Note: This post was originally a note I shared on Facebook back in March. I saw James this morning and it made me think of this note, so I thought I would post it here for my friends who don’t have Facebook profiles.
This is just a joyful note thanking God for the power of amazing people. I want to share with you why community and family is so significant using an example in the life of my son.
Laura and I have some good friends who teach English in China and “live out loud” there, as it were. Michael and Tammy are awesome people living where God wants them to and doing what He wants them to; Tammy’s mom and dad live here in Phoenix about 20 minutes from our house. Because Norm and Betsy’s grandchildren live in China, they have unofficially “adopted” our four kids as their grandkids.
Here is where the story gets better. We home school, which is a lot of fun for us but makes us work hard to get our kids some experience outside the home. Norm is an old-school outdoorsman, with a shop full of tools that I think a lot of suburban guys (me included) don’t have a lot of experience or competency with. Every Monday afternoon James goes over to Grandpa Norm’s to spend time in the shop; it’s a fantastic man-cave filled with wondrous tools and limitless possibilities. He is learning leather-working right now.
Norm has given James a couple of folding knives and shown him what a good knife is. He has helped him make a beautiful belt sheath for a fancy knife. He has patiently shown him how to cut, stamp, and stitch the leather. He told James that he could have that fancy knife that he is working with IF he picks 5, 5-gallon buckets full of weeds out of Norm and Betsy’s yard. James is learning that craftsmanship takes time and the value of hard work by doing it under the tutelage of a master.
I called Norm today at his request. He wants James to take an NRA hunter’s safety course so that he can get a deer tag this October and go hunting with him. I haven’t hunted in probably 15 years, but it was so touching to me that he wants James to learn how to hunt and is willing to invest all the time to help him gain proficiency shooting a rifle and tracking a deer. These are the things that a boy needs to learn from a grandfather, and since my dad lives a long drive away and is really suffering from rheumatoid arthritis he can’t fill that role in James’ life. Laura’s dad lives a long drive away too, so having Norm fill that role is so important and needed in his life.
The funny thing is, and the reason I find “family” so compelling, is that Norm told me tonight that having James around blesses his socks off. He loves that young man and wants to be part of helping him become the man God wants him to be. Yeah, James has me in his life and we do a lot of kenpo together. It is so amazing to see another more experienced man sowing into his life though. It blesses me as a father beyond measure. It blesses James immensely and he loves time at their home. And it blesses Norm and, by his own words, makes him feel young.
James has several other men that do the same. James helps Steve and Adam at church to set the auditorium for worship and fill communion cups. They play with James, teach him manly stuff (Adam gave him two knives a couple of weeks ago…James likes knives, can you tell?), and accept him as a man-in-training. He has Lawrence constantly speaking acceptance and challenge into him in kenpo, holding him to a high standard but picking him up when he falls without cutting him down. He goes over to play with Timmy and Ben and plays laser tag with their dad Michael. He heads over to play with Stephen and gets to hang around with Ken Strohmeyer.
I can see him growing up and becoming a man under all this tutelage. He is my “tiger man,” and I thank God regularly for men like Norm and all the others who are helping him become the man that he will be. See, he’s not a little copy of only me! He needs the input of this community of men to help him grow into a man. He needs to see all of these pictures of godly men and mold all of their input into his own picture of what a Christ-following, authentic man looks like. He doesn’t need the caricatures in the media; he needs living, breathing examples who can set the pace for him and give him handles to hold onto in his journey to manhood. He needs not just instruction but modeling and mentorship.
Isn’t that what every man needs? Guides, helpers, mentors on the path to godly manhood? Every man who wants to be a Christ-follower needs men who can not only tell him what that means, but show him and help him and pray for him. This is the heart of biblical mentorship and discipleship. What a fantastic picture in my son’s life of what Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:2, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NASB) We need that chain of men in our lives who pass on to us what biblical manhood is, and in turn we must pass it on to those who follow.
I am just grateful he is getting at 9 what took me into my twenties and thirties to get. This is why community and mentorship and discipleship are so important, and why I thank God for leading me by watching my son and the amazing men in his life.