This weekend, I received the honor or participating in a birthday celebration that was the start of a tradition that fathers of pre-teens will continue as our guys transition from boys into men. Using a medieval model of a page or squire’s transition into knighthood, The elder (did I seriously just refer to myself as an elder?!) men who influenced this young man’s life during his fourteen years spoke our wisest encouragements and charges to compile a code for strong, influential and Christian manhood. Along with my contribution to the man code, I also participated by commemorating the event with spontaneous visual art.
My first objective for the piece I would create was something that represented the young man’s boyhood. I’ve known him for the last five years, in that time it became quite obvious among his top passions is playing baseball. Using an image shared on social media with a Sports Illustrated-worthy pose (wearing his baseball uniform, echoing his #4 with his right hand), I re-created his silhouette using spray paint on a plywood panel. Quite honestly, I was hesitant to continue with the piece because I was so pleased with the panel at this point! (kind of Banksy, don’t you think?)
The men commenced to taking turns speaking into this new man’s life, encouraging him in some areas and teaching him in others. As each man spoke, I listened intently for the key words appearing in our code for manhood. Using oil pastels and a graffiti style, I applied these words over the shadow of the boy that once was to signify the foundations of the man who will be.
Courage, character, faith, blessing, respect, strength, integrity, excellence – qualities that define a man.
In 1999, Warner Brothers released The Matrix, an American science fiction classic. The story tackles philosophy, sociology, technology, and spirituality; but for today’s drawing we’ll focus in on one aspect; “The One”. In the movie, Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo (Keanu Reeves), is a human living in the Matrix and working as a hacker. He is totally unaware that what he perceives as reality is nothing more than a computer projection created by artificial intelligent machines that took over the planet. A band of rebel humans who escaped the Matrix break Neo back into reality to join their rebellion. The leader of this band believes Neo to be “The One”, the human prophesied as coming to defeat the computers. In the climactic image above, Neo reaches a point of self-realization. He embraces his place in reality and finally grasps the ability to control and manipulate the Matrix to battle the machines. The attitude of embracing one’s place and stepping up to fill your position is at the heart of today’s installment of Man School.
The Matrix is unquestionably a guy flick; technological warfare, big machines, and guns galore. In the climactic scene, Neo stops a flurry of bullets racing toward him by raising his hand. He then defeats the lead villain by diving into his chest and shattering the simulated body into a cloud of computer code. Why guy doesn’t want to cheer and chest-bump his friends when the computer-generated walls start flexing in correlation with Neo’s breathing?! Neo became “The One” by conquering his fears and embracing his position, out of willingness to sacrifice as much as physical ability. Men, we need to step up and be “The One” for our families.
God, our father, provides us guys with an example to follow in fatherhood; a position to embrace. When it comes to fathering us, God is patient (1 Timothy 1:16), He is forgiving when we screw up (Ephesians 1:7, Isaiah 43:25), and his relationship to us is intimate (Luke 15:20, 1 John 3:1, Psalm 68:4). At the core of all these attitudes is love. Men who step up an embrace the role of fatherhood by reflecting God to his children become their hero. Embrace these characteristics with your wife also and you will be “The One” to your family.
1 Corinthians 16:13
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong
We’re in the second week of our new series at North Ridge, “Man School”. We started out rather poetically, introducing the study of what manhood really entails on Father’s Day. I missed the first message with my own ironic twist, my wife and I welcomed home our third child, a boy, the day before. “Man School” started on Father’s Day with my becoming a father for the third time, making me ‘Dad’ to three boys. To add icing on the cake, before leaving for the Ridge this morning, I helped my oldest construct a light saber out of a 1″ dowel rod and a conduit coupler! (insert a hearty Tim Allen man grunt here) Upon meeting his new brother, Noah (5) promoted our two-year old, Jacob to a “Padawan”, day old Micah took Jacob’s place as the “Youngling”, meaning Noah is now a “Jedi Knight”. (For those of you whose children are not Star Wars fanatics, those are the introductory ranks to become a Jedi Master) Like any good Jedi, Noah had to build his own lightsaber. The local Army/Navy Surplus store does not carry lightsaber parts (to Noah’s disappointment), so I convinced him a wooden dowel with some electrical components would be sufficient. Noah earned the 10″ dowel rod with the coupler, because it looks most like Luke Skywalker’s, Jacob saber is just another 10″ dowel segment, because “he’s just in training”. I love my boys!
Now back to the point…or, as Noah would quote from episode IV, “Stay on target”, Man School. Dean, the lead pastor at North Ridge, posted a status update on his facebook page last week: “The essence of masculinity is responsibility.” The podcast for the Father’s Day message had not posted yet, so I went out on a limb and ran with this quote for the first drawing the series, a depiction of taking responsiblity (emphasis on ‘taking’)
I realized during the sermon this morning, Dean’s quote led directly into week two’s message. The focus of today’s message was a man’s responsibility in his family, some men embrace their place in the home well, others not so much. The atmosphere within the home depends on the man’s involvement, and the level at which he is involved is clear in the mannerism of the family. Absentee fathers and husbands is a plague eating away at the cornerstone of our nation, the only remedy is men deciding to once again be men. Absenteeism is not only a physical problem, a man may be physically present in the home, but mentally, emotionally, or influentially absent.
We began the day’s message by reading an excerpt of the creation story in Genesis 1, beginning in verse 26. Up to this verse, God has created the universe and added details of water, vegetation, and all species of animals; save one. The earth was created, now it required someone to tend to it, an able groundskeeper. With that, God created Adam and gave him authority over the rest of creation. Then came Eve, to help Adam “fill and subdue” the earth. We read on in chapter 2; after taking a day off to relax, God places Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, the oasis of all creation. Outside of this immaculate acreage, creation is chaotic and untamed. Eden is God’s example to Adam and Eve for what He wants them to do with the rest of the earth. Imagine God saying to them, “See how beautiful and lush this garden is? Take everything else I’ve created and make it like this.”
Men need a task to be happy, without something to build, something to grow, a competition to win, an apprentice to train men become bored and disconnect. God gave Adam the mission of cultivating the earth and maximizing its full potential, the epitome of manly-man tasks! Eve’s responsibility? Help Adam fulfill his responsibilities by procreation (be fruitful and multiply Gen. 1:28) and assisting Adam any other way possible to care for the planet. The only specific instruction God gave to both NOT to do is eat fruit from the tree of knowledge (Gen. 2:17). Consuming its fruit would ultimately result in death. Finally, at the end of chapter 2, God officiates the first marriage, presenting Adam and Eve to each other as one creation.
We read on in chapter 3 the account of what is known as “the fall”, the commission of the first sin. A talking serpent tickles Eve’s curiosity and convinces her to eat fruit from the tree of knowledge. Countless jokes have spawned from her decision. Eve’s choice sent the world into a tailspin we have yet to recover from; or did she? Yes, she blatantly disobeyed God’s requirement not to eat the fruit from that tree. Where was Adam when the serpent was seducing his wife? Right beside her. Genesis 3:6, Eve took of the tree’s fruit, ate it, and gave some to her husband. There is no pause between eating the fruit and Adam taking a piece, it is immediately consecutive, meaning Adam must has been right beside her. Adam committed the first sin of omission by keeping his mouth shut as his wife was fed the lies that led to her fall. This makes Adam the first absentee husband.
Men are leaders of their household, either by their presence or their absence. Some men cave to being the “cool dad” and their lack of disciplined leadership creates chaos. Others go to the opposite extreme and lead as iron fist dictators, making their family cower in submissive fear. Neither are the Biblical model. Men and women are created equal, but different. Dean made a statement today that I will take with me through this adventure called fatherhood, “Men dominate the lives of their families, for good or evil.”Equally important elements to the success of creation, different roles in creating that success.
Today’s Man School lesson, be involved, influence positively, lead boldly. Be there.
I have titled today’s drawing “Where Are You?”, a question the image poses to every father. The drawing is a universal family portrait. It is a family of three, the youngest child a baby, to reflect my family and remind myself of my place in the day’s lesson. The mother and children are shaded with details as if the drawing is the beginning of a commissioned family portrait. The father, however, is an empty space surrounded by dashed lines. One could read this like a cut-out template for a paper doll or the outlined space waiting for a sticker in a children’s puzzle magazine. Either way, the family is incomplete with the father figure being a gaping hole, desperate to be filled. With that haunting of emptiness, I pose the question to you father’s, where are you?
Me? I’m writing today’s post on a laptop in my La-Z-Boy recliner, typing with one hand, supporting a one-week old with the other, encouraging the older two to clean up their toys in the play room (it works sometimes), then on to the kitchen to prepare supper so Julie can relax on the couch and read a book before tonight’s cycle of feeding, diapers, baby rocking, and a day of caring for all three while I work tomorrow.
Whoops! I have a diaper to change. See you next week! Be there.