In the book, "Fathered by God," John Eldredge walks through six stages of manhood. It is my journey, and yours if you are reading this, to ask the hard questions in each of these stages. This book was meant for a male audience but I believe that it could have deep meaning for women too because our journey involves them on so many levels.
The first stage is Boyhood.
What images pounce through your mind when that word is spoken. I know for me, a smile begins to show at the edges and I think of Montana. That house made such an impression on me that to this day, I swear I could tell you every square inch (and the last time I was in it was when I was six)! The house, the property, every boys dream! Our house was big and rustic. At this point I would say it was a classic Montana house with huge amounts of acreage to play in and get lost. I would go on adventures to find dinosaur bones (bleached branches) and bring them back to a special tree who's roots made a small hollow that I could hide them in. I remember going exploring but never worrying about finding my way back home or of finding the odd cougar or mountain lion that was seen on the front porch of the house down the road.
When I think of boyhood, I think of when my family moved into the house we occupied for 18 years. We lived on two acres. The house and the managed yard were on the first and a wild expanse of blackberries, doug firs, alders and maple trees enveloped the rest. That was my kingdom. I would venture down as far as I could go. Make trails and campsites that would never be slept in. I would make up stories about slaying dragons or hunting beasts of indescribable ferocity! And always I would win.
"When a boy has this confidence, this security and safety created by masculine strength over him, the whole world opens before him. He is able to live as a boy - an explorer and adventurer."
There, I was a boy. But life isn't always that simple. Eldredge speaks of being wounded. Every man has experienced this. Some of us know what it is, others haven't yet identified the source of pain and heartache in their lives. When we are wounded, we end up living out a terrible lie that has settled deep into our hearts: you are on your own (pp53). Just think of those words. I am on my own. You are on your own. No one is there for you, no one cares enough to be there for you. No one has time for you. It is now live and let die. There are many things that happen at this point. The naivety of the boy is lost. My naivety was lost. I began the long arduous process of growing up, but it wasn't long anymore. It was every day. I got a job. I went to school and participated in school sports during the week and then worked on the weekends. Soon enough, I got two jobs, then three. No longer was life fun. Sure there were and are fun things about it. But the adventure, the peace, is gone.
Growing up, dad worked. He worked all the time. Ya we'd play catch, and rough-house on Friday nights. But the affirmation that Eldredge speaks of wasn't there.
"Without this bedrock of affirmation, this core of assurance, a man will move unsteadily through the rest of his life, trying to prove his worth and earn belovedness through performance or achievement, through sex, or in a thousand other ways. Quite often he doesn't know this is his search. He simply finds himself uncertain in some core place inside, ruled by fears and the opinions of others, yearning for someone to notice him. He longs for comfort, and it makes him uneasy... A young place in his heart is yearning for something never received."
Now, today, I feel that some of that affirmation has come. Just the other day, I was in class and got a call from my dad. When I got out of class to answer him, he said he just wanted to check in, see how I was doing. "It's been a while Greg." What he was really saying was, "I love you and I have been thinking about you because you are my son." Eldredge claims that, "the heart of a boy can be resurrected." It's a process. It doesn't just happen over night and we have all experienced enough life to have mistrust be a reality. But it is a process that continues every day in my life. I have begun to better understand the love my dad has for me. The pride he has in the way that I lead my life, the choices I make. Deep down, this is all I want. I want to be a little boy again with dad, except this time, he won't go to work, and we'll play catch all day and go camping, and fishing and work in the hard together. Or do remodeling on the house together. But I don't get that wish. Instead, I get to understand the love he has for me now.
Eldredge asks a question that I believe all men should attempt to answer every day. "How would you love to be fathered these days?"