When does a boy become a man? After a few canoe trips? When society says he is old enough to drive or old enough to drink? I’ve heard many answers to this questions, but the most common one is “I’m not sure!”
The summer canoe trip is an annual event in our family. With great anticipation, we study topographical maps, try new dehydrated food recipes, talk about trip expectations and wonder where we will find large enough rocks to hurl ourselves off into the lake. When reservations were made back in late winter, I began thinking it was time to assist my oldest son, with his passage from childhood into Manhood.
What better place to do this than on our annual canoe trip! I invited a friend to accompy us on the trip and to help with the process. We didn’t do anything stupid, like dance on top of a mountain, naked, waving cedar boughs. We did, however, have authentic conversation (around a fire of course) about the responsibilities of a man and and the essential differences between a boy and a man. How do you know you are a man if you don’t know what a man is (besides the obvious gender thing)? I believe you become a man when your father tells you that you are and what it takes to be a man.
One definition of passage is – the right to pass through somewhere. While on canoe trips we are constantly passing from one place to another. Our passages come in the form of waterways, portages and trails. These passages mark the transitions from one place to another. Marking our passages in our life journey, I believe is important because without them we are not as certain where we are and where we have been. “When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good. We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 Cor. 13:11,12)
My son is on his way, emerging at the end of the portage called adolescence and staring out across a big beautiful lake of opportunity and adventure. I am excited for him and am thankful I have been given the opportunity to help him along the way. Fathers are to help their sons through the stormy passages of life and I am richer because of it (even though I didn’t enjoy every moment and understand everything at the time). “Farther along the way, we’ll know all about it. Farther along the way, we’ll understand why.” (first few lines from Farther Along by Josh Garrels)