Years ago, when reading Romans 1, it was difficult to imagine living in a country where men so suppressed the truth that God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, and to their dishonorable passions and a debased mind to do what ought not to be done (Romans 1:18, 24,28). Romans 1 soberly concludes with these words: “Though they know God’s righteous decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
Sadly, this unimaginable kind of thinking is now all around us, often casting a shadow on what was once considered normal and innocent behavior. Little girls, who were fondly called tomboys because they liked to climb trees and play sports, generally grew up embracing who they were as women. Young boys, who may have been quiet or clumsy for a time, usually grew into hardworking men who raised healthy families. Today, however, children who express disappointment in regard to being male or female may very likely be “given approval” to choose whatever gender they want by the authorities they have been taught to respect.
It can be tempting for parents and grandparents to wring their hands and become fearful, but God has not given us a spirit of fear. Through Christ we have been given a spirit of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). The gospel has power to save our children from their sin and the depravity of the world. Christ alone is our hope.
Recently, I wrote about what our daughters need from their moms (and dads), so today I would like to address how, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can encourage our sons and grandsons to grow up to be godly men. This post is written primarily to moms who have much influence in the lives of the sons they raise. As a mother of two boys, and now a grandmother of three grandsons, here are a few things I have learned:
- Your son is learning what it means to be a man from your marriage. Be aware that, the degree to which you show (or do not show) respect and honor towards your husband will greatly impact your son’s understanding of how he should relate to girls and, one day, a wife.
A woman who is dominant and controlling in her marriage breeds confusion in her home. Read Genesis 2, 1 Corinthians 11:2-12, and Ephesians 5:23-25 for a refresher on God’s divinely created order. Of course Genesis 3 explains that our battle for control is because of sin but, praise God, through Christ and His gospel we can be redeemed from our sin and bring glory to Him. That means that, in Christ, we have power to sacrificially submit to our husband’s sacrificial leadership. Not perfectly, but progressively.
So what should a wife do when her husband leans toward passivity and creates disorder within the marriage relationship?
First, trust that God sees you and knows the challenges you face. Yet, if we are honest, we’ll admit that it’s far easier to see sin in our husbands than in ourselves. Thus, we must begin by examining our own hearts first, asking ourselves a few questions:
- Do I intimidate my husband, overpowering him with words that leave no space for a different opinion or way of thinking?
- Is it possible that my body language shuts my husband down without a word ever being spoken?
- Do I tend to criticize my husband simply because he thinks differently than I do?
- Are my children learning what biblical submission looks like from the example I set?
While it can be challenging and discouraging to live with a man who neglects his role as the spiritual leader of his family, God shows us a better way than by simply taking things in our own hands. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Pray Scripture for your husband: If you don’t know where to start, books are available that provide helpful Scriptures to pray for our husbands. Prayer is far more effective than nagging or complaining about what he is or isn’t doing right. And by praying God’s Word, we can be certain that our hearts are in accord with God’s will for him.
- Ask his opinion about spiritual things. While you may be more excited about God’s Word than your husband seems to be, make every effort to humbly go to him with questions you have. Refrain from critiquing his answers, but thank him for his response. When our husbands know that we’re looking to them for biblical wisdom, by God’s grace, it may motivate them to study the word more diligently themselves!
- Encourage him every chance you get for the good things he does for you and your family. Does he take your family to church? Thank him! Does he initiate prayer at dinner? Thank him! Does he work hard to provide for your needs? Appreciate the challenges and stresses he endures that he may never burden you with. Sometimes we fall into patterns of telling our husbands what they are doing wrong and forget to tell them what they are doing right.
- When you are not on the same page over some decision regarding your family, and you have respectfully shared your thoughts and reasons with your husband; be willing to defer to his leadership even when it’s not what you would do. Yep, I know this can be hard, but the truth is that sometimes we’re wrong! And even when we’re right, we need to allow our husbands to fail without rubbing their noses in it when they do make a poor decision.
