I had thirty minutes to waste at Barnes and Noble last weekend and walked out with John Eldredge's Fathered by God: Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach You. I didn't intend to by a book on manhood, or even intend to buy a book at all. But when I thumbed through Elderidge's book, a chapter title caught my attention: Cowboy.
Just like I buy books without intending to, I have raised cowboys without setting out to do so. We have lassos, hats, dusters, and more boots than I can count. And somehow I've raised these cowboys while living in the suburbs of a large city. Without horses.
I wish I had read Eldredge's books a long time ago. They might have provided a much needed overview of what I've had to learn day by day raising our six sons.
The books would have helped me understand some things.
Like why an eighteen-year old spends hundreds of dollars on gear to climb higher in trees.
Or why a sixteen-year old stands with toes over the edge of a cliff.
And why a seventeen-year old spends a summer building a car out of junk yard parts.
Eldredge suggests males do these sort of things in their late teens and early twenties to answer the question, "Do I have what it takes?"
He labels this stage of life the Cowboy stage: when adventure set within context, the power of experience, and hard work come together to change a boy into a man.
Eldredge uses the biblical character David and his years as a shepherd to set the framework for this period in a young man's life. It's a story I know well - shepherd boy kills a giant, right? But I had never noticed the preface to this familiar story: David fought a lion and a bear before he fought Goliath.
As I reread 1 Samuel 17, an unwritten part of the story stood out to me as well. What was David's mother doing when her son went alone to the distant fields and came home with a lion skull and bear pelt?
Did she beg her husband to find David a safer job like I was tempted to do so often when my husband asked the boys to do hard things?
Did she hug her son tight like I do when the boys prepare to go to the hills again?
Reality is raising modern day cowboys doesn't require horses.
It requires courage.
It requires stepping out of the way when everything in a mother's heart wants to say, "No," and saying instead, "Go. And the Lord be with you."