My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard; Mother would come out and say, “You’re tearing up the grass”; “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply, “we’re raising boys!” -Harmon Killebrew
“One night a father overheard his son pray: Dear God make me the kind of man my daddy is. Later that night the father prayed, Dear God, make me the kind of man my son wants me to be.” -anonymous
It is definitely one of my favorite activities- to wrestle with my sons. We are seriously rough. In fact, just today my oldest son (4) punched me in the eye after I skadooshed him (See KungFu Panda). I was actually hurt and He said to me, “Good punch, Huh Dad?” I wanted to “really” skadoosh him but instead I said, “great punch!”
Although it may seem like silly play, what my boys are learning in reality is not only how much their daddy loves them (and by extension their Heavenly Daddy) but some basic principles for living out virtue and chivalry. You might think that this is too violent for your taste. Let me suggest, however, that wrestling, sword fighting, shooting, etc. are helpful (with my guidance) in encouraging my sons to grow into men who protect the weak and the helpless- just as God does. They are learning to become tender warriors. My desire for my boys is that they would become men of virtue and truth. I am training my boys to protect their women! Right now that is their mom, but someday it may be their sister, wife, or daughter. This reminds me of a story I once heard of a lady whose son was punched by a neighbor boy. She called the boys father to tell him what happened. The father asked his son what happened only to learn that his son punched the other kid because he was picking on his sister. The son said to his dad that he had asked the other kid to stop hurting his sister and that he told the kid if he continued, that he would stop him. The next day, the lady called back to speak to the father to find out what he was going to do about his son punching her son. The father told her that he was going to take him out for ice cream!
This is sort of funny, but it illustrates the fathers desire to teach his son how and when to defend the weak. As my boys grow older, the wrestling/connecting will look different but it will always provide me an opportunity to challenge them to ask the hard questions and to live according to what is true, and good, and beautiful. For example, even now we are askings questions like: When, if ever, is it ok to “kill?” God says “thou shalt not kill,” So we are careful to be very concerned for the sanctity of life. We try with all of our might to instil in our boys the value that it is wrong to “murder” anything or “kill” with an impure motive or mean spirit. We try to help them realize that Jesus said that if you look on your brother in anger, you commit murder in your heart. But we don’t stop there as there are many difficult ethical issues to be mindful of- such as self-defense vs. turning the cheek? Protecting others with force? Knowing when not to fight? What about just war? What about pacifism? What would Jesus do in His incarnation? How about in his exaltation? How do we turn enemies into friends? When is it appropriate to kill animals, if ever? etc. Our desire and responsibility as parents is to help guide our children into ethical maturity. For us, wrestling seems to be where that guidance begins! And its fun!
Furthermore, as a result of the time I spend with my boys, they are learning what it means to be a man. Manhood seems to be disintegrating in our culture and we are finding more and more adult boys. When I wrestle with my sons they pretend to be superheroes, dinosaurs, good guys fighting bad guys, etc. but although wrestling and swordfighting are a great time for us, it is not simply play. It is training in virtue! it is training for manhood. Every time we play together, I am intending by either word or deed to move my boys closer and closer to manhood. What is a man? Generally, a man is a Patriarch in his home and community who is skillful in living out the seven areas of life according to God’s design. The seven areas of life include the physical, psychological, social, parental, financial, marital, and spiritual. Kaylee and I have purposed to train our boys to be men by the time they are 13 years old- similar to the Hebrew family in Scripture. There is precedent in both Testaments to support the practice. In the Bible, until the age of thirteen the boys “authority” was their earthly father. After their transition into manhood, the primary authority shifted to to Yahweh himself. You can see examples of this in the lives of biblical Patriarchs. Although, the boys became men and the new authority became God the Father, they would continue to submit to and “honor” their earthly father as it was God’s desire. The young men, though no longer under the authority of their earthly father, would often remain on in the family business as apprentices until much later in life. This is likely what happen to Jesus. He maintained an apprentice role under Joseph as a carpenter until he began His public ministry when he was 30ish- . In our culture, however, it will be very difficult to unleash our boys as men when they are 13 because it completely goes against the whole societal structure. Most kids who graduate from high school aren’t even men at that point. Also, in the Hebrew family and culture, women and men often would get married before they were fifteen. One reason was to prevent immorality. That would be very hard to encourage in our current society. No matter how our family life plays out, we will obviously need much wisdom and prayer to raise biblical Patriarchs in an increasingly matriarchal, egaliatarian, child centered, and anti-Yahweh society.
Kaylee and I are still trying to put together some kind of plan for training that is not legalistic or burdensome, yet is challenging and effective. We would love your support and ideas. Please pray for us and our boys!
through the glass dimly
please checkout my wife’s latest blog post to see why I decided to write this post: www.pacificnorthwestgirl.blogspot.com