On Manhood: A Letter To My Son

by | Jan 21, 2013 | Uncategorized

As we focus on the inauguration of our President and a holiday set aside for Martin Luther King Jr., a man representing courage, I’m thinking about leadership and what it means for me, to parent my boy into a man. 


What do I need to tell my son about being a man? It’s what I think about as I stare at the single candle flickering in front of my brothers 8 X 10, a tight frame capturing his far-away eyes. Sometimes I know by looking, just a glimpse in the eyes, about the tale of the soul.

The way I knew her marriage wasn’t well the day she walked up to the swivel chair and looked at me in the mirror. The way I knew his heart hurt when he crawled into the passenger seat after school.

My brother’s eyes changed after he drove his mother’s car off the bridge that night.  It was my week of the summer to be his sister in real life.  After I went back home to my mother, the sibling relationship, it became a paragraph in books of stories I never read.

His body crosses into eternal, drugs invade like a thief with a key to the front door. I still remember the boy I called brother in footed pajamas, scooping chocolate refrigerator pie into his mouth at the kitchen table.

The day we got the call about my brother’s death, my son shoved four friends into lake water, blew out candles on thirteen and grew hair in new places.

And somewhere between their two lives, waves a prairie of pages scattered like tumbleweed.  Pages on the wisdom of manhood I’m collecting like a book in my mind to give to my son when he crosses the threshold.

Paragraphs that tell you how a woman will love a man deep, when he stands up for what is right and true, despite the pain of rejection and risk of reputation.

Being honorable to the watching world is more appealing than being honored. Because when you love people more than a big house, your golf score and the size of your biceps, you’ll settle into your spot in the world. The address of Fulfilled spelled out on the mailbox.

When voices shout for you to join the club of doing in order to succeed, there will pages of prose reminding you that success listens to the whisper of being.

Because affirmation, the kind that sticks like gum on the bottom of your shoe, it doesn’t happen with the applause of crowds.  It cheers from an audience of One.

And that One, He wept and asked for help from twelve people with weaknesses, just like you.

I’ll bind the strewn pages of manhood, string them tear stained leather. Slide them into your suitcase when you aren’t looking.  And perhaps when you turn around to wave goodbye, I’ll have the privilege of hearing the mother’s heart song in your eyes. Look into the reservoir that tells the tale of the soul and embrace the silence.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. today, a man with a legacy of courageous leadership, what advice would you give a boy growing into manhood?

A repost from September 2012.

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  1. Lynn Morrissey

    I remember being awestruck when I read this last year, as I am once again. It takes courage to inspire courage and say the things that count. Your son is reaching manhood because you and H dare to tell him truth and give him love. I never had a son, but I just know that yours realizes how blessed he is to call you mother.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I hope so Lynn. He is a blessing to me. He teaches me so much about life but just being himself.

  2. Sherri

    Wow, Shelly, this one made me stop and reread it, to be sure I was understanding the lines. This is a tough one to face, and a tough question to answer – “advice to a boy growing into manhood”…..I feel certain that you and H have said more through the example of your everyday lives to influence him in the way the Lord would have him grow up, than any advice I could give! Thanks for sharing this story, though I know it wasn’t easy.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think the irony of this is that yes, most of what gets taught is lived out in the every day mundane of life. I realize as I raise children that so much of life is caught and not taught, including faith.

  3. Jillie

    This is just such a beautiful post, Shelly. I cannot go into details here, but I have a son who is truly discovering manhood right now. So much is happening for him and my daughter-in-law, and my son’s finest moments are happening as I write. And he’s doing an amazing job of it. I am so proud of him, I cannot express!
    The thing is, it didn’t happen in a moment’s time. Today…is the result of years of investment by this Mom and his Dad. Years of love, years of tender guidance, years of praising…and disciplining. And yet, his Dad and I don’t covet praise for the way he’s ‘turned out’. We give God all the glory. Our feeble and often uncertain attempts to raise him as one who knows and loves Jesus Christ, was totally backed up by the work of Holy Spirit in his young heart. GOD has done such a work in his heart and I’ve always believed He’s had his hand on Nathan in a special way. Today, I am seeing the fruit of that. And my heart is overflowing with praise and gratitude!
    Your son will be, already is, a great source of (balanced) ‘pride’ for you and H. I see that in your words. As Charles Stanley says, “Obey God…and leave all the consequences to Him.” And you’re doing that well. Your son already is a great man-in-the-making. God is faithful to complete that which He has begun.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I love that quote by Stanley Jillie. And the way you are observing your son become a man standing by proud of who he is becoming. I pray I will have that privilege as well.

  4. Paula

    “Being honorable to the watching world is more appealing than being honored”………wow, sooo many should have had that one spinning in their heads………two high-profile men of late among many. I think your son already knows the depth of his parents’ love and observes each day the fine examples that you are. In fact, I see so much of you in his profile (in the photo today). Beautiful post.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Can’t believe how much he has grown since I took that photo Paula. It happens in a blink. And as you know we’ve seen too many want to be honored in this life and not be honorable. It’s not pretty.

  5. Floyd

    Sometimes a soul with a deep wound can be the best tool for God to use to direct the paths of another He’s chosen for His specific will. The story of your son’s uncle will have a lasting impact on his life… I know it did for me about the uncle I never got to meet…

    Awesome heart and words shared. I’m praying for your son and you guys.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Good point Floyd, about my brother’s story having a lasting impact on my son. I pray that it is so.

  6. Dea

    I have two sons who are so very different. What I would tell one, I would not tell the other. I am learning to read their lives, their stories, and I pray that they are reading something of mine and Jeff’s. One has taken a crooked road into manhood and seems to have found the straight one. The other is bucking in the gate but is just seventeen. So thankful they have a father that speaks into their lives—with words when needed. 🙂

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I think about that often Dea, about how thankful I am for the influence of a godly father for my son. And my kids are very different too. It brings home the reality of our need for a Saviour. We are so very lost without his lead.

  7. kelliwoodford

    i love how you see into the soul.
    that’s something i could tell about you the very first time i read your words. and you know what’s so funny? i even remember which post it was! it was the one with “menagerie” in the title where you described the people all around you in a subway car or something.
    your writing grabbed my heart way back then, and the thing i love about it is that you keep teaching us all how to *see* as you tell your stories here.
    how to look beyond appearances, like God who ‘sees the heart.’
    thank you for this beautiful offering. for your son . . . for us all.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I’m savoring your words to me Kelli, like an expensive glass of red wine. I cannot believe you remember the first post you read of mine. That was a trip I took to England, I remembered it in your recall. you just don’t know how much that blesses me, all of it. Thank you.

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