A Community of Fathers

by Andy Wood on June 29, 2011

in Life Currency, Turning Points, Words

“Joel Andrew Wood!  I call you to walk with me in Integrity, Responsibility, and Accountability, and to join me in this community of men!”

There, through a line of tiki torches and a longer gauntlet of whooping, encouraging, cheering men walked my son.  For fourteen years I had been his hero.  Tonight he would be mine.

As he reached the end of the double line where I was standing, I placed a special necklace around his neck that he has to this day.  Then I turned him to face those men and said some of the most powerful words I have ever spoken:  “Gentlemen, this is Joel Andrew Wood, my son, in whom I am well pleased.”

I have always lived with the honor of walking in my own father’s unconditional favor – even when he didn’t always approve of my choices.  On this night 11 years ago, I had the greater honor of publicly declaring that same kind of blessing over my son.

A Fatherless, Manless Culture

Ours may be the only culture that has no formal point where a boy becomes a man.

Maybe that’s because we have no clue how to define one.

Maybe it’s because we’ve left the defining to idiots.

Or maybe the worst possible scenario is reality – We’ve assumed that manhood was defined in the privacy of our homes.  That sounds noble, even a tad godly.  But when 60% of American boys will live at some point in a home with no father, can you see a potential problem with that?

On this particular weekend 11 years ago, a group of us attempted something different.  We took fathers and sons on a retreat.  We also invited Daddy stand-ins and fatherless sons to join us.  And we talked a lot about what it means to be a man.

We talked about Integrity – that what others see in us is what they get, particularly when they see us as men of God.

We talked about Responsibility – refusing to be a victim of the past and accepting the role of being a God-reflector in the world.

We talked about Accountability – knowing we will be judged for what we do with what we have, and having men in our lives who assume the role of overseers, who will let us know if we’re screwing up.

The Rite of Passage Ceremony

Then came the climax of the weekend – the Rite of Passage Ceremony.  It started on a big field, where three men stood at different places.  The boys-to-men went to each of the three – each of whom represented one of those three key concepts. They were required to explain their definition of that respective word. The guide would then give them a bead with the first letter of the word on it.

After receiving each bead they would go to one of the other men (not their father), who would pray for them to have that particular quality.  They would then repeat the cycle with the other two words.

After they received all their beads (I. R. A.) the boys went to their fathers and told them how they felt about those concepts and who had prayed with them.  They would then ask their fathers to take them to the Place of Wisdom.

The dads would blindfold their sons and lead them on a “trust walk” across the camp, guided only by the father’s words. They journeyed over sand, hills, bridges, and all kinds of ground. The Place of Wisdom was located on the opposite end of the camp. It was dark with the only light coming from a fire. There we – father and son – would pray with an elder from the community of men. The elder would pray for us, and some would speak prophetically into our lives. Then he would put the three beads on a cord and give it to the father, who would later put it around his son’s neck.

This served as a powerful picture to Joel (and me!) that other men were always available to him for prayer, wisdom, and encouragement.  In a culture where the only choices for men seem to be foolish isolation or a politically correct herd mentality, it was refreshing to see God’s alternative.

We are community.

But that community doesn’t take place automatically.  We must be intentional about developing it, or our sons will grow up, like many of us, in a relational and influential wasteland.

But when we do intentionally bind together in the name of the One who revealed Himself as “Father,” we set in motion a powerful course of events.

  • We give wings to our own sons to soar into excellence in their God-given assignments and relationships.
  • We offer healing and hope to the wounded, who will never hear the Blessing in their own biological father’s voice.
  • We move beyond “raising Godly children” to “raising Godly men.”
  • And we prove to our “sons” – natural and otherwise – that God was right:  Two really are better than one, and a threefold cord is not easily broken.

From Father of Men to Father of Fathers

To this day, the message of the New Testament speaks to me as Father in three ways.  First, it tells me that I can’t call my son into something I’m not modeling.  Integrity, Responsibility, and Accountability must begin with me.

Second, regardless of my checkered history in living out those qualities, I can begin today moving toward them, and so can Joel.  We may never arrive at perfect integrity, etc., but we can die with our faces set in that direction.

Third, I don’t have to be his only model.  I am part of a community of men, and each has the opportunity to influence my son.  Throughout his now-25 years, God has placed incredible role models in his world.  They have spoken instruction, encouragement or correction into his life, and he’s a better man because of it.

And at no time is that more important than now.

In less than a month, the son will become a father himself.  And Jackson Andrew Wood will have a community of men all his own to model for him, and explore with him, what it means to be a godly man.

I have the unspeakable joy of being a witness to that.

And a part of that.

And I am blessed… and well pleased.

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