“Am I a man?” From my teenage years well into my thirties, this was a constant question for me. There seemed to linger, somewhere deep in my soul, the fear that I wasn’t a man. That I didn’t even know what it meant to be a man.
Let’s be clear, the question isn’t, “am I male?” That was determined about four decades ago thanks to my parents. What I’m talking about is manhood, or you might call it mature masculinity. What does it mean to be a man? What characteristics, qualities, and skills befit one so labeled: Man?
Sure, there were cultural markers meant to illustrate when a boy had crossed over that invisible line from child to adult, from a mere boy to manhood. Every generation has these false markers. Most seem pretty childish to me now, like smoking your first cigarette or drinking your first beer. Others point to experiences that certainly should require a mature masculinity, but neither delivers it nor demands it, such as sex, a first job, getting married, and having a child.
No, this is certain, none of those things make a boy into a man. We can all think of people who have crossed those boundaries, flown past them even, without acquiring one ounce of maturity in the process.
The older I get, the more I realize that I’m not the only guy asking this question. In fact, the more men I talk to about these things (manhood, masculinity, maturity), the more I find that there are, in fact, very few men who feel like they have a firm grasp on what it means to truly be a man. This isn’t just those who grew up without a father. Even those who would describe their father as a “pretty good dad,” say that the topic of manhood and maturity now seems to have been woefully neglected in their upbringing.
They still find themselves asking, “am I a man?” It’s a powerful question. It’s also a sad question.
The most fortunate can at least remember having “the talk” with their father. You know the one, something about birds and bees. I say “most fortunate” with tongue in cheek, because it is a stinging indictment on fatherhood when the only conversation required to be a “pretty good dad” is one about sex. What an even sadder statement about manhood – is sex really the only thing a man needs to know to be a mature man, a GOOD man…and are you sure you can cover it all in 10 minutes?
Well, from time to time, I still ask this question: am I a man? But now, it’s different. I am beginning to understand what it means to be a man, a good man, a Christlike man. I can see with greater clarity the qualities, characteristics, and skills needed to be what God has created me to be AS A MAN. By His grace, I’m starting to see other men discover who they are meant to be as well, and we are walking together towards greater maturity. And I hope this series helps you do that as well.
The series is shaped around a “model” for masculinity. It will provide a visual picture of mature masculinity, and as we unpack it, we will begin to understand what manhood is meant to be. You will see that the model is really an attempt to show us what God’s good design is for manhood. It is an attempt to see how He has instructed us to live as men.
And here’s the really important part, you’re going to see that the way God has designed manhood is based on something even more foundational, namely, His own character. Manhood is the way it is because God is the way He is. Your mature life as a man is meant to reflect to the world the truth about God. And only when you understand the truth about who God is and what He’s like, will you begin to understand who you are meant to be and have the desire and ability to live it out.
And when you start to live out of that, that’s when everything changes.