Choose your battles

I hear those words and still, nearing 40, they make me angry.

On a recent camping trip with my nephew, the alarm on his wristwatch chirped. I asked him what the alarm was for. “It’s set for when school gets out. Sometimes our teacher tries to keep us late, but it’s not right. I’ve got to catch the bus, so when school’s over I’m leaving.”

I felt those ugly, awful words rising up in my throat. But I’m not going to crush his passion for justice just because he hasn’t connected all the dots yet.

Give Peace a Chance

The man-hating culture expresses it in terms of peace. They dislike how boys are born: wild, aggressive, competitive, adventurous, uncontrollable, impulsive, impatient and kinetic. The zeitgeist demands passivity, peacefulness, equality, uniformity, and safety. Being a boy is viewed as a disability, and in some cases, it’s actually a crime.

Schools work to train boys to be passive sponges. Sit down, be quiet, stop fidgeting, and absorb. Workforce success often depends on a man’s ability to recall the domestication of his youth; his desire to tackle a problem, solve it and drive through any obstacles is derailed at every step by feminizing influences. He can’t have a fulfilling relationship because men aren’t allowed to lead anymore. Hell, they can’t even be equals anymore.

I Just Called to Say I Love You

The man-ambivalent church expresses it in terms of love. The church is love crazed to the point that it’s obsessive, annoying and unhealthy. Everything comes back to love. The error is in the lack of balance. 

The entire church experience for boys (and men!) is being bombarded with messages that demand they shed any impulse towards anything other than love. Unfortunately, all those manly elements that disrupt the peace and quiet – risk taking, danger-seeking, anger venting, violent acting – all those fall outside the defined spectrum of All Things Loving.  

Made in God’s Image

But boys were made in God’s image too. All those difficult, challenging, exhausting, frustrating, dangerous, and risky behaviors reflect their Creator.

The same is true of their desire for justice. God is love, also Just and Righteous. Our salvation required the satisfaction of God’s Just-ness. Forgiveness, grace, and mercy: Thank God, yes! But the church’s hesitance to talk about God’s Just-ness is man-hating.

As I walked with my nephew and choked down those ugly words, I decided to say something different. “I love your passion for justice. If you always pursue justice – and live justly – I will support you no matter what. But beware:  You’ve got to count the cost in all things. Is there a way to think strategically about the problem, to win the battle more effectively?”

Yes, his persistent passion for justice is annoying and often selfish, but it’s also beautiful and powerful. I would rather have to hear about a thousand smaller causes than watch him turn his back on even one great cause.

Let’s stop teaching our boys that their Creator messed up. Their innate passions aren’t mistakes. Being a man is a high calling and a tremendous challenge. And boys are equipped to grow into it – assuming we don’t strip them of their power and the voice they were given to cry out to their God.