- Invite him to pray with you, especially on behalf of your children. If your husband is not comfortable with praying together, ask him how you can pray for him as the leader of your home, and then continue to pray that God will give him the desire to lead you in prayer.
- If he shows no interest in spiritually leading your children then the responsibility falls to you, but ask God to give you wisdom regarding how you can go about that in a respectful way. The goal is to teach our children, not make our husbands feel like the doofuses the world makes them out to be.
While you and your husband may experience differing degrees of discomfort as you navigate your marriage and parenting roles, the more you trust and wait upon God in prayer, the more room you will leave for the Holy Spirit to work in his life. (If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek godly counsel)
2. Be intentional about teaching your son what God’s Word says about his divine design and purpose.
Today, more than ever, if we are not proactive about teaching and training our sons to know and appreciate what God says about who they are created to be and do, we can be certain that the culture will do its best to conform them to the world’s ways. If you are not sure where to start, ask a pastor or godly friend for help. The reality is that, unless we make time for teaching, it won’t happen. Deuteronomy 6 instructs us to talk about these things as we walk along the way, drive in the car, eat dinner, and settle our children down for the night. Ideally, you and your husband will both participate in this training, but it’s critical that someone teaches your sons what God says.
3. In a culture that is bent on feminizing boys, be aware of our natural tendency as women to hover and over-protect. Guard against expectations that fail to take into account that you’re raising a boy to be a man who will, one day, be equipped to protect and provide as he was created to do.
I didn’t have to teach my boys to wrestle or pick up a stick and pretend it was a gun. To the contrary, I was the voice in our home yelling, “Be careful you don’t hurt each other!” and “Put that stick down!” I am thankful for a husband who gently reminded me that our sons were doing what boys do. Yes, sometimes we will need to send them outside when their play puts lamps and special mementos at risk. And, inevitably, there will be some tears. But, by God’s grace, the little boys who think making bodily noises is hysterically funny will grow up. The son whose collection of bugs, rocks, (and other unidentifiable objects) is strewn all over your house, will grow up to be a godly man who responsibly protects and provides for his family without any confusion about who he was created to be.
4. Show respect for your husband’s God given understanding and wisdom on how to raise boys to be masculine men. As moms, while we might have some degree of parenting wisdom, our husband’s have the upper hand when it comes to understanding what a boy needs to know about becoming a man. We must be on guard against making fear-based decisions and learn to trust God, especially when our motherly instincts go against our husband’s decisions.
Just as we need to learn that our husbands are different than we are, we must remember that boys behave differently than girls. Boys rarely sit still and often seem to be climbing up or jumping off something. They are loud and sometimes messy. They don’t mind getting dirty and are often oblivious when their dirt comes with them into our clean houses. While it’s definitely important to teach responsibility and etiquette, if we’re not careful we’ll miss a lot of joy in the midst of all our fretting and fussing.
When my own boys were young, I remember how easily words of caution came out of my mouth: “Be careful, you’ll hurt your brother!” “Don’t jump off that!” “Don’t climb so high.” Meanwhile, their dad was nearby watching with a smile on his face, or sometimes even the instigator of the very thing I was warning them about! I had to learn to walk away when I realized that my motherly fear was at work far more than any life threatening danger.
5. Finally, pray that your sons and grandson’s will be strong and courageous warriors for Christ! I made my share of mistakes in parenting but one thing I will never regret is praying Scripture filled prayers based on the truth that I was raising children who were made in God’s image and who had eternal souls. To that end, I prayed that:
- They would know, love, and serve God with all their mind, heart, soul, and strength.
- They would understand that they are sinners in need of a Savior and humbly repent of their sin.
- God would use their trials and sufferings to make them holy courageous men of God who had compassion on the lost and hurting.
- Their identity would be firmly rooted in Christ, who created them male for His glory.
No one knows or loves our sons better than the One who created them. So, ask God for help and wisdom to raise sons who will grow up to be men, and pray for grace until they finally do .
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Psalm 125:1, 3-5.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you,