Friday, January 05, 2007

lesson from africa

Somewhere in Africa, a father walks, accompanied by village elders and warrior-mentors, to the hut where his son lives. That boy lives with his mother. She is one of several wives to the boy’s father who now stands outside her hut.


The father does not come in but announces the name of his son, and calls upon the lad to come out. He will keep calling until his son comes out and joins the men. But this does not happen without resistance from the mother. She blocks the way and begs the men not to take him, saying it is too soon. But, the decision has been made, and they will not relent.


The boy steps out from behind his tearful mother. She cries, because she will not see him for a year. He will remain in the men’s camp, isolated from women and children as he is ushered through the rites of passage into manhood. After the training, he will be a hunter, a warrior, a man.


This process is significant enough that if the village has a 16-year old who is “called out.” And a 40-year old who is not, the 16-year old is a man, but the 40-year old is still a boy.


To the best of my memory, that’s how Norm Wakefield begins his talk on The Calling Out of a Son.


We live in a time and place where boys and men are distinguished by the prices of their toys. Instead of finding a helpmeet to provide for, they marry a mother-substitute, who is expected to take care of their needs. It should not surprise us that grown women have a problem submitting to the leadership of …boys.

My oldest son turns 17 at the end of January. I have decided that it is time to “call him out.”


L.L. Barkat said...

Um, this isn't going to involve spears, is it? :)

Seriously, though, I like the idea of a "coming of age" event or season. I've been thinking about what kind of thing we might do as part of the culture of our homeschool group. Yeah, still thinking. Any ideas?

Craver Vii said...

Are you talking about what to do for "coming of age?"

There are a few people in our community who could contribute good ideas.

Llama Momma said...

So what does this entail, this calling out? In our society, today, how do we initiate our boys into manhood?

Anonymous said...

My husband read a couple of books about raising boys a couple of years ago. I think the titles were "King Me" and "A Modern Day Knight". In one of them it talked about having a "ceremony" for the different milestones in a boy's life. I will check into it further and let you know.

PS Craver ..saw the "ladies" over on Martin's site. Interesting choices! I am glad I know your wife!

Craver Vii said...

How does our society initiate boys into manhood? Or how should our boys be initiated into manhood?

I believe the Bible gives us some freedom here, but I also believe that it is primarily up to the dad. Neither the boy, his mother, nor his peers can take him through this journey. As for the initiation, whether Dad hands him car keys, kicks him out of the house, gets him drunk, brands, cuts or pierces him, men will disagree on the method.

I intend to create an initiation ceremony together with respected men from our community (some church elders, some respected fathers, some uncles). Many of whom (including myself) have never been “called out.” Together, we will come up with some guidelines for manhood, maybe a timetable for the journey, and perhaps even a task that he can perform to commemorate the crossing over. After he has demonstrated that he has entered into manhood, the elders and I will make sure that he is treated as such in each of his social circles. Ideally, it is not only this handful who will treat him (privileges plus responsibilities) as a man, but also aunts, cousins, neighbors, churchmates… everybody.

Anonymous said...

does this mean he can't babysit my boys anymore?

L.L. Barkat said...

I think the complicated aspect of this is finding something that is Real. In the African society you discuss, those skills are real skills they'll need in their real world.

What exactly do men need here in America? Kindness, perhaps. Honesty. Fidelity. Ambition. Problem solving. (all things that women might arguably need too)... what else? Anything particular to men?

Anonymous said...

Hey Craver these sound like great ideas!! ..."Dad hands him car keys, kicks him out of the house, gets him drunk, brands, cuts or pierces him, ...good luck getting Mrs. Craver to go along!!!... Just kidding. Boys need to know what it is to lead. Be a leader not a follower. Starting with themselves(not getting caught up in what's cool), friends, siblings, eventually a family. Making decisions on his own at a young age so as the decisions get bigger he is more comfortable, more grounded doing so. Ehh, what do I know!!?? Go with the drinking, and piercing, oh! and maybe a tattoo while you're at it!!!

