The principle here could go in any number of directions, but I’ll limit it to the one that I have been thinking about most recently. I have four boys who have inherited my family name. These boys are growing at an astonishing rate. In my younger days people might have said that they were growing like weeds. And while they will indeed grow like weeds with nothing more than a steady supply of mac and cheese and hot dogs, it takes quite a bit more intentional care on my part (and an incredible amount of grace from God) to keep them from growing up into weeds. Hence the need to revisit the idea of manhood from time to time to see how goes it in the Bailey garden.
I’m pretty sure it was Martin Luther who likened the church to a drunken man on a horse. He’s always falling off one side or the other. A cursory look at church history will find this to be quite true. The subject of biblical manhood is no exception. My father’s generation seemed to define manhood by work ethic, integrity, and loyalty. He worked hard, his word was binding, and he was resolutely loyal to his wife, his friends, and his business.
My generation saw some of the futility and trade-offs of that particular expression of masculinity in fathers who disappeared every day and returned at night to rest up for another disappearance, fathers who thought one genuine “I love you” was enough to seal the deal forever, and fathers whose loyalty to God, country, and family could not be easily weighed in terms of importance. Therefore, we traded one side of the horse for the other and decided to define ourselves much more by our play and our possessions than their work, say “I love you” way more than actually loving sacrificially, and treating loyalty like a high-priced free agent- 100% committed until something better comes along.
Things have moved from child-labor camps to 26 year-old boys living at home on their parents’ insurance. The man-cave has become the man-spa. The workaholic is now the stay-at-home dad. All of this to say that while there is real danger in thinking either side of the horse is true masculinity, there is also a real danger in clearly seeing what it is not without giving serious consideration to what it should be. In other words, we most often fall off one side of the horse because we very clearly do not want to be on the other side.
If there even is a horse called masculinity, which I firmly believe that there is, then true wisdom is learning how not to fall off the horse. It’s learning how to raise boys with strong backs and gentle tongues, courageous hearts and humble spirits, jealous love not jealous envy, the will to fight and the willingness to lay down and die, kings and priests, warriors and poets. When I consider the calling God has given to me in the raising up of my boys, the first thing I ask Him for is grace. The second is wisdom.