Having a son changes you.
Every hope and dream, fear and insecurity are magnified with every decision you make as a father to a son. You replay many of your landmark moments of your youth. While simultaneously growing painfully aware of all the significant words you wish your father would have taken the time to say to you. At least that’s the case for me.
Several years ago my understanding of what it means to be a man changed. I felt a strong desire to embrace the masculinity I was created to embody. I also wanted my life to match up with how God describes a man in His Word. All of this impacted how I raise my children.
My daughters need a strong yet accessible father; protective while approachable; firm and friendly. My sons need all that and more. Most American men today have missed out on a life-shaping moment. At some point we realize that the people around them are expecting us to suddenly act like men. No one told us we were men, much less how a man is supposed to behave. There’s an old African proverb that says, “If we do not initiate the boys, they will burn the village down.” I’m afraid I’ve seen and felt the flames enough to be moved to action.
November 11, 2022 my eldest son Steven Phillip McCart, III (Mac as we call him) turns thirteen years old. I’m incredibly proud of all he has accomplished in his life to this point. He is more compassionate, thoughtful, kind, and honest than I could have ever hoped to be at his age. (He’s also much taller!) As he reaches this milestone birthday, I want him to understand and embrace the challenge of moving from childhood to manhood. I also want him to know that he is a young man now.
This new season of life will be more challenging than he can imagine right now. Tim Elmore says, “We must prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” It’s not my job to make his life easier. My job is to help him prepare for the life God has for him. At this critical point in that journey, Mac needs to know that more is expected of him, but he isn’t expected to do it all alone.
Last weekend, I asked some key family members and friends to participate in a rite of passage for Mac. Starting with his grandparents, Mac began a trail up Crowder’s Mountain in North Carolina. He was expected to hike this 1.8 mile trail on his own. From trailhead to summit, Mac encountered family and friends approximately every 1,000 feet. At each stop Mac was encouraged and prayed over.
He heard from four generations sharing wisdom about Family, Loyalty, Honesty, Humility, Perseverance, Strength, Self-discipline, Courage, Compassion, Generosity, Friendship, Responsibility, Trustworthiness, Integrity, Selflessness, Sacrifice, Love, and Commitment. He saw person after person waiting to stand with him. Each person sacrificed their time and made the climb in order to tell him that he and she believed in him and would stand alongside him as he continued his journey as a young man.
As he reached the end of his climb, his mother (Anita) and I were waiting for him. We read Scripture over him; we prayed for him; we shared how proud we are of who he is and our confidence in who he is becoming. Finally, I looked at my son and told him, “You are now a man.” While he still has a lot to learn, and a long way to go, Mac will know what is expected of him, and he is not expected to do it alone.
Thank you to my parents Steve and Sylesia McCart; Anita’s parents Doug and Billie Bishop; Jon Cate, Kris Quate, Brian and Aiden Martin, David and Haley Weil, Mike Grunder, Randi Gilbert, my daughters Savannah Grace and Rylee, my youngest son Declan, and my incredible wife Anita for making this happen.
Happy thirteenth birthday Mac. I love you and I am proud of you!