I think every little boy at some point decides to walk around the house in his mama’s shoes. I’ve seen my son does this. He also likes to play with his toy vacuum. This past weekend he played with a dollhouse. And recently, he chose the princess band-aids for his pretend injury (although he later regretted not choosing the batman ones).
And get this, I don’t think he’s having a crisis with his masculinity or what it means to be a boy.
This is just what kids do.
With the exception of my Jordans, my wife’s shoes are always more interesting for a two-year-old than mine would be. And he likes to vacuum because he sees me vacuum. And he likes the princesses because my wife loves the princesses, his friends do too, and his little sister is bound to be a huge fan.
And that’s okay.
But it raises the inevitable question what makes a man a man? How do we define masculinity? And when we expand that question into the lives of our children, what makes a boy a boy or a girl a girl?Boyhood gets linked to things like sports and rowdiness. Girlhood gets linked to things like sensitivity and creativity. But what happens to the boy who is emotional or the girl who wants to wrestle with the boys?
Some might say that the girl is a tom-boy. Or that the boy likes girly things. Some might even go the lengths of saying they are having a gender-identity issue. I’d be more likely to suggest that we simply have a definition issue; the way the world often defines manhood and womanhood is based on purely superficial things.
So, what makes a man a man?
I’m not very “manly” by most popular definitions. I’m not good a shooting a gun, I know nothing about fixing a car, and I’m not great a physical labor. I know how to change a tire and pump my own gas but that’s about the limit of my car knowledge. I can’t tell you about the cars I see on the road, I tend to be emotional, and I love to kiss and cuddle with my kids.
The problem is our world defines masculinity with superficial things. It defines masculinity by sports, alcohol, cars, and guns. Or it defines masculinity by even more dangerous things for our boys like the objectification of women.
I once had a conversation with a young man who simply because of the fact that so many other guys watch pornography that it caused him to question himself in his masculinity. This wasn’t a gender problem or a sexuality problem, it was a definition of manhood problem.
The way we define manhood in our world affects the way that men see themselves. It affects the way husbands see themselves. And it affects the way our little boys (and teenage boys and young men) see themselves.s
So what is a man?
A discussion on manhood could fill up pages and pages of discussion. But for our purposes here, I want to talk briefly of what might be one way to think about what men should be pursuing in their own lives. It is what I want for myself and what I want to model for my son. And it is the way I hope that I will define masculinity as it goes beyond superficial issues and gets to the heart of what it looks like to be a man of God.
In Ephesians 5 Paul uses Christ as the model that men should look to in loving their wives when he says, "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” So if a husband is to love as God intends the manliest of husbands to love, it will look like Christ loved.
And therefore if we are going to teach our boys to be men, being a man is less about sports and guns and more about imitating Christ.
One of the ways that Jesus has been described throughout history has been having a three-fold office, basically this idea that Jesus related to people in three primary ways in his ministry.
Jesus was a prophet; he spoke God’s word to people. In Genesis, we see the failure of Adam as a prophet, when he fails to speak God’s words to his wife. And in Jesus, we see the opposite, Jesus perfectly speaks God’s word to us.
A man is called to speak God’s word in his home. He is called to be the mouthpiece of God to his family as he loves his wife and cares for his children. Are we teaching our boys to be God’s mouthpieces? Are we teaching them to speak God’s words in the context of our homes and in their relationships?
Jesus was also a priest. He was the mediator who stood before the Father on our behalf. And he is the one who cares for us. Just as Adam in Genesis is given the job to care for and cultivate the garden, man is given the job to care for and cultivate his own family.
A man is called to care for, to love, and to grow his family. He is the shepherd that cares for his little flock. Are we teaching our boys to become pastors of their future homes? Are we modeling what it looks like to shepherd and disciple our own families? Are we caring not only for the physical needs of our families but their spiritual needs?
Jesus was also known as the “King of Kings.” And as a King, Jesus protected his people. He was a warrior who went to battle for the sake of his people. When the devil raged war against Him, Jesus gave his life for us.
A man is called to be a protector of the family. While the priest shepherds and cares for the sheep; the King makes sure that the wolves get shot. A man protects his family and goes to fight for his family.
"Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” - 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Are we teaching our boys to be protectors? Are we teaching them to fight for the things that matter? Are we teaching them to act like men, to be strong, and to do everything in love?