Let Sleeping Giants Lie..

There’s a movie I watched -admittedly much to my embarrassment- about a man who experienced the late onset of puberty due to a medical condition.   One of the most disturbing things about the film was that it highlighted the self-obsessive, self-gratifying, self-debasing nature of uncontrolled sexuality of the teenage male.  Maybe the movie was intended to be satire, nevertheless, it was a pitiful depiction of reality.

Sexuality may be the most potent force in the life of a male.

Jerry Seinfeld, in one particular memorable episode of Seinfeld made a comment something to this effect: “A man will watch a movie no matter how pointless, if there is a slight chance of frontal nudity.”   We laugh at this line because it’s funny, but deep inside we know it’s true.

Your sex drive is called a drive because, well…it drives many aspects of our lives – maybe even every aspect.   For some it resembles a 2.2 Litre Chevy fourbanger, and others a Tuatara 6.9 Litre V8 Twin Turbo -they both drive…   As a matter of fact, you may have driven your life, integrity, reputation and precious family relationships right over a cliff into a spectacular fiery carnage of infidelity, pornography and broken commitments.  (Or maybe you’re in the process of doing that…)

Sexuality, in spite of being an amazing, wonderful gift from God, is a giant that can cause wreckage and havoc in our lives and those around us.

In high school, I experienced a growing sexual awareness.   I wanted to have a girlfriend, but felt quite a bit of frustration because things just never worked out.   (In retrospect, that was a great blessing.)  I was well liked and popular, but nevertheless with my shyness and the self-consciousness of my –what I thought at the time– big ears…  (which I now think are perfect), I just never really had the confidence to commit to the single-minded pursuit of a relationship.

In today’s setting teen relationships and sexual exploration are encouraged, supported and accepted.   More young men desire to wake the “sleeping giant”.   Why such a rush?  Do high school aged young men need to have girlfriends?  Do they need to be in relationships?

In a Discussion Club of high school males, we tackled that very question.   Surprisingly, in their minds, having a girlfriend equated to having experience with females.   They rationalized that if they didn’t have those intimate relationships, how would they ever know how to understand and relate to women and grow from the hurt and loss that may occur?

It seemed that having girlfriends (to them) were noble, necessary life lessons.   Personally, I suspect it had to do more with the unrestrained, sexuality of the hormonal teen aged impulses, cranked up in a fallen, lustful world.

It’s interesting though, on one hand, those young men all agreed how easily girls could be a distraction, (some boys have torched whole semesters…) yet somehow, they felt they should be able to handle relationships…

Well… intimate relationships lead to intimacy.   It all leads to sex, eventually.   (What’s the point of just holding hands or kissing?)  I supposed it doesn’t matter -if you believe that premarital sex is fine…  But, if you don’t believe it is, why not avoid the temptations?   Why poke the bear of your sexual drive?

A close Christian friend told me that he lost his virginity in high school.  One of the most painful things he had to do was tell his fiancé (now wife) that she wasn’t his first time.   (Can you imagine that conversation?)

Young men sometimes view women as objects of sexual conquest, and the mindset is to “take” so that “I feel good…”  It’s all about personal gratification.

I want my three daughters to know that a man is supposed to add value to a woman’s life.  (It’s the kind of value that comes with maturity and spiritual depth.)  It’s not about taking, but giving.  Married men take a large chunk of their early marriage life learning about sacrifice and unselfishness (with their wives being in the safety of a committed matrimonial relationship).  Those lessons are  intensified ten fold with the introduction of children.  We (present company included) learn that sex is more than sex, but part of intimacy and relationship and commitment.

What kind of value can a grade 9, 10, 11 or 12 add to young woman?  Listen, if I were running things, I’d ban guys from dating… at least until their 2nd year university.  (Can you imagine how many young men would then pursue post-secondary agendas?)

Young men, your sexuality, your sex drive will be there your whole life, wouldn’t it be better to wait on God’s timing before you wake that giant?  As a matter of fact, you must put him (that giant) under the influence and guidance of a really big God.  We’re lying to ourselves (big time) if we actually believe that we can handle things in our own strength.  (Ask King David about that…)

What’s my  counsel?  Don’t pursue intimate relationships, avoid pornography like the plague, and (for the love of Pete), figure out who you are before you even think of joining yourself to someone else.

