Preparing for marriage begins long before the proposal. I glimpsed this recently when I had the opportunity to offer words to a thirteen-year-old during a rite of passage ceremony. While the boy currently cares more for World of Warcraft, burps and farts, and squirrel impersonations, his father wisely knew that this would be a moment on a journey, one that may include marriage.
A thirteen-year-old needs different advice than a fifteen-year-old, and a high school freshman needs different advice that a sophomore in college. Yet our hearts understand narrative, and so I offered themes that he could apply throughout each life stage. Certainly these words could be for any man, but in the spirit of marriages that seek a happily ever after, I offer them to husbands and husbands-to-be, and perhaps to the thirteen-year-old in all of us that still may need to hear it:
Every man I know wants to be seen as strong. That doesn’t necessarily mean physical strength, though I am sure you would not mind the ability to wrestle your dad to the ground. Don’t worry, that day is not far off. The strength I speak of is an internal strength and confidence; we want to know that we have influence. We crave significance and meaning. Here are a few thoughts for you to keep in mind as you discover yourself as a man. These words may not make sense now, but my hope is that you can return to them in the future to read with new eyes.
Boys want to fight, but you cannot fight well until you first surrender well. As men, we are often told that we must know how to do everything on our own. We are also extremely selfish by nature. Our self-centered ego is our internal spirit that wants to live life apart from depending on God for life. This is a theme that the apostle Paul calls the flesh, and you will wrestle with it your entire life. Surrender to the belief that you cannot survive as a man without depending on God and others.
Choose Love and Grace
Life is about relationships. Anything that has any value is always connected to relationships. You were made to know others and be known by others. In light of this, choose love and grace as a way of life. Your friendships, family relationships, and marriage will depend on it. Every person you encounter has a hard life (even if you do not see it). You may never know the full impact of the kindness you offer to another person. Spend your life learning how to offer your presence to people in the spirit of love and grace.
Tell the Truth
To tell the truth may be one of the most difficult commitments you may ever make. On the surface, it does not sound hard. But as you know yourself more, you will find some ugly parts within that harm your relationships. You will feel shame that says, “Will, you are the only one that thinks or feels this way, and something is wrong with you.” Shame will tempt you to hide. Telling the truth will be your greatest weapon against living in the prison of shame and isolation. While there are parts of you that God will always need to refine, nothing you feel or do extends beyond His grace. Seek friendships that invite you to tell the truth.
Find that which is good and important in the world, and fight for it. You have been designed with unique passions and desires. Seek to know and discover them. Experiment and practice using your gifts and passions to see how they will bless the world. Then spend the rest of your life living out of your design in love, on behalf of others, and for the glory of God. You will bleed. The sword your father has given you is not just for fun. It is a symbol of the road before you. Living out your design will require sweat, pain, and tears. Your deepest passions will make you vulnerable, but it is your vulnerability that will give you the passion to fight well.
Remember the couple times I accidentally called you by your brother’s name? I loved the fire that burned in your eyes. As you transition into manhood, be Will. The things that God wants to do through you will be done best as you become who you already are. So many people spend their lives trying to live up to others’ accomplishments. Countless lose their lives in the game of comparisons. I pray that God would bless you with the knowledge that He made you intentionally to be Will and no one else. I cannot wait to see the man you become.
Cheering for you,