It’s true. By and large, modern man is often found fooling about in the shallow end of life’s pool. It’s a place where fun games are championed over good work, fears circumvent boldness, passivity passes for love, and aggression masks itself as assertiveness. Yet, the calls and commentary from our culture constantly run between rightly condemning to falsely demonizing.
As I look around at men my age and younger, I don’t just see a bunch of weak men who need to step up their game. I see myself. A sheep who lacked a shepherd. A boy who grew up with a void that nobody stepped in to fill.
Surely the confusion about what it means to be a man is societal, cultural, individual, and spiritual. It’s far-reaching. Much can be said, and I want to discuss a part of the problem. A part that has often shown up in my life: modern men have largely been absent of healthy father figures.
Statistically, 1 in 4 children do not have a father at home. Further, having a father in the home doesn’t mean that one has a godly example, leader, and teacher. But boys will find guidance even if it’s not found at home.
A Void I Didn’t Know I Had
Like many, my parents divorced when I was young. I had a relationship with my dad, but we rarely experienced any kind of deep emotional connection (until later in life). After all, that’s a hard thing to do given our past dynamic, mixed together with joint custody on alternating weekends.
As I grew up, nobody else filled a fatherly role for me. I usually felt on my own — a sheep without a shepherd, a sailor without a map. I automatically leaned on my peers to steer me. That, paired with minimal boundaries and my insecurities, got me into plenty of trouble. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was filling a void with anything that seemed to fit.
Growing up, nobody was there to teach me about girls — at least, not in a healthy way. Nobody was there to teach me about peer pressure — the fact that I had something better to live for than others’ approval. Nobody was there to teach me about God — the most important father in the universe. Even now as I learn how to be a father, I often feel as if I’m the first of my kind, even though fathers have existed since the beginning of the human race.
Of course, this doesn’t absolve my responsibility whatsoever. It’s only to say that without a teacher, I willfully jumped into many pitfalls. Pitfalls that were avoidable and painfully deep.
I constantly asked myself, isn’t there anyone who has done this before?
Older men, I know you’re apprehensive. I know you’re busy. I know you’re not sure if younger men want to hear anything you have to say. But the truth is, young men are looking for a good man to invest in them. Usually, we’re scared to admit it. And often, we don’t even realize it. We need seasoned saints to help us in the trenches, not just tell our generation what it is or is not.
I wonder what the results would be if our culture focused its energy on shepherding and not merely criticizing the modern man. Of course, criticism is a necessary part of the equation to the degree that it’s true. But doing so as a loving shepherd looks very different. It’s better to be exhorted by your team than put down by an adversary.
Show young men what a shepherd-king looks like. One who leads by serving. One who lays down his life. One who cares over his household, neighborhood, and Earth. One who values and respects women. One who builds others up in a relationship. Show us Jesus.
Godly Young Men
Our earthly father figure may never come but as I grew older, my heavenly Father found me.
Lacking an earthly father does not excuse the call from our heavenly father. It certainly does not absolve the strength that he provides. It also does not mean that we are left orphaned, for he will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We have the perfect father in him and we have a perfect example in Christ. Meet him in the morning; be strengthened by his promises; walk with him throughout the day; rest in his strong hands. He satisfies our deepest needs.
We also need to recognize our need for his hands and feet. Is there another man or elder at your church that you want to learn from? Most people won’t assume you are in need, and this need lives below the surface. We usually need to be the ones reaching out for help. Setting up a meeting with a family pastor after church one Sunday was one of the best things I did for my growth as a husband and father.
Additionally, you’re not alone in this need. The body of Christ is diversely suited even among peers. Perhaps you can get some other guys together in order to encourage and exhort one another. Join together for mutual sharpening (Proverbs 27:17). There’s strength in struggling together. Even if you don’t have all the answers.
Let’s Go Deeper
The shallow end of life’s pool will never satisfy us. We were designed to go deep. I wonder where my fellow men would be if they were taught to swim.
Who is willing to call out the Lifeguard for help?
Who can step up and help a boy tread into deep waters?