Craver Vii said...

:-) He can still babysit. In fact, moreso now with more responsibility.

Outstanding observation, LL! The Real thing that boys today need is mentors and role models. He needs to know that a real man is not what you find on TV, and it's not even "following your heart." The whole idea of "following you heart is the worst pile of

garbage I've ever heard! Yes, that's the word I was looking for.

There used to be a superhero show on Saturday morning TV called "Shazam!" (I think that's what it was called.) The hero: a boy, would call out: "Shazam!" and he would turn into a superhero and he had a council of mentors (great men from ages past) to help and guide him. That's what I want to give my son.

Hey, For now..., wait 'till you see his new haircut!

L.L. Barkat said...

Craver... do I detect a little displeasure with the whole "w a heart" movement? Or are you referring to something else?

Craver Vii said...

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? –Jer. 17:9

There are times when it is appropriate to ask, “What does your heart tell you.” …like when picking from a menu. But when it is used as if it replaced the Urim and Thummim, that’s when I have a problem. Unfortunately, I have heard it more in its foolish context, so if such a movement exists, I’ll join the cause against it.

Let me put it this way. If I interview a boy who is interested in my daughter, and it is determined that as it pertains to their relationship, he will follow his heart… I’ll shoot the boy. And I don’t have a gun, so it’s gonna have to be bow and arrow—ouch.

L.L. Barkat said...

Thanks, I've been wondering what to do when the boys come knocking on our door (oy!).

Here's a thought about what boys can be called to do... I've been amazed at my children's fascination with all things Jewish. The holidays and their special, very concrete rituals, seem to have roles for different members of the family. Preparing children to take these on could be great.

A Christian parallel would be asking our boys preach their first sermon by a certain age, and assigning them special functions in the church that are usually reserved for adults.

Anonymous said...

Just talked to The Hub, the book you want to get is "Raising a Modern Day Knight"

Craver Vii said...

Many times we don't allow our 17-year-olds to have a real place in our churches, communities, etc.

Yeah Charity. That's going to be a challenge, especially because I don't want this to be a token man-thing. It is important that the rest of the community RECEIVES him as a man.

Martin Stickland said...

Good post Craver!

A 14 year old British boy has just made a world record by sailing the Atlantic ocean solo, I admire his courage and I am sure at his young age he could be classed as a man for his deed.

PS Did the ladies turn up?

Pete Juvinall said...

Norm actually spoke at a men's retreat at our church a while back and mentioned that story. It challenged how I look at my son a ton and keeping the 'end' in mind as I parent.

jazzycat said...

While I am sure you mean something special here with manhood, the overall training of boys needs to begin as a toddler by their fathers. The calling out will not do much good if the foundation has not been laid.

I do not envy parents today as our culture has become self-absorbed with toys of all kinds.

Margaret Feinberg said...

The tension to create something real that doesn't seem cheesy will be the crucial factor... We have a team of Christian college guys who come to Juneau each summer and they do a lot of the boy to men kind of ceremonies. The reactions to the experiences are definitely mixed. Execution is everything.

Craver Vii said...

martin, thanks for being the first man to respond with a comment. I was starting to wonder why none of the men showed up. And no, I have not spotted the aforementioned “ladies.” Perhaps on a lighter topic. I’d like to see another hello from across the pond.

pete, welcome back from Urbana! This topic was the first and best thing I’ve heard Wakefield talk about. Your comments mix quite well with the cat after you. Nice segue; was it planned?

jaz, I believe there can still be something redemptive about taking a step in the right direction, even with a late start, but yes; it would take a miracle to try to compensate for a lack of foundation.

