Being a Man
One of today’s greatest challenges for men is teaching our own sons what it means to be a man. I was raised in the Judeo-Christian work ethic and taught that I should work hard to become a good provider for my family. Seems easy enough. But my father had a disadvantage that I don’t have–he didn’t know Christ as his Savior and Lord. Following Jesus changes the rules because it changes the outcome of our lives. (My father did give his heart to the Lord later in his life.) In many respects, being a man is as much about what you teach and model for your own family as it is about how you live in front of the rest of the world. And while our sons are directly impacted by the modeling we provide–shaping their own views and habits by our own life, I firmly believe that my example will be a light to my daughters in choosing the man with whom they will share their lives.
We had some neighbors who were having family struggles–they were a blended family and starting to have kids of their own. The issue was he was never around and she was run ragged with the needs of a young son and their 2 young daughters. My wife convinced me to go have coffee with the husband. Tom was your typical man and his goals in life were quite normal: earn a lot of money, have a lot of fun, and be a good provider. I wasn’t really sure where to start, so we discussed a few of the struggles that men face, and, seeing where I was going, he cut to the quick. He said, “Peter, you and I are very different. You are altruistic and are doing things for others that most people don’t do. I’m solely consumed with making as much money as I can so my family can live a comfortable life.” He was partly correct, we are very different and he did want to make a lot of money. But when he left his wife and kids a few years later, he made sure that he kept all the money and put his wife in the position to care for her 3 kids with very little resources and support.
This is the lie, and while Tom is an extreme example, being the family provider is an elusive goal. It’s elusive because we haven’t properly defined what we should provide. Tim’s book, Basic Training for a Few Good Men, really helped me dial in what it means to be a man and thus what I should provide to my family–my wife, my sons, and my daughters. First and foremost, I am a child of God, drafted into God’s army. As a follower of Jesus Christ, it means that I go where He is (or would be). My wife and I decided our personal ministry was to bring kids that come from hard places right into our home by fostering kids in need of a family. I had to figure out a way to bring the front lines of Christ’s battle to my young kids. There is no better training for life than real life experience. If I want my kids to see the power of God at work, the only way to do that was to make sure they had the chance to see Him where He is doing His best work–helping the lost, forgotten, the abandoned in their need. And through these precious kids my own children have seen my wife and me lean on Christ during the hard times–pounding our hearts out in prayer for the kids we have loved and lost. Moreover, our kids have seen that there are people in the world who have needs greater than their own and anyone, no matter how young or experienced, can call on the same power to meet those needs.
I used to worry about the effects of bringing a child into our home, having my kids fall in love with them, only to have them ripped from our hearts later on. But I don’t worry about that anymore. I’ve re-defined what it means to be the family provider. It means giving my kids the opportunity to put into practice everything they learn in Sunday School. It means giving my kids a chance to see the face of Jesus in those in need. It means so much more than earning a living and giving them a home, because their home is temporary and I want their eyes to be focused on eternity and not the next pay raise, new car, or nicer house. I want to provide an example to my kids of a foot soldier working in God’s army, bringing His Kingdom to those around me.
Written by Peter Bartolini