The gospel calls us to maturity, to complete manhood. It’s written in scripture and it’s written in our DNA. The mind and body are geared for growth and are a metaphor for what is meant to happen as we grow in Christ.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways (1 Corinthians 13:11)
Children are full of possibility. They can imagine themselves to be and do anything. They are like unformed clay and can reimagine their surrounds and themselves any way like.
Cardboard boxes become forts and chairs become dragons. Flowers become the ornaments of a princess, buckets become boats and plastic blocks become homes, starships, farms and battlefields.
As they grow, life’s responsibilities begin to restrict their choices. What was once a world of unending imagination gives way to the reality of work and productivity. In order to make it through this rite of passage into adulthood, they must now begin to accept the necessity of sacrifice.
Hopes and dreams must be laid on the altar so that shapeless clay can now be defined. A resurrection of sorts must take place and on the other side of this altar, we hope to see a gardener, a baker, a nurse, a father or something else.
Now, you can either choose your sacrifice and become something or you can let the altar take you unawares when you are 30, or even worse 40. But refusing to make the sacrifice does not make the sacrifice go away. It simply accrues. At that point, you are no longer looking at a kid with potential. You are looking at the sad and embarrassing spectacle of a grown man glued to his Play Station or playing dress-ups with his man-child mates.
When an 18-year-old man does this, we (to his own hurt) excuse him on account of his relative youth. But the altar continues to make its demands and when you’re looking at the same man-child at 30, people are not so thrilled with you anymore.
These are men (and some women) who whine that no-one will take them seriously or follow their lead. And why should we?
Now, lest anyone think I am spraying bullets into the air like an epileptic storm-trooper, I am not talking about all men in every circumstance.
The father who sits down for a game of Monopoly with his children or takes them out into the yard to kick a ball around is not automatically guilty of such a scandal. He’s doing what good fathers do.
I am talking about those men who, having been taught the way of the gospel, should know better. I am talking about those called to lead others to maturity and those called to lead their families in the faith but are unable to do so because they have not accepted adulthood and left their own childish ways behind.
Such men cannot be taken seriously because they do not take themselves seriously. For them, sacrifice represents loss.
But for those willing to surrender childish ways the sacrifice that brings about mature manhood does not ultimately shrink life; it enlarges it.
With Christian maturity comes definition, clarity, purpose and a deep reverence for God. Men who leave childish ways behind are now men that their families, other men, and other families can rely on.
Having surrendered his childhood fantasies, such a man no longer has the potential to be anything he likes, but at least he can now become something. Something that others can lean on.
Our sinful nature hates definitions and our culture despises maturity. It doesn’t like categories and seeks to blur the lines between boys and men. But blurred lines result in blurred lives and blind leaders. These are the boys of blur. They are old infants who cannot take people anywhere useful because they have never ventured past the nursery.
Now, we understand that our maturity does not happen overnight. It is the accumulation of significant sacrifices made throughout life. But the only way out of the current nappy culture we find ourselves in is to start making those sacrifices. Small, daily sacrifices, predicated on a genuine fear and reverence for God and an understanding of what it means to be made in His image.
Sacrifices that display our willingness to surrender some area of our immaturity each day for the greater glory of a seriously joyful, sometimes painful, courageous manhood.