Since our kids were little, I know I’ve planted seeds (sometimes without realizing it) like when we see somebody’s bad behavior, we will point out, “He’s not a real man; a real man would…”

And of course, we have many great examples of real men at my church.

margaret, nobody’s going to kill anybody. (yuk-yuk)

You’re absolutely right, though. And in the planning stage, the involvement of my son and careful selection of the right council of mentors should help to mitigate le fromage. I would be crushed to go through all this and read a look on his face that says he can’t take it seriously.

Oh and folks, did we just have a conversation with a cat? Did anyone detect a Southern accent? I didn't think cats had accents.

Mary said...

Out of curiousity, since most cultures (including African) consider the coming of age around the same time as the onset of puberty (preteens to early teens), and considering that in American culture, time spent with children is typically limited to short evenings and busy weekends, not to mention that in America it's common for children to move away and legally they're able to at 18 (whereas in African tribal culture, the family remains together), wouldn't it make more sense to start the calling out at a much earlier age?

Mary said...

Continuing on...I would think that it would take several years to teach a child what he or she would need for a lifetime. By 17, a child has usually formed their own sense of "being" (even if that might change later on), so wouldn't a boy need to learn what a real man is from a very young age? Thinking of my own situation, I was engaged at 18, married by 19. For me, being "called out" at age 17 really would have been "too late", because by that point I had already formed my ideas of being a woman and eventually of being a wife.

Mary said...

Continuing on (again, sorry), I really do love the concept, I just wonder that because we don't have 24/7 with our children and we don't have the luxury to take them away for an entire year to spend that 24/7 with them, if we should be mentoring them (or calling them out) in this way from a very young age and when physically AND mentally they reach adulthood, that we "initiate" them as officially "crossed over."
Ok I'm finished, really!

Craver Vii said...

Thanks for your input, mary. The most important piece of the calling out event would be the recognition from the father saying, “Now, you’re a man.” But the process can vary quite a bit, and it is important that the overall community stand behind the dad, or his words lose power: “Son, today, I proclaim that you are a man. I am the only one; nobody else thinks I'm qualified to call you out or that you’re ready to be called a man. So let’s just keep this between you and me.” That version lacks impact, doesn’t it.

In our society, dads spend much more time mentoring their young children than the people of this village. If you compare dads today to dads from 1950 or before, today’s dads look almost like moms. You have to go back to the times of apprenticeship to find quality plus quantity father and son time.

It is critical for manhood that men are the ones who define what it means. Women have the ability to give great and valuable wisdom, (and I know that I don’t listen enough) but if it turns into Everybody Loves Raymond, where the man is a useless sap who is only good for laughs and the wife needs to run the show, we’re lost as a race of men! Even if a good idea comes from mom, it needs to come out as, “Family, this is what we are going to do…” rather than, “Yes dear.” or “As you wish.” The man needs to be the initiator.

For a daughter, coming of age is a completely different process, so much of the “formula” does not cross over.

Please understand that the boy is not expected to receive ALL the training he will ever need from the dad DURING the calling out. There are many things that could have and should have been taught before, that he will carry with him to adulthood. There is a huge benefit that comes from what his mother has given, as well as previous experiences with the father. What I am talking about is only a part of the process of becoming a man, just like graduation is only part of the process of becoming a professional. All those years of education are extremely important, but if you don’t have that diploma, you can’t become the lawyer, doctor or rocket scientist you’ve always wanted to be. Sticking with that analogy, there may be useful things learned in a class or internship, or even pleasure-reading that the graduate applies to his field, but it is of supreme relevance to the hiring institution that he also have that little piece of paper given by the head of the school.

Llama Momma said...

Hmmm. Interesting remarks on the whole husband / wife dynamic, Craver. While I agree that the Everybody Loves Raymond model is terrible, and men should not be treated as saps, I also don't agree that men need to initiate everything in the home. That's not what you're trying to say, is it?

I'd be in trouble with that model, since my husband is in another state for most of each workweek.

Mary said...

That is an interesting point, llama momma, especially when considering that Proverbs 31 lists a godly woman's roles, and in much of it, it is she who initiates a lot of things, i.e. considering a field and deciding to buy it (v16).

