You go first, dad!

Excerpted from the book¬†Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle by Steve Arterburn

Your son is becoming a young man, and he aches for you to count him as one. But, there are natural obstacles, and it’s unlikely that he’ll bring up ‘the’ question himself. We must make it easy for our sons to share, and there is only one way to ensure that. We must go first. We must be the ones to initiate the conversation.

Thankfully, swapping stories is right up our alley, and it shouldn’t be scary in the least. In light of this, our call to teach our children isn’t really something to fear anymore either:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hand and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19)

I used to wonder how I could accomplish all this. Like most families, my kids and I lead busy lives, and we don’t sit around home, nor do we walk or work together very much. Our culture is vastly different from that of the Hebrews. And that’s perfectly fine. God understands the fast-paced society we live in, but He still wants us to teach our kids how we apply Scripture to our day-to-day lives. Since our kids aren’t with us much during the day to see how we apply Scripture, filling this call won’t look the same today as it did back then.

Therefore, we need to do the next best thing…we need to tell them what happened during our day and our weeks and our years.

To go deep with our sons, we need to do two things.

  • Spend time talking with them.
  • Be open and transparently share our lives and our walk with God.

Life’s hectic. Obstacles keep popping up like gopher heads in those arcade games. More often than not, we’ll beat those gopher heads down in the areas where it really counts.

Fortunately, we men have a secret weapon, a special category male communication that connects us every time it’s tried’ we can swap stories, tell tales, and regale listeners. Storytelling is right up our alley, and nobody does it better.

Do you swap stories with your son? How many of your stories could help your son if you took a chance and shared them? You shouldn’t just wait for such moments to arise. So what can you do to trigger the process? Spend the last moments of your kids’ day with them, talking with them in their bedrooms before they go to sleep. Read a book with them. Often the author’s stories will trigger memories of your own stories, providing a push to dive into deeper waters.

Regardless of how old your son is, it’s not too late. Your son still longs for a relationship with you. We all need that connection with our fathers and will seek it to the very end if given half a chance.

Two or three nights a week read six to eight pages of a book in silence separately in a room that can be considered your place. Of course the book is not the end game here; while your reading, you’re also looking for opportunities to talk later on, ask leading questions, and regale your son with stories. Underline thoughts that you want to come back to. Sitting across from one another will provide good eye contact and encourage honest sharing. Talk about girls, peer pressure, temptation, bullies, whatever’s on your mind and seems to flow naturally.

How do I choose which books to go through? Whatever makes sense at the time! Choosing the right book is part of being proactive and intentional. I always begin with a broad-based book on puberty and adolescence, such as Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle. Such books are foundational to everything that comes later in building your ‘swapping place’ with your kids. Believe me, after you’ve given them a taste for what the teen years will be like and shared your experiences from the past, you and your children will be tighter than you have ever been.

For some help on ‘swapping stories’ and connecting with your son read Preparing Your Son for Every Man’s Battle.

The ‘Sweeper’

Steve Arterburn

Guys, have you ever noticed that when a woman is feeling stressed or angry, she’ll often call a friend? Have you also noticed when guys feel those same things, we usually do just the opposite?

When it comes to dealing with emotions, most men run for the hills’alone. We tend not to be as good as our female counterparts at facing our feelings, let alone talking about them. Most of us have been trained to treat our emotions like dirty laundry ‘ we don’t want anything to do with them.

When our emotions surface, our internal ‘Sweeper’ moves to action. The sweeper is that part of our subconscious who methodically and logically eliminates the threat that rogue emotions present. The ‘Sweeper’s’ job is to prohibit any situation from heating up too much and to sweep stray emotions back under the surface, where we think they belong. The Sweeper’s job description looks something like this:

  • Hide and mask anger
  • Internalize pressure
  • Bury losses
  • Deny wounds
  • Withdraw in the face of hard truth
  • Deflect mistakes
  • Blame others
  • Hide struggles
  • Push others away
  • Excuse me from feeling the hurts of others

Men, does this sound familiar? If so, I think it’s time you put your Sweeper up for review, and seriously consider cleaning out his office. The ‘Sweeper’s’ so-called services are, in fact, doing you a great disservice.

Life After 2 PM

It came across to me one Sunday that I do not listen as well to the Spirit of God when I am out of an element of Godly fellowship or church related activity. As an example, on church days I am able to cage my internal ego knowing I am going to be fed and experience some good ole God joyfulness (especially during ‘praise and worship time’) at my church. At church I believe and experience the Spirit of God speaks to me. This is a place where I let God reveal things to me, comfort me, confront me and challenge me (that is where this article is coming from). It seems to follow me from the rise of the morning to the service and somewhat into the early afternoon. But then something happens! Somewhere around 2 PM, my internal ego is let out of its cage: I got it, I’m good, I can do it God.’ Then the rest of the week begins the wrestle of ‘who’s the boss here?’

Most commonly, at that point I do go on and deliver my week of obligations, promises and commitments to social systems and family. But as the week tarries on, it appears that my life becomes a highway I have entered onto and it speeds up ever so quickly. Internally, while on the highway of life, I truly am waiting for the next off-ramp to pull over and take a rest as in the animated movie ‘Cars’ when Mac is driving Lightning McQueen to the California coast for his big race. On the way they are driving late at night and Lightning wants Mac to pull an all-nighter to get to the coast before the challengers do. Mac being aware of his strength, energy and regulations (rules and boundaries) tells Lightning that he is tired and should pull over to rest.

But Mac gives in (against his better judgment) to Lightning’s promptings to drive on only because Lightning exclaimed he would stay awake with him the whole trip. As expected, Mac is left alone in the late hour, driving to keep himself awake while Lightning is fast asleep. In the mist of this late night journey three cars come around and taunt and tease Mac as he is swerving on the road (because he is falling asleep). And that is exactly how I have observed and experienced not tending to care or protect my life from the ‘highway of life.’ And life after 2 PM on Sunday seems to be the spot when we get onto the highway and proceed and exit only if truly necessary. And often against the better judgment of our heart and soul, our ego says drive on. It is there we place ourselves into a dangerous circumstance. As when Mac was having difficulty staying awake and swerving on the road he then became vulnerable to the three other little cars directing and pushing him around on the highway. And Mac being a huge truck is moved around easily by little sporty cars.

Do you think that you are so big that nothing could truly push you around? Are you one who tends to hit the road with the family (or by yourself) and NEVER stop till you make your destination? And if you do have to stop, does it cause you to become angry, annoyed or frustrated with those who have to take a ‘potty/stretch break?’

It seems a bit interesting that author M. Scott Peck titled his book ‘The Road Less-Traveled.’ In that book, the author challenges readers to consider the path they chose and why they pick it with regard to their healing and faith in Jesus. In avoidance of any difficulty and struggle for growth, many appear to take a fast way of living: the highway. For example, as a sexual addict, you may select a supposedly quick fix path for recovery (like: I’ll just read “Every Man’s Battle” and I am good from here on). Taking the ‘road’ implies taking-in the environment you are traveling through and where you have come from. While the ‘highway’ implies ‘just get me there.’ Irregardless you are left with the choice when it comes to 2 PM on Sunday. Either you can start a journey at the ‘road’ or the ‘highway.’ The most enjoyable, nurturing, fulfilling and healing seems to always be taking the road in life. But then again, now its 2:07 PM and you can either exit onto the road of healing or, zoom-on missing the healing and rewarding life God has for you from your sexual addiction.

For more help see Every Man’s Battle and our Resources for Men.

Martin Fierro