One more thing…

My strong recommendation is a pre-teen program which fathers and close male mentors can participate in together, called “Passport to Puberty.”  (By Family Life Today -check out the link… Passport to Puberty)   This powerful resource can help your preteen boy (if I can continue with the metaphor) to scope out the giant before he awakes.

Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to comment.   (It would be nice to know if anyone is out there.)   We share the same struggles and walk a common road.  I encourage you to share your thoughts and experience with someone else.  Start a conversation, you would be surprised how valuable that may be to another person.

Israel

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What Is (not) a Man?

“My mom is more of a man than my dad will ever be.”

This was a comment made by a member of my discussion group of high school aged young men, while we tackled the question, “What is a man?”

At one junction in the conversation, I asked a few of them (who were 18 or over) if they considered themselves “a man”.  It was a difficult question to answer with certainty.

The discussion evolved, “When a woman says that “You’re not a man”, what does she mean?

Their thoughts;  “The size of your…”  (I won’t go further.)  However, the overall, rational consensus was that if a woman made that statement, she felt that the guy was failing in some form of responsibility.

“Are you a man?”  I’ve asked the question directly to young men, and I’ve yet to not encounter some kind of hesitation.  Why?  Why is manhood such a difficult question to own?

On a personal level, one day I woke up and realized that I had a wife, kids and a mortgage…I realized that I was not a child…but when did I become a man?  (Getting to manhood with your eyes open is another discussion – read the Alien vs Predator blog.)

So is manhood just about the degree of assuming or managing responsibility?  Is this what gauges manhood?  What is a man?  What is a working definition of masculinity?  Since you asked, let me answer.  (Prepare yourself.)

Well, a man is an adult male.

Is that too simple?  Is that the lowest common denominator, or maybe that is the pinnacle of a very practical observation?

A man is a man.  If we could naturally and heartily accept that, would there not be a lot less confusion and self doubt in the hearts of our boys and emerging men?

But, I think we’ve obscured the real question, the one that brings home the million dollars when you leave the show.  Despite the cultural leanings, masculine stereotypes, and historical environments…  despite the varied plethora of internet explanations and hits about a “real man”, the real questions is about the “quality” or “kind” of man one strives to be.  We need to shift the question to “What kind of man do I want to be?”

Based on Genesis chapter 2 in the Bible, and using Adam as a template of manhood and masculinity, I purpose this as a working definition, not of a man, but what a man should strive to be…

A “Genesis Man” is a male in  relationship with God, equipped with a sense of purpose and inclination towards employment, moral responsibility, possessing a strong sense of familial and mentoring sensibilities, a reservoir of wisdom, and one who uses his language to build into the lives of his family and relationships.

Now, “What’s wrong with men?”  I’ll answer that next time.

Alien vs Predator: Weddings, Ceremonies and Rites of Passages (Part 2)

Why do humans go places and touch things they aren’t supposed to touch?  That is a constant theme in a lot of these movies, especially Alien vs Predator (AVP).  Humans seem to have this undying curiosity which sometimes…well… leads to them dying.

There are several other observations I made while watching AVP which relates to this idea of the need for ceremony and rites of passages.

 1.  The humans who were exploring the underground pyramid removed three crucial items that were necessary to the successful completion of the rite of passage.

2.  When the young Predators would kill the Aliens, they used the dead Alien’s corrosive blood to make a permanent mark on themselves.

3.  The young Predator sought out help from the female heroine (the only human on the exploration team who thought it was a bad idea to go down there in the first place).

4.  At the end of the ritual, the mature Predators arrive to collect and honour those that survived this rite of passage.

An essential truth is that the road to maturity needs to be purposeful.  There are important tools that are necessary and should be a part of this journey.  Secondly, a young person is developing a sense of maturity when they realize that help is needed, and this could be an important element in a rite of passage.  The scarring or marking of the individual represents this idea that there should be something visible that marks the completion of the rite.   (I am NOT promoting the need for a tattoo!)   There should be something accomplished that proclaims, “I have done it!”  Finally, those that are mature recognize the changes and the steps that have been taken by those who have completed the rite.  Acknowledgement from those who have gone ahead is crucial for guiding the younger into maturity.

Yes, I know this was just a movie, and maybe even a film that most people haven’t even bothered to watch.  (How many times can one watch an alien bursting out of someones chest before it gets old?)   However, AVP highlights (in an odd and unexpected way) the things that we believe in and the programs available in the “Genesis Man” Men’s ministry.

Fathers (or Mentors) should plan a rite of passage for their boys.  For my son, I had him sleep in the tree house in our backyard one summer night. We talked about why he was doing it and discussed his apprehensions and bought all the gear he would require for a success adventure.  I then had him journal and reflect on his experience.

Passport to Puberty is an excellent program for pre-teen boys (there is a girl’s version as well) that address subjects of sex, peer pressure, and the challenges they will soon meet as teenagers.  I spent the weekend in my mother-in-laws unfinished basement doing this, and it was an experience we will both not forget.

Ceremonies are something we carry out for young men at some key junction of their lives.  It takes about an hour; it’s planned by a Mentor or Father, and is in an informal setting.  The candidate is issued a challenge they must present to a group of men and their peers.  They are given a “gift of significance” and are encouraged and exhorted by each person in attendance.  There is a general recognition of their maturity and expectation of their responsibilities.  We take the time to say, “You know what, you are a man.”

As I mentioned in Part 1 of the Blog, ceremonies are not just for weddings, and rites of passages are more important than we think.  As men and mentors it is our responsibility to get our boys and young men to manhood and maturity with their eyes open.

Please email me if you would like more details about any of these programs at menandmaleyouthalliance@gmail.com

One final word…avoid all underground alien pyramids under the Antarctica ice!

The Buck Stops Where?

This made front page news…

Toronto Star article, Saturday March 2, 2013

Star Investigation: Black and aboriginal youths over-represented in Ontario jails

  • The proportion of jail admissions is four times higher.  For other boys of other ethnicity there is no such representation
  • “Federally, corrections data by race has for many years provided a look at the result of decades of political indifference and systemic racism in many aspects of Canadian society”
  • The data show similar over-representation in US and Canada, yet US has received far more public and political attention
  • “Young black men face racism, poverty, lack of opportunity, social isolation, and violence in their neighbourhoods, family challenges and unemployment.”
  • “Once men are known to police,  systemic issues stack the deck against already disadvantaged groups, says academics and a library of past research, including the 1995 Report of the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System”
  • “At-risk communities receive more police attention, Police detain, leaving release decisions to the courts.  Justices of the peace in Ontario are demanding sureties more often these days.  Making bail is harder when you have no home, are poor, or have no one to be a surety.”

Having read this article, it certainly seems a sad state of affairs when we consider our young men and their futures.  Of course, there may be ways to interpret this article (and what it may mean), but it’s impossible not to recognize that there is a problem.

As I was thinking about what I was reading, the thought came quite clearly to me that dealing with this “systemic” problem at the “courts” stage is way too far down the line.  I’m not saying that things do not need to change.  What I am saying is “The buck stops where?”  The solution to the problem with young men (whatever ethnicity) needs to be address at the home level, with men, mentors and fathers.   By the time a youth is thrown in jail, let’s all agree, that’s a difficult time to affect change in his thinking.  A handcuff makes it challenging to spread your wings.

Our Men’s group recognizes that it’s difficult to find men, but it’s more expedient to make men.  We need to impact boys with positive and spiritual values.  We need to let them move to manhood and maturity on purpose and not by accident.  I remember thinking at times, “I have a wife, kids and mortgage…when did I become a man?”

Our boys need rites of passages.  Young men need ceremonies.  They need some peers, and definitely older men to come around them and speak declarative words of life and purpose and meaning into them.  You must know by now that all men are “on call.”

You should also know that because you are not a father does not mean that you are absolved of responsibility to impact our young men.  If fathers fail, we have a God given and social responsibility to mentor and care and love.  We must fill the gap.  Fathers, we just need to strive to be that “Genesis Man.”

So, let the courts, judges and activists get on a mission to buck the system.   Let us as men, and mentors, and fathers let the buck stop much closer…