Mary said...

I do agree that only men can teach a boy what it means to be a man. But I also believe that God can and does use the wife to initiate different aspects of the family. There are a few clear circumstances in my own marriage in which God prodded my heart first and used me as a tool to reach out to Wes regarding something. I believe that's part of what being a helpmate is. I still submit to him, and I don't use any "initiative" as a means of authority. But I do believe it's a fine line that *can be* and *is* sometimes crossed by women.

Mary said...

Sheesh, these comments boxes are too short. Anyway, I brought up the comparison of cultures because if so many cultures consider the beginning of manhood at preteens/early teens, there must be something going on in our culture that we would consider the onset of manhood so much later in the teen years. That's not to say every other cultures' kids are ALL mature, but clearly there's a widening gap as a mental maturity takes longer and longer to cross.

Craver Vii said...

Yo! People, we're over here! The topic is the calling out of sons, remember?

If I say that "the man should be the initiator," I concede that someone might read into my intentions and say that I think he must be behind 100% of all initiatives. (sigh) If you want to get into a debate over the role of men and women, I'd rather you take it someplace else. That's not what I want to do here now.

Llama Momma said...

Craver, Craver, Craver...YOU started it! And I quote: "The man needs to be the initiator."

I'm not trying to start a debate. Just curious as to what, exactly, you meant.

I'll stop now.

Mary said...

I don't think anyone was trying to do a debate but rather respond to what you first said. ;) The comments made here arose from your response of the roles of the man and woman in a marriage...comparing it to the unwanted roles of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and the man being the initiator. I don't think there's any harm in other people trying to clarify a position on that, but obviously this is your blog and you will head it in the direction you think is best. :)

Mary said...

Anyway, going back to the original topic, I do think that the discussion of roles in a marriage IS related to the topic of calling out sons, as that's a really big topic for them to learn. Part of being a godly man (or woman) is learning, obviously, to also be a godly husband (or wife). Hence the sayings "I married a woman just like my mom" or "I married a man just like my father." Wow, kinda hits home with me as I think about the kind of person I want my future children to marry.

Pete Juvinall said...

Craver: Thanks. It was a blasty blast. :) I think it's going to be days before we finish sifting through the deep well of stuff that we encountered.

I think I've said this before, but I see my relationship with my son really in terms of a long-term discipleship; loving on him, listening to him and leading him (no sermon intended) and hearing Norm talk about the whole idea of calling him out really resonated with me.

I think being called out, not to intentionally sound like a Norm Wakefield stooge, really has more than a masochistic flare to it in that I view it as knowing his identity; both limitations and strengths and that there really shouldn't be this false mask of 'manhood' that he should wear (e.g. not crying, being stoic, etc.). There's a pretty broad gap, in my opinion, between genuine and campy, fake definitions of manhood and being masculine.

Craver Vii said...

Okay lm, fair question.

What I meant when I said that the man has to be the intiator, is tied in with what I said at the beginning of that paragraph. "It is critical for manhood that men are the ones who define what it (manhood) means."
Again, this is not to say that there cannot be valuable input from women, but as it pertains to the calling out of sons, the principle is that this is not going to be everything that it is supposed to be unless it comes from the father.

In the case of a righteous man who could not be there, say for example, a father who was wrongfully imprisoned... it would be helpful if an uncle or other male mentor took special interest in this transitory phase, but the father could still do the official act of calling out by writing to his son and giving some gift to commemorate the event. A ring, an old photo, the old car (mom keeps the good one). The letter gives the blessing, and the gift seals it. Voila! He's done it.

Now, I'm off to church to recruit some of the mentor council.

Llama Momma said...

Thanks for clarifying, Craver. Your comment makes good sense in that context!


Anonymous said...

is it just me or are we talking about the equivalent of a bar mitvah. maybe in studying other practices you can come up with something meaningful. why re-invent the wheel when you can...tweak it.