THIS ARTICLE IS A READER FAVORITE AND WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN APRIL 2013.
This is a special week at the Young house.
One of our sons is turning 13. That’s the age that we’ve decided marks the first real transition from boy to man around here. Now, mind you, thirteen-year-olds can be pretty silly and foolish—I’m not saying they aren’t. But we’ve found it’s important for our sons to remember that the time is coming to “put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11) and prepare for manhood.
So, around each son’s thirteenth birthday, we have a huge party.
What kind of party depends on them. One son chose to have a hymn sing and dessert bar. One asked for a giant cookout. Another wanted a Turkey Shoot (No turkeys are shot, ladies, that’s just a shooting competition—on a supervised range). What kind of party establishes the venue, too. This weekend we’re having a huge cookout and Ultimate Frisbee game at an area park.
The most important part, though, is the time where folks share. Let me just share with you a letter we sent with the invitations one year:
“The Jewish tradition known as the Bar Mitzvah is a rite of passage where a boy is called to consciously begin the transformation from childhood to maturity, becoming a “son of the Law” – a “bar mitzvah.” Since we are not under the law of Moses but the grace of Christ, our family desires our boys to become “sons of grace”—”bar chanan”—with the similar expectation that each begins to put away childish things, prepare himself for the responsibilities of manhood, and pursue his relationship to God.
On _____________, our fourth son will celebrate his thirteenth birthday. We believe it is important to establish milestones in the life of a young man, and this year is a time traditionally recognized as the threshold of adult life. With his three older brothers, we set aside a time of celebration and reflection to mark this as a special day in their lives. Likewise, we would like to invite your family to join with ours on this occasion, to share a meal, fellowship, and a time of challenge and encouragement for our son.
As a part of this celebration, we would appreciate it if each of the fathers would prepare a short exhortation or bit advice you received or wish you’d known starting out in manhood, and if you wish, a small gift as an object lesson and memorial to him. One example might be a hammer, which illustrates the responsibility of a man to use his strength and diligence to work, build, and provide for himself and his family, but also a warning that his strength can be misused to injure and destroy; it is only in conscious submission to the will of God that a man will be productive in His kingdom.
We don’t want this to be a burden on anyone—three to five minutes, and nothing expensive or elaborate necessary—because the focus is on your wisdom and counsel. Each of you has been a friend to our family and to our boys, and we appreciate your advice for our son.”
We invite our friends, church, and extended family, and it has been a huge blessing to see what each person has had to say. Even family we thought wouldn’t be in harmony with this at all have loved it and participated, and actually had really good things to share. It’s been a pleasant surprise to us to see how seriously each of our boys has taken this and how they try to step up to the plate and act like men in the months afterward. You see, boys this age really, really, really want to be men. Let’s grab hold of that and point them in the right direction while they want to hear!
This weekend will be the fifth Coming of Age Party we’ve thrown, and I can’t wait to see what this son will be like as a man. There really isn’t anything that brings as much joy as seeing your adult sons walk in the truth! May this dear son walk with God all his days, too.