dear hurting world: how we need to raise our sons to be man enough

Roughly five years ago, Nate Pyle attended a retreat in Houston, Texas. Thinking the retreat was going to be about leadership, the heart transformation that occurred was completely unexpected. Nate learned, through an aching loneliness, just how painful it was to hide himself, from others and from God. Vulnerability terrified him, but he took a risk, exposed himself to the world, and survived. It became a watershed moment in his life; a moment when he began to feel more like himself, more like a beloved son of God, and most surprisingly, more like a man. It’s a grace to welcome the words of Nate Pyle to the farm’s front porch today…

by Nate Pyle

Hey Son,

If there’s one thing about being a man I can teach you, it is this:

You have nothing to prove. Christ has deemed you worthy.

Do you remember that I drove you to pre-school last year? Do you remember that I held your hand as we walked the hallway to the “parrot” classroom, and that I gave you a hug as your teacher met us at the door?

This year you walked me to the street corner, then you turned to talk with your friends, and finally you waved at me before climbing the steps on the big yellow bus.

You wouldn’t know this, but new parents are told to enjoy the early years of their kids’ lives because they grow so quickly. And wow, I’ve found that to be true with you.

This year you’re stepping onto a bus; before I’m ready, you’ll be stepping across the threshold into a dorm room.

I’m not sure I’ll be ready for that step when you are.

In my mind, it signals something important. It’s a transition to adulthood – at least one of them, anyway. I don’t think any parent is ready to recognize that their children have become adults. But if I can’t be ready for you to become a man, I want you to be fully aware of the pressure you’re going to face along the way.

Every boy making the transition into manhood is scrutinized, questioned, and challenged to prove they’re man enough.

In our culture, manhood is earned. Something has to be accomplished, some award achieved before the title ‘Man’ is hung around your neck. At least that’s what we’re taught.

Win the fight. Do it without crying. Earn lots of money. Get physical with a girl.

Please hear me on this:

Sex doesn’t make you man.

Fighting doesn’t make you man.

Earning lots of money doesn’t make you a man.

Mountain climbing, fixing a car, playing sports, driving fast – none of these things make you a man.

Being a man isn’t about what you do; it’s about who you are.

You are called into the image of Jesus, into the fully human, fully alive life. Be that man – the one who imitates Christ in all he does – not who others tell you to be.

Do you remember that baseball game we went to a couple of years ago? We sat just beyond left field in the lawn on blankets, and we stretched out our legs. Do you remember that you began playing with the boys on the blanket next to us? You had brought a toy, the half dinosaur and half robot one, and the boy next to you just stared at it.

You gave it to him to play with and watched with generous pride as the boy played and wondered over it. That was you being you. You see, son, you’re more generous than I am.

I watched you give away your toy freely, but I bet you had no idea my stomach was twisted in knots. Was he going to break it? Was he going to take it?

You being you has taught me so much about me being me.

Generous, compassionate, tender. This is who you are.

You grow into a man when you grow into yourself in Christ. And when you find yourself in Christ, you’ll be a man.

It’s easy to say, “Be you.” But I’ve found it really hard to do.

You’re going to feel the pressure from every side to be something you’re not.

God gave you a gentle and sensitive heart. Gentleness is a fruit cultivated by the Spirit, but seen as weakness by men.

Our world does not seem to like men who appear weak. Unfortunately, men are often mocked for their weakness by being called women, as if being a woman is less than being a man. You don’t have to be afraid of women, and more than that, you don’t have to be afraid of being seen as weak.

Don’t be afraid of weakness.

Lots of men are afraid of being weak because I think they’re afraid of being less than a man.

Being afraid of weakness is like locking yourself in a prison. It keeps you from trying anything new, or doing anything that requires faith, or admitting your failures.

Here’s the secret, son. Being willing to be seen as weak means you are willing to be vulnerable.

And vulnerability requires an incredible amount of courage.

Men talk about running into burning buildings as courageous, and it is. But so is weakness, risking, and being honest. That’s the kind of courage we see Jesus model again and again. So what seems like weakness to others, is actually a sign of your strength in Christ.

Every man has something they have to hold on to as they resist the pressure to be something they’re not.

Your challenge is to hold on to the characteristics God gave you.

You’ll want to trade them in and try to be like some other guy, but don’t.

Your gentleness is a gift this world needs. Do you know that?

We need more men who are willing to tenderly sit with people who are hurting, and fewer men telling them to shake it off.

We need more men who are willing to find strength in weakness, and fewer men who try to convince everybody that they’re physical strength makes them strong.

We need more men who are willing to leave behind the anxious pursuit to prove themselves as men in order to more fully imitate Jesus.

Take on the hard things of life. Be confident in who you are. Never give up. And when it gets hard and you’re weak and you feel like crying, it’s okay. You have nothing to prove. Jesus taught us that in our weakness we will find His strength.

Resist the temptation to convince your peers of your strength by bloodying someone’s nose. You have nothing to prove. Christ taught us true strength is found in making peace.

Speak the truth when it costs you to say what’s true. Friends may mock you, others may leave you. Stay close to who God made you to be. And when the mocking voices and loneliness set in, you can be sad. It’s okay. You have nothing to prove. Your identity is in Jesus.

Son, there’s nothing to prove because Christ proved it for you. I want nothing more than for you to rest in the grace of God. The Father’s grace that adopts us as sons despite the fact that we are not worthy of that title. Like the prodigal son who has returned home, the heavenly Father places his signet ring on our finger to tell us we belong in his household.

We belong.

Let this truth sink deep down into the recesses of your being: God does not require proof to accept you. All the needed proof comes through Jesus.

No longer is proof required to show that we belong, because we are already accepted. As one reborn in Christ, you are made new, already deemed worthy.

Don’t you see? You have nothing to prove.

God has declared in Christ: You’re already man enough.

 

Nate Pyle is an author, blogger, speaker, and lead pastor of Christ’s Community Church in Fishers, Indiana where he lives with his wife and son. When he finds free time, Nate enjoys quiet moments in the woods, loud laughs with friends, and sitting close to his bride.

As a parent to 4 young men, highly recommending Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood. Nate explores what it means for men to free themselves from the pressure to prove themselves as men, so they can be fully human, just like Jesus — Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood

[ Many thanks to Zondervan Publishers for their partnership in today’s devotion ]

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