Every boy has two questions: "Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful?"
Author John Eldredge introduced this truth in his groundbreaking book "Wild at Heart." When I first read it twelve years ago, those two questions resonated with me deeply. It seems that in today's world, many men fail to help their sons to embrace authentic Christian manhood. Many of my shortcomings as a father are rooted in that very thing.
I can write about challenging our sons to be chivalrous. I can even have a good sense of what God expects of me. But if I fail to keep the needs of my sons at the forefront of my thinking, then I become passive and unintentional. I can easily forget how much my sons need me to speak God's powerful truths into their lives.
Just as I referenced the lessons found in The Great Gatsby movie, a new movie that releases this weekend seems to offer a great reminder for dads. After Earth might be the perfect movie for fathers and sons to watch together.
The National Fatherhood Initiative is strongly promoting the film. Here's how they describe it: "Although the film is set in a future world filled with evolved creatures and alien enemies, at its core is the relationship between a father and son whose bond has been strained by past trauma. The film is set at that inevitable time when a father has to let his child go, and watch them live out the lessons they’ve been taught. Fathers will leave the theater with a better understanding of the pressures of being a son, and sons will empathize with just how trying it can be for a parent to watch their child come of age." You can check their website in the coming days for more commentary and resources.
In the "Wild at Heart Field Manual," Eldredge pointed out several implications of what happens when fathers fail to give their sons confidence in self and in God. Here's what he writes:
- *Most men live their lives haunted by the Question (Do I have what it takes?), or crippled by the answer they have been given.
- *Because masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who he is and what he's got from a man, or the company of men.
- *Yet every boy, in his journey to become a man, takes an arrow in the center of his heart, in the place of his strength. And the wound is nearly always given by his father.
Depending on the age of your kids, a father/son movie night might be in order this weekend. After Earth might be the ideal launch pad for some great discussions about what a dad can do to instill confidence in his son. It may also give dad the chance to express how difficult it can be to let go and to trust God to complete His work in his children.
Hopefully, it will lead to a reminder that parenting is hard work that requires both father and son to constantly depend on Christ's leadership and guidance. But we must realize that this is far different than simply asking God to help us out. Instead, we must daily "die to self" and allow Christ's life and presence fill our very beings. His goals and His process for getting us (and our kids) there often run in stark contrast to our objectives. Only when we daily seek Him and turn to His Word for guidance can we have any clue of what that looks like.
I love one brief clip from the After Earth movie trailer. As their spaceship is crash landing, we see Will Smith helping his son to breathe using a futuristic version of the yellow masks found on commercial airplanes. In a moment of crisis, an experienced dad is clearly and calmly leading his son to do something that is obviously new to the boy.
It paints the perfect picture of what every Christian dad must do. We must first be experienced and comfortable in our daily discipline of breathing the Spirit of God into our lives. Then we must show our sons how to do likewise. Only then will our sons have faith in the power of Christ that will lead them to confidence in who they are as men.