For most of human history, in every age and culture, boys were initiated into manhood through some sort of ritual. This points to a deep need in the development of the masculine soul, going beyond mere cultural custom or religious duty. For boys to become men they need to be called out by a community of men into a larger story, into their true self, and into the life of God. When this necessary journey does not take place, males remain immature. They never learn how to offer their unique strength back to their community and, never being truly validated, often spend much energy desperately trying to defend their fragile male egos.
Initiation rituals illustrate the need for boys to be carefully taught and shown the way into true manhood. As humans, we learn by seeing and imitating what others do. Without a community of men to show the way, men will experience a “failure to thrive,” similar to infants who do not receive adequate touch and care early in life.
This plays out in our sexuality as well. Without role models, mentors, and teachers, men are often left on their own to figure out their sexuality. Instead of being intentionally guided toward wholeness and spiritual depth, sexual “training” has been left to the whims of popular culture, pornography, and the locker room. As a result, men often experience a failure to thrive sexually.
For many this simply takes the form of never growing their sexuality into its full potential. For example, sex remains “just sex,” merely a physical expression and not an opportunity to bring more life and love to their wives. These guys might also be prone to just going through the motions of life in general, never learning how to use their life energy to benefit the world around them.
Without a good guide, others might be more likely to turn toward sexual distortions and addictions. These guys might use sex in a desperate attempt to prove their masculinity. If I score with a lot of women then surely I must be a man, the thinking goes. In general life, these guys might be workaholics, very driven, or intensely competitive, always working for the next notch in their belt without allowing themselves to be truly known.
Eliminating distortions is only part of the issue. We must also be wisely instructed in how to live as both spiritual and sexual men.
Unfortunately, for many Christians, their sexual instruction has been limited to shallow moralism, only telling men what not to do and not how to become whole and holy sexually. They have been taught to fear and repress their sexuality instead of how to appreciate its wildness and harness it for good. The challenge for men now wanting to go deeper is that there are very few guides to show the way.
It has been said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. God is our good Father, ever ready to provide what we need. Our task is to ask, seek, and knock. Pray for a group of men to surround you as you discover what it means to live passionately in the strength and goodness of your sexuality. Be intentional in fighting for these relationships and growing into your fullness as a man.
Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble. –Proverbs 13:20