He's doing it out loud. Thinking it through, putting pieces together in that way small people have. “So daddies are men?” he asks, blue eyes earnest. “And women are girls?”
I look at his face, suntanned from hours spent outdoors. “Yes,” I say, smiling. I could eat him with a spoon, that one. “Daddies are grown-up boys.”
I stop, thinking about what I’ve just said. “Daddies are grown-up boys.” I’d not meant it facetiously, but there was truth here. “Grown-up boys.”
I consider what I know about boys. Lord knows, I’m surrounded. There are, after all, the five who live here. Then I have a father, a younger brother and boy cousins who could aggravate the tarnation clear out of the girl ones. And often did.
Boys, growing into men. Boys, looking for danger. For adventure. For hidden treasure, for bad guys to capture, for damsels in distress. Looking, really, to be heroes.
I could see it in the movies they chose and the books they read. Stories of danger, adventure. Hidden treasure and bad guys. Beauties to save and battles to win; these were the stories they loved.
Here, I knew, boys canvassed the yard with a metal detector, searching for gold. Here, the garage housed a unicycle, a ride with one wheel (one!) on which a boy perched, wobbling and lurching as Mother held her breath. If only it weren’t cement (cement!) beneath him when he fell.
Grappling hooks, BB guns, bows and arrows. It was a boy club, alright, and the one daddy who lived here truly was a grown-up boy. That’s what the mother thought as she watched him join the wrestling and horseplay that broke out routinely like a rash in a bean patch.
In the 25 years and 4 boys that had transpired since the “I do,” The Girl had learned a lot about The Boy and his gender. She’d learned that male and female were not the same. That neither one was better. That they were different, that was all, and that different was good.
Her men, she’d learned, had been born with some wildness in ‘em, and it was this derring-do that made them the fierce protectors and providers; the movers, shakers and risk takers that their families and society at large needed them to be. She’d learned to appreciate this even as it drove her to her knees with prayers for protection on her lips.
A man (she was learning this) wanted to fight for those he loved, especially her. Wanted to win her heart and trust. Wanted to provide for her and their children. Wanted to know that he’d come through for them all; that he had what it took. That he was a hero, especially to her.
Society had been hard on men in recent years and with good reason. Strength uncontrolled (aggression) had done terrible damage. But strength gone quiet (passivity) had, too. The
scandal was a fresh and terrible reminder of the violence wrought by both. Man
could sin either way, in his aggression or passivity. Penn State
But women had flaws, too. They carried their own shortcomings and failures. They simply had other issues, and trying to make the men become just like them wasn’t the answer. “They were different, that was all, and different was good.”
In the modern age, knights had long since vanished. The West had been settled, and Wyatt Earp had gone on to his reward. The threats today were different, and the face of the heroes had changed.
What if, instead of armor, heroes wore faded jeans and worked in factories to provide for those they loved? What if, instead of crossing rivers in covered wagons, heroes were craftsmen, working with their hands to make things? What if they built great buildings that housed families; that gave businesses a home? That gave folks a place to worship?
What if heroes wore business suits and worked in offices? Or pastored flocks? Or laid carpet? Or drove trucks? What if that?
Maybe heroes were those who, seeing a need, counted the cost and took the risk. Surely they were heroes, those who ran their businesses and conducted their affairs with integrity. Who took the high road, shunning the low one. Who modeled honesty and faithfulness and trust in God, knowing that if no one else was watching, their children were, and it mattered to them.
Oh, how the world needed these hero-men, men who cared for their families. Men who taught their children by example and word. Men who loved their wives and came home every night. Who led their households with strength and compassion. Who stood on this rock, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” and built a home that would last.
To all the strong, wonderful, faithful and imperfect heroes I know, thank you. You boys grown up to be men, how valuable you are, and how you are needed by your families, your communities, your churches and your world. Don’t give up. Don’t stop now. Keep on walking.