transitional moment in time for Maceo.  In our culture we speak of many developmental stages: infant, toddler, preschooler, elementary school age, tween, teen, young adult, middle-aged adult, senior.  However, the Bible refers to only three developmental stages.  For a boy they would be boyhood, young manhood and old manhood.  We believe that Maceo is transitioning from boyhood to young manhood.  He will now actively be transitioning from the things of children to the things of men.  Transitions are rarely easy and this particular one is rife with difficulties.  Living in a culture that promotes prolonged immaturity and devalues authentic manhood means that the road to biblical manhood is often obscured and full of dangerous traps.  We do come together today to celebrate but during this time we also hope to clarify what Maceo might expect on the first leg of his journey to manhood and to ask for your encouragement and support of him during this endeavor, whether it be by sharing wisdom, by sharing skills, by praying for him, or all of the above.

In order to provide a clear vision of what this transition entails let's examine Christ's earliest years of young adulthood.  We can learn more about this time period in Christ's life by referring to Luke 2:41-52.  (At this point in time I recited this scripture).  We know from this scripture that Jesus, even at the age of 12, had acquired significant knowledge and understanding and was aware of his special relationship with God.  But it was not time for him to begin his mission outside of his earthly parent's home.  So the scripture tells us that "he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them."  It also tells us that Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men.  During these earliest years of young adulthood we know that Christ was obedient to his parents, he grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.  I want to throw in one more thing here before expounding on any of these, Mark 6:3 reveals to us that he was a carpenter before leaving his parent's home, so we know that he was also busy learning and plying this trade during young adulthood.

Looking to this model, we will expect continued obedience from Maceo and we will strive to help him acquire skills that will be useful as he goes to fulfill his manly role of provider and protector.  During this time we will be encouraging him to grow in wisdom.  The Bible has much to say about wisdom and this will be explored together.  But all of it can be distilled to this definition, "Wisdom is the ability and willingness to base all of our thoughts, actions and decisions on the principles of God."  Maceo, together we can explore the principles of God but wisdom requires you (and only you) choosing to believe them and apply them.  This will be your responsibility as a young man.

Growing in stature refers to maturing physically, mentally and spiritually.  I think that we can all attest to the fact that Maceo has been maturing physically.  As I mention every day, I can't believe how tall you have become or the size of your feet or some such thing.  You will probably continue to grow and it will be your responsibility to continue taking care of your bodily health and developing your physical strength.  In order to grow in stature mentally it will be necessary for you to continue acquiring knowledge and your studies will need to steadily become more rigorous.  Growing in stature spiritually has to do with deepening your understanding of God's ways and seeking out His will for you.  Together we will explore the ideas of a transcendent cause, a mission in one's life, something greater than just you as an individual.  We can look at others throughout time (explorers, warriors, missionaries, husbands and fathers) who have sought out and followed God's will and have found a noble purpose for their lives.  But, again, Maceo, it will be your responsibility to develop a deep relationship with God and to talk to Him regarding His will for you.  It will be your responsibility to discipline yourself physically, mentally and spiritually.

Through the pursuit of wisdom and righteousness, through seeking a right relationship with God you will naturally grow in favor with God.  Much will be required of you in order for you to achieve growth in wisdom and physical, mental and spiritual stature and, thus, to achieve authentic, biblical manhood.  The legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi once said, "Life is like football.  It requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and respect for authority."  Christ embodied these traits and you will need to employ these characteristics in order to successfully move from 'the things of children to the things of men.'  And it is these traits that will earn you favor with men.  The world will encourage you to act immaturely, selfishly, or impurely; it will try to convince you that his is the way to earning favor with men, that it will make you popular with your peers.  But this is not what the scripture instructs you to do.  1 Timothy 4:12 says, "Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith and in purity."  I am certain, Maceo, that you have heard adults speak disparagingly of young adults (of what they are wearing, the language they are using, how they are behaving), this scripture tells you how to avoid that by the way that you present yourself - in deed and in word.  You earn genuine favor from men when you conduct yourself in a way that will be viewed as responsible, respectable, and honorable.  You will find yourself in favor with men as you go about the business of men in a way that employs perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority

The journey ahead of you, Maceo, will be arduous at times but it is a battle worth waging.  You will find it rewarding.  And, please, know that you have the love, support and guidance of your family now and always."

After sharing this vision with Maceo we presented him with a football that has Luke 2:52 and the Vince Lombardi quote inscribed on it.  It will be framed and placed in a prominent position in his room and will hopefully serve as guiding principles on his journey to biblical manhood.

I know that this post is cumbersome but I pray that it will be a blessing to someone.

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