Transitioning from the position of boyhood to manhood is a complicated process. Yes, a complicated state of liminality where anything is possible. If one makes the transition properly, the end result is the same: a toothless boy whose only care in the world is that of himself becoming a man who has responsibilities. Perhaps it is the responsibilities that define the man?
To this I say, no. It is how the person deals with the responsibilities he has heaped upon himself that makes him a man. A famous book called Iron John does a good job depicting the process of becoming a man through the use of mythological narratives. He talks about the innocence of childhood and he hairiness of manhood. In this paper I will talk about these two concepts from brief point to another.
The Innocence of Childhood
When we are children, things seem rather simple: wake up, eat breakfast, get on new clothes (sometimes not), watch cartoons, go to school, read, write, play, eat, love, and sleep; these are just a few of the things childhood brings. When we are children we rely upon our parents who offer us sweet cookies to make us stop crying.
As children we get to be jealous of each other because the other has a different toy. We get to put our shoes on the wrong feet and wear our pants backwards. We get excited about going to the park or the lake. We go on imaginary bear hunts and stare out the window on a rainy day. We cry for kisses and hugs when we skin our knees. We hide in the cabinets or climb on the couch and smile because we can. Everyone is a friend that there is no such thing as evil. Church is a place to meet and hang out with friends.
The Hairiness of Manhood
This section is just as it sounds: hairy. When a boy becomes a man, nothing is simple anymore. Waking up is not quite as easy anymore (mostly because sleeping isn’t quite as easy either). Putting on clothes is complicated depending on your size and occasion. Eating in general becomes so complex therein lies the question of whether or not you will even get a decent meal. Thinking becomes more difficult, too, and sharpening one’s mind becomes top priority in the midst of chaos.
“A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by.” –John Wayne
When you are a man, you are cognizant of the consequences of your actions (be they good or bad). A man recognizes his place and his roots as they affect his daily actions and thoughts; a man lives for more than just himself; a man leaves behind himself and pushes on for the sake of others; a man has depth and a different kind of wisdom and strength. All of what I stated above is very natural and real, but how a boy becomes a man is decided in a liminal state which is called “growing up.”
My Liminal State
My childhood years stopped when I entered my sophomore year of high school. I was 22 when I gave Sarah Jones (my wife) a promise ring inserted in the Bible placed on the love verse in 1st Corinthians. During that time period, I was on a journey of self-discovery where I grew in my relationship with Jesus, experiencing independence (and many other things that come with age), and eventually becoming desperate for companionship.
The truth is companionship wasn’t the key to becoming a man, but rather the act of living with and on purpose became a hallmark of my manhood. Yet, this still wasn’t the primary catalyst for my manhood. On our wedding day, everyone around me was melting down and all sorts of things were going wrong.
What pushed me and held me steady during the chaos was not the relationship I had with anyone, or the companionship I had with Sarah (my love), but it was the strength that I found in Jesus Christ. During my liminal state, the greatest thing I learned was my weakness, and in that brokenness was Christ’s strength. I am susceptible to anything the Devil or this world throws at me, but in Jesus I find my peace and my strength. I find my manhood in my reliance upon the Lord who makes all things good.