Monday, June 24, 2013

Raising Gentle Sons

“Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.”

II Kings 23:25

My Debbie is asleep; I push her stroller gently through the wooded path and slow down my pace. She always falls asleep when I push her, her little head drooping to the side, her body relaxed near the end of a warm, sticky day. We walk near the woodland brook where my sisters and I used to come when we were little girls. And I stop and sit next to her on a rock near the water. Here I can hear the sound of the sweet birds singing their late-afternoon song in the trees and watch the rustling branches sway in the warm June wind.

Commotion. Three young boys step out of the woods swinging sticks, swinging wildly, talking loudly. The birds are quiet.

“Let’s kill the frogs. Let’s kill them.” They say it over and over, like it is a noble thing to kill without a reason, to stop a heart that God made, for fun. They lumber over to the stream splashing the water with their big sticks, with the instruments they’ve chosen for destruction; they think that branches from a tree make them powerful and important. They don’t realize that true power comes from the Man who once hung upon a tree, so that we could be free from the power of sin, of destruction, over our hearts, from the act of waving big sticks to invoke terror, to cause pain.

They are young; they are foolish. They won’t be capable of causing any harm; they are too loud; the frogs will outsmart them for now. Funny how it goes.

And they will go back home to their video games, to their television programs, to an atmosphere where their moldable hearts will not be trained in a different way than what comes naturally to them.

But when they are older, when their craftiness ripens thick, when their arms and pride-swollen hearts are full to the brim, they will be capable of causing harm, to the least and to the greatest, unless they are taught, unless they are trained differently.

They say “boys will be boys.” How I secretly loathe that saying, how I loathe the way that it is given as an excuse for all churlish, coarse, natural behavior in young “innocent” male children.

Nels Olsen had the right idea in the Little House on the Prairie television series. He responds to that common saying (“boys will be boys”) with “Yes; and monsters will be monsters!” Many times this is the quotation that settles in my head involving some of these little “monsters.”

How will our sons learn to treat their wives with gentleness and respect if they haven’t learned this behavior towards all of God’s creation? How will they learn to submit to God’s authority in their lives if they never learn humility and selflessness, gentleness and compassionate love towards the Lord’s creation and the people and creatures in it?

What kind of a man do I want to protect, to cherish my own little daughter when she grows up? A man who secretly enjoys destruction and suffering in whatever form it takes? A man whose mind has been scarred and jaded by the harsh shells of violent video games and the obscene, charring, soul-callousing-media, or one who protects, who heals, whose mind is pure and free from desiring harm, who is gentle like Jesus, the Shepherd over the sheep?

A mind can be redeemed; a heart can be purified. A man who realizes that the habits of his heart have not been towards holiness, may, through the power of the Holy Spirit, make an about turn. But the upward climb will be difficult, and he will be constantly swimming against the tide of his own terrible habits. It will be more difficult for him than if the foundation had been laid with the smooth stones of sincererity and righteousness, from his mother’s breast to his passage into manhood.

How can we raise our sons, from when they give their first cry, to when their hands will stretch widely over ours? By the grace of God, if He grants me a son, I pray that his hand may not be covered in blood but bathed in kindness and gentleness and peace, for the glory of the Father. I pray that he may be a protector of what is good and right and true, a “healer of the breach,” and a lover of mercy and righteousness.

How can we train our sons?

We may teach them to protect rather than to destroy.

I have a great respect for the armed forces, for men who sacrificially lay down their lives for the lives of others. Many of these boys enter the forces for the excitement and the thrill that this kind of service “promises.” They then leave as men who have seen and tasted the salt of the bitterness and brutality of warfare and death. Their souls are affected by nearness to suffering. The armed forces serve as an example of a man becoming a protector. He protects his country, his children, his wife, through the service he offers. We may train our sons to love to protect—to protect their families (to protect their hearts from lust, their souls from the distractions of the evil one, their bodies from the pollution and scathing imprints of sin)-to protect the “least of these” (the unborn, the handicapped, the mentally retarded, the forgotten elderly)-to protect the Lord’s creation (birds and beasts and all things living-to treat them, for the Lord’s sake, with gentleness and dignity, to think carefully before taking the life of any one of His creatures, as a necessity and not for the pleasure of it, for food, if need be, but not for mere sport). So our sons should be taught to protect rather than to destroy. How may we do this? By taking them into nursing homes and hospitals to help minister to those who are hurting. By encouraging them to befriend the kids who have no friends. By modeling to them a compassionate attitude in the way that we treat animals and living things. Our example will speak volumes to our sons.

We may teach them not to take pleasure in suffering.

For some reason, it seems to come naturally to boys to be cruel towards animals. It’s as if their God-given desire to lead and conquer is misdirected towards crushing and destroying. They are like Vikings rather than the literary representation of “knights in shining armor.” I knew a boy when I was young who used to enjoy cutting worms into pieces. To be honest, he enjoyed watching them suffer. They are only worms, we think, and we justify certain actions by belittling the creature’s supposed ability to feel or be affected by pain. My question is, what “level” of creation will he stop taking that attitude towards? If he enjoys watching a worm suffer, why not a dog, or a horse, or a person made in the image of God? A sparrow is the “lowest” form of bird life and yet the Lord takes pity upon the sparrow and knows every time one falls to the ground. Are we not to model the same compassion that the Lord has towards His creation? I have no problem with humanely and responsibly killing an animal, whether for food, or for neccesity, to end an animal’s suffering, or if there is an infestation of some kind. The problem is not in taking the life of a bird or a beast, of a butterfly or a bug. It is when the animal is being killed, is subjected to suffering for pleasure or for sport, that a line has been crossed. Boys must be taught not to take pleasure in suffering.

We may lead them away from the degradation of sarcasm and the stinging cynicism of this age.

This is a subject that should be elaborated on, but I’ll just touch upon it briefly here. We live in a world that has become jaded to beauty and true sensitivity. Our society lauds and applauds caustic cynicism, sewer-stained humor, and making light of moral issues and absolutes. We delight in things that are ugly and gruesome and make sport of things that were once thought lovely, true and noble. It is utterly accurate that in the last day “men will be scoffers.” (II Peter 3:3)

Our cartoons (intended for very small children) alone are chock-full of angry birds and sarcastic bunnies, not to mention the other forms of media and entertainment that infiltrate our homes. We’ve come a long way from the innocent, sweet simplicity of movies like Bambi and the television series of Lassie, the noble boy’s best friend and protector. Are we too “smart,” too sophisticated for movies like that, now? Do we need sarcasm to sate our appetite for amusement?

We must, as believers, protect our children from the raging influences of media and society, which will sear their impressionable hearts and dull their consciences. May we not offer them something better than this? Something that brings light to the eyes and joy to the heart? We must search high and low to offer them something better, something deeper and richer and truer. Something that will encourage our boys to become true men, disciples of the living Jesus.

So many times, to my shame, I have silently in my heart thought, “Well, boys will be boys.” My prayer is that our boys will become true men, true sons, sons of the Living God, gentle, His radiant light reflecting from their eyes that have grasped the fullness of truth and gentleness and grace. All of our sons, together, for the glory of the Father.

No comments:

Post a Comment