In his book Wild at Heart: Discovering The Secret of A Man's Soul, author John Eldredge remembers a hiking adventure he and his boys enjoyed together. He offered encouragement to his eldest son, Sam.
"Way to go, Sam! You're looking good. That's it...now reach up to your right...yep, now push off that foothold...nice move. Way to go, Sam. You're a wild man."
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, pg 61
Soon Sam finishes the climb and his dad begins to clip his brother into the gear. While Dad attends to these tasks, Sam waits. A short while later he sidled up to his Dad and in a quiet voice asked, "Dad...did you really think I was a wild man up there?"
John Eldredge writes about this moment:
Miss that moment and you'll miss a boy's heart forever. It's not a question--it's the question, the one every boy and man is longing to ask. Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Until a man knows he's a man he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at the same time shrink from anything that might reveal he is not. Most men live their lives haunted by the question, or crippled by the answer they've been given.
In order to understand how a man receives a wound, you must understand the central truth of a boy's journey to manhood: Masculinity is bestowed. A boy learns who he is and what he's got from a man, or the company of men. He cannot learn it any other place. He cannot learn it from other boys, and he cannot learn it from the world of women. The plan from the beginning of time was that his father would lay the foundation for a young boy's heart, and pass on to him that essential knowledge and confidence in his strength. Dad would be the first man in his life, and forever the most important man. Above all, he would answer the question for his son and give him his name. Through the history of man given to us in Scripture, it is the father who gives the blessing and thereby "names" the son.
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, p.62
I find all John's assertions compelling. A therapist versed in the wounds of countless men, John Eldredge knows what he's talking about. His own father, an absent alcoholic, wounded him by never engaging his son. He never gave "the blessing" to John and for many years the author was a workaholic. He disengaged from his wife and family and pursued worldly success, trying to answer "the question" for himself. Did he have what it takes? Was he a man?
Men respond to the wound--given at the hands of a father--by becoming hard-driven overachievers who neglect their families and refuse to engage emotionally. Or they become passive. The hard-driven man is trying to prove himself and the passive man has no fight in him at all. He doesn't see the point...he believes he's a failure.
Dave remembers the day the wound came. His parents were having an argument in the kitchen, and his father was verbally abusing his mother. Dave took his mother's side, and his father exploded. "I don't remember all that was said, but I do remember his last words: "You are such a mama's boy," he yelled at me. Then he walked out." Perhaps if Dave had a strong relationship with his dad most of the time, a wound like this might be lessened, healed later by words of love. But the blow came after years of distance between them. Dave's father was often gone from morning till night with his own business, and so they rarely spent time together. What is more, Dave felt a lingering disappointment from his dad. He wasn't a star athlete, which he knew his dad highly valued. He had spiritual hunger and often attended church, which his dad did not value. And so those words fell like a final blow, a death sentence.
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, pg. 69
There's a young boy named Charles who loved to play the piano, but his father and brothers were jocks. One day they came back from the gym to find him at the keyboard, and who knows what else had built up years of scorn and contempt in his father's soul, but his son received both barrels: "You are such a faggot."
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, pg. 69-70
In the case of violent fathers the boy's question is answered in a devastating way. "Do I have what it takes? Am I a man, Papa?" No, you are a mama's boy, an idiot, a faggot, a seagull. Those are defining sentences that shape a man's life. The assault wounds are like a shotgun blast to the chest....The passive wounds are not, they are pernicious, like a cancer. Because they are subtle, they often go unrecognized as wounds and therefore are actually more difficult to heal.
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, pg. 70
Some fathers give a wound merely by their silence; they are present, yet absent to their sons. The silence in deafening. I remember as a boy wanting my father to die, and feeling immense guilt for having such a desire. I understand now that I wanted someone to validate the wound. My father was gone, but because he was physically still around, he was not gone. So I lived with a wound no one could see or understand. In the case of silent, passive, or absent fathers, the question goes unanswered. "Do I have what it takes? Am I a man, Daddy?" Their silence is the answer: "I don't know...I doubt it...you'll have to find out for yourself...probably not."
John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, pg. 71
It's hard not to shed tears over these stories. This is why Jesus had to die for us. We're so broken.
I don't have time to go into more right now, but I felt it was so important to relay these truths to you, as mothers. If your own husband is wounded, he may have a harder time bestowing masculinity on his sons. We must pray.
Later we'll discuss the healing. But for now, remember...Jesus is our Redeemer! Our wounds don't melt away, but we have strength and perfect love in our relationship with Abba Father.