Thursday, April 07, 2011
Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood
In his latest book, Dennis Rainey writes, "I believe there's something in the chest of a man that responds in a unique way to stories of courage. There's a piece of every man's heart that longs to be courageous, to be bold and gutsy and etch a masculine mark of bravery on the human landscape. In our hearts, we know that a part of the core of true manhood is courage" (page 5).
Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood contains many stories of courage to inspire a man's heart. From reciting tales of physical courage to feats of moral courage, Dennis Rainey demonstrates what it means to be a man through five stages of a man's life. In this book, he acknowledges the identity crisis that many men in our culture face due to poor training from fathers who were either silent, or missing, or who provided inappropriate advice and examples to their sons as their boys were growing up. But he meets men where they are and gives them the guidance and encouragement they need in order to take the next steps toward fulfilling their duties as men in their families and communities. Rather than approaching the subject in a condemning manner, Mr. Rainey seeks to instill the courage men need to take responsibility and initiative.
He outlines five stages in a man's life:
1. Boyhood: a time of adventure and exploration in which a boy needs guidance from responsible fathers and other men in his life. He needs to learn to differentiate wisdom from foolishness and how to love others. He needs to understand his spiritual identity, his sexual identity, and his purpose in life. As the author explains, "One of my favorite passages about children in the Scriptures is found in Psalm 127: 'Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them' (verses 4-5, NASB). This is powerful imagery. Think about what an arrow is created to do. Was it designed to stay in the quiver, comfortable and protected? No, it was made to be aimed and shot by a warrior at a target, to deliver a blow in battle. Can you see the connection? Boys need to understand that they are not here on earth just to achieve worldly success and comfort. They're here to strike a blow against evil, to make a mark on their world. Just like you. After all, dads are arrows too" (page 47).
2. Adolescence: a time of further training as a boy transitions into manhood. This is when a boy needs to start the process of thinking like a man. "They need help assassinating selfishness and pride...They need to learn and apply fundamental convictions and character qualities to real-life issues" (pages 78-79).
3. Manhood: a time in which a man takes the initiative and steps up to protect those in his care. Primarily, he protects his family, but he also takes responsibility to protect his community from evil. He does this physically, of course, by locking the doors of his home at night and holding his small child's hand while crossing the street. But that is rather easy. It gets more challenging when he seeks to protect his marriage by meeting the needs of his wife, when he seeks to instruct his children in the moral choices they face among their peers, when he stands up against unethical business practices on his job, or when he challenges his children's peers to treat each other with dignity. This is a time for courage to be displayed with wisdom.
4. Mentor: a time in which an experienced man teaches younger and less experienced men how to meet the challenges they face every day. He shares his successes and failures. He intentionally connects with younger men who want to approach life with more wisdom than they possess. He guides them in their quest to be the men God intended them to be. "A mentor purposefully builds life lessons into those he mentors," Dennis Rainey writes. "As you consider being a mentor, think through what makes life work for you--at work, at home, and in your relationship with Christ. What have you learned about the following?
*handling pressure and balancing the pace of life
*working with people
*building and keeping friendships with other men
*investing in your marriage
*facing unexpected crises or tragedy
*managing your finances
*developing a real relationship with God
*reading, understanding, and applying the Scriptures
*raising your children
*developing the type of character needed to succeed at work
*growing through failure" (page 147).
5. Patriarch: a time in which a man moves from the role of an authority figure to the role of a dignified older man who leads and impacts his world through the intentional good influence of his life. He keeps the extended family together. He connects with his adult children, their spouses, his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He refrains from exercising authority over the lives of his adult children--after all, they are leading their own families now--but he is always available to give wise counsel when asked. His priority is to have a positive influence on his extended family; and he spends much time in prayer for the future of his family. He works at leaving a good and godly legacy for his family and community.
Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood is an excellent book. I can highly recommend it for any man who wants some encouragement and guidance toward being a good man. I purchased the book from FamilyLife. It can be ordered at www.shopfamilylife.com/stepping-up.html or by calling 1-800-FLTODAY.
"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).