Pursuing Manhood -- By: Ray Van Neste
JBMW 13:1 (Spring 2008) p. 12
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
Director, R. C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies
What follows is an address that I gave to some young men at my college who asked me to speak to them about the issue of pursuing manhood. This is an important topic not least because of the confusion that seems to reign in the minds of so many about what manhood is and how one progresses well in this journey. I have seen Garrison Keilor quoted as saying, “Manhood was once seen as an opportunity for achievement, but now seems like a problem to overcome.” So though my comments are directed at college-aged young men, they may find application to men of other ages as well.
I know some have told you that the way to take leadership, step up, and progress in manhood is to get married. However, I must differ. Marriage is the last thing some of you need to be thinking of just now. You need to grow up first. I affirm what I think these others are trying to say—start preparing yourself for marriage. Move “Halo” down your list of priorities in order to begin thinking about what sort of vocation you will pursue, how you’re going to pay your bills, etc. But much progress in this may be needed before you really start looking for a wife. If you are not right now getting your class work done, and fulfilling your comparatively light responsibilities as a single student, then don’t even consider the prospects of marriage. Instead start working on growing up.
Our culture is infatuated with youth and encourages you not to grow up. After all, it says, the glory is in the youth. If you would be men, you must reject this siren song and swim against the tide. You must diligently seek to throw off immaturity and to grow up. Remember the one boy who never grew up was Peter Pan—and in case you haven’t noticed, his role has typically been played by a woman. The chase for perpetual youth is never manly. The other example of avoiding the effects of growing up is the medieval boys choirs. To maintain the high voices of the boys as they aged, the boys might be castrated. Again, avoiding maturity is emasculating.
So my main point to you is work on growing up. It does not “just happen.” Examples abound of physically mature males who have never truly attained manhood because they failed to mature in any way other than physically. So, what does it look like to grow up in manliness? No doubt this could be discussed in many ways. I’ll just take a stab at several that I think are important based on my own reflections on scripture and my observations of the young collegiate men whom I teach.
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