I left the theatre wandering around the neighborhood nearby. I was transfixed on the characters from the movie. I was also in love. Not with a cute young girl from my high school class but the young girl in the movie. I was 17 and had emotions I did not understand and no one to talk to about them.
Looking back to my teen years, early teen and forward I was enamored by girls. I have a journal from back then and one thing I noticed was every chapter describes an affixation on a different girl. It was not about sex. It was about acceptance, care, loneliness. I was in love. I was betrayed. I was jealous. I was confused. My emotions were all over the map. My hormones were raging and my brain undeveloped. All guys experience this and boys today have it 10x worse.
My mom and dad split when I was thirteen. The few times I did get to circle back around and see my dad I had no idea what to say or ask about becoming a man. I didn’t know how to talk about girls, work, faith or life. He never offered anything on his own. I don’t remember one time he asked, “how are you son.”
A boy will have questions that need specific answers and without them he will trail blaze by emotion. If it feels good, go that way. If it is scary, go over there. Bail out if it gets hard, run if you have too. Do the best you can or check out. Drugs, sex and alcohol mask the insecure and terrifying. They get a reaction from someone, then that is what they will do or say or be. They need attention, they need to feel wanted.
Even today video games and the internet become the place those questions get answered. Likes on a social media page or viewing pornographic content become an addiction. Depression and anxiety swell to a fevered pitch. And sorry ladies, a woman cannot answer the questions, not even the most loving mother or prestigious female therapist.
A friend recently called and told me about a fatherless boy who was being bullied. The family was very concerned and his mom had pulled him out of school. The thought of when I was in junior high came to me. I was bullied by the classic 2 guy team. I didn’t have the option to get out. I had to deal with it. I wondered what would that boy’s father have said to him? Would he have taught him a left hook and a round house kick? I wondered how will boys today learn to fight through hard times if they are not taught. Moms and others may cringe at this comment. But what if you or your daughter have something go down, I suspect you would want your husband, her husband or boyfriend to stand up, step in and fight to protect you, her, your family.
Every job, every trade comes with training. You get a job as a fry cook, you learn to flip burgers and fry fries from the cook. You cut lawns or insert cardiovascular stints, you have to be trained. I don’t think I want my doctor to be untrained when he begins to cut me open. For that matter I don’t want the electrician, plumber or tree guy to work on my house if he has not been trained in the skills he is offering. No way. Since the beginning of time the boy has been trained in the way of manhood by his father and the men around him.
When it comes to training a boy to understand why he is feeling the way he does, why his body does that, how to react to those feelings, we fall short. The most notable reason today, again there is no man in the house to talk with. Sadly, many times the adult man today did not have a good role-model either and lacks the skills to teach the boy. Fear sets in and the information is not communicated in a healthy way. There is also the locker room lessons. “Boy just make sure if you drink, don’t overdo it.” “Make sure you use a condom son.” “That’s my boy, the girls love him,” yuk, yuk, fist bump. This is all crap and the men who lead their boys this way are fear packed meat-heads.
The movie I watched that night was Taxi Driver. I re-watched parts of it recently and though, oh my goodness, I would not want my boys watching this. I was embarrassed by the vocabulary sitting there alone. That night as a lost teen boy, after the movie, I wandered around the neighborhood crying out “I love you” for the young prostitute portrayed in the movie by Jody Foster. It was not the idea of having sex with her, it was to rescue her. I was a street kid and she was a street kid. She was being taken advantage of and I wanted to save her, care for her, give her what I didn’t have. It was a movie but it moved me. My wounded and confused boy heart just could not process it. It was so deep inside. I was so lost for how to handle any of the things I was feeling. Today looking back it was really me crying out for myself. I wanted and needed all those things.
So what if every boy was given a healthy life map to navigate the confusion over emotions, sexuality, fear, anger and how to be a man. Imagine if every boy had a chance on a regular basis to walk with a trusted and honorable solid man for a few hours in a park. The boy would ask questions, get answers, be listened too. He would hear stories from the man on how he navigated the hard things in his life as a boy. He would hear how Jesus teaches honor, respect, life skills. He would learn about prayer and true love, giving, caring for others. He would learn the way of the man, from a man, living for Christ, the kingdom. It truly is the way Jesus taught His men. I would have given anything for that.
Good men fight to overcome the hardships they bring to marriage and fatherhood. No man will get this exactly right. But a man who has committed his life to Jesus has a chance, no matter his past. We just have to accept it and dig in. The Navy Seals have a saying, “All in, All the time.” That is how we win. We gotta be there for Jesus and the boys in our world today. “All in